Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Victoria Seventh-day Adventist Church Serving San Bernardino, Redlands & Loma Linda, California

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The Bible Says

 

The Bible Says

Topical Bible Readings

Reader's Theater Format
Bible Readings from the
World English Bible
Narrations and Comments by
Paul McMillan

 

          Contents
1. Holy Scriptures:
2. Trinity:

3. Father:

4. Son:
5. Holy Spirit:
6. Creation:
7. Nature of Man:
8. Great Controversy:
9. Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ:
10. Experience of Salvation:
11. Growing in Christ:
12. Church:
13. Remnant and Its Mission:
14. Unity in the Body of Christ:
15. Baptism:
16. Lord's Supper:
17. Spiritual Gifts and Ministries:
18. The Gift of Prophecy:
19. Law of God:
20. Sabbath:
21. Stewardship:
22. Christian Behavior:
23. Marriage and the Family:
24. Christ's Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary:
25. Second Coming of Christ:
26. Death and Resurrection:
27. Millennium and the End of Sin:
28. New Earth:


The Holy Scriptures

Comment: Various religious traditions and ethnic groups consider different writings to be sacred or holy. These writings are valued because they provide instruction for life. Wikipedia lists 47 such groups. Probably none of these writings have been as widely circulated as have the Christian Scriptures. Jesus and the apostles based their faith on the Jewish Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures completed about 300 BC.  Note their use by Jesus in the following story. (Luke 24:13-35)

Reader: Behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was sixty stadia] from Jerusalem. They talked with each other about all of these things which had happened. While they talked and questioned together, Jesus himself came near, and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

Reader: He said to them, What are you talking about as you walk, and are sad?

Reader: One of them, named Cleopas, answered him, Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things which have happened there in these days?

Reader: He said to them, What things?.

Reader: They said to him, The things concerning Jesus, the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we were hoping that it was he who would redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Also, certain women of our company amazed us, having arrived early at the tomb; and when they didn’t find his body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of us went to the tomb, and found it just like the women had said, but they didn’t see him.

Reader: He said to them, Foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Didn’t the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter into his glory? Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Reader: They came near to the village, where they were going, and he acted like he would go further. They urged him, saying,

Readers: Stay with us, for it is almost evening, and the day is almost over.

Reader: He went in to stay with them. When he had sat down at the table with them, he took the bread and gave thanks. Breaking it, he gave to them. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished out of their sight. They said to one another,

Readers: Weren’t our hearts burning within us, while he spoke to us along the way, and while he opened the Scriptures to us?

Reader: They rose up that very hour, returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and those who were with them, saying,

Reader: The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!

Reader: They related the things that happened along the way, and how he was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread..

Comment: What are those ancient Hebrew writings that foretold the coming of the Messiah and how he would live and die for the sins of the human race?  They are the 39 books of what we call the Old Testament

Narrator: First there are the 5 Books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. They are also called the Pentateuch (5 books) or the Torah (law).

Narrator: Genesis, the book of beginnings, recounts the stories of creation week, the fall of Adam and Eve, the flood and the call of Abram. God makes a promise to him that through his seed the entire world would be blessed. Then God predicts that Abram’s descendents would be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. Genesis ends with the story of Joseph and his family all going to Egypt.

Narrator: Exodus and Leviticus tell the story of how God used Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. God then gave them laws at Mount Sinai that would govern this new nation of over 1 million people and instructed them as to how they were to worship Him.

Narrator: In the book of Numbers the Israelites come to the border of Canaan, the land God had promised to give them, but they refused to trust him to deliver it into their hands. As a result they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation died. God provided water from a rock and manna to eat.

Narrator: Deuteronomy is Moses’ final instruction for the people he had led for 40 years. He recounts their wanderings, repeats God’s commandments, and tells them of the blessings they would experience if they obeyed God and the curses if they did not.  He gives the leadership to Joshua who will lead them into the Promised Land.

Comment: These books are foundational not only to the Jewish faith but also for Christians. They are cited many times in the New Testament.

Narrator: The Books of History follow the Pentateuch. They are-Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First.Samuel, Second.Samuel, First & Second Kings, First & Second.Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Narrator: These books trace the history of this new nation from the time that Joshua led them across the Jordan River (about 1500 BC) to their return to Canaan after 70 years of Babylonian captivity (About 538 BC)

Narrator: The Books of Poetry are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs,

Narrator: The book of Job reveals in a dramatic way how the lives of people can be involved in the struggle between God and the rebel angel, Satan. Both of them are seeking our allegiance.

Narrator: The book of Psalms consists mostly of song lyrics written by King David.  Most of his life he lived close to God and God honored him be giving him insights into the plan of Salvation.  So there are many prophetic references to Jesus the Messiah.

Narrator: The books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs were by Solomon, son of David.  He was the third king of Israel and noted for his wisdom, wealth and the construction of a magnificent temple.

Narrator:  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel are the Major Prophets. They lived and served just before and during the Babylonian exile. Their writings deal largely with the sins of Israel in their day but they also contain insights into the origin of evil and the plan of Salvation.

Narrator: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are the Minor Prophets and they conclude the Old Testament. These prophets lived and served during the time when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were disintegrating. As such they gave repeated calls for God’s people to repent and return to worshiping the true God instead of the gods of the heathen around them.

 

Comment: You will notice that there were many different authors of the books of the Old Testament and they lived at different times.  As their writings were passed down from generation to generation they became established as valid communications from God.  In a similar way the writings that make up the New Testament were mostly written before 150 AD. They were circulated among the churches and those deemed to be faithful to Jesus and the rest of Scripture were collected into one volume.  This became our New Testament.

Narrator: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called the Gospels because they contain the good news about the kingdom of God that Jesus brought to our world. Written by 4 different authors they give slightly different accounts of the life and death of Jesus but they are in agreement about whom Jesus is - the Creator, Son of God.

Narrator: The Acts of the Apostles and the book of Romans trace the development of the church during the first century. The Church grew out of Judaism and the doctrines that distinguish Christianity from Judaism are best articulated by Paul in the book of Romans.

Narrator: The remainder of the New Testament consists of letters that further develop these doctrines. They are; 1. Corinthians, 2. Corinthians, Galatians. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1. Thessalonians, 2. Thessalonians, 1. Timothy, 2. Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1. John, 2. John, 3. John, Jude, Revelation.

Narrator: The book of Revelation is a special letter written to the 7 churches in Asia.  It was written by John the Apostle about 100 AD.  It contains admonition not only for the churches to which it was addressed but also for the churches to the end of time. It’s highly symbolic visions have brought hope for believers ever since it was written for it clearly portrays Jesus as the ultimate victor over all evil.

Comment: So why should this collection of writings be considered sacred? What makes them different from other stories and essays? What identifies this as The Word of God? The very first verse introduces a Creator God who is present in all of these sacred Scriptures and whose Word has infinite power.

Reader: Genesis:1:1   says, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..

Reader: And The apostle John wrote in John:1:1-3; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made.

Reader: The Psalmist agrees – Ps 33:6-9   By Yahweh’s word, the heavens were made;
    all their army by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap.
    He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear Yahweh.
    Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it was done.
    He commanded, and it stood firm..

Comment:  Clearly God’s Word is powerful so that Jesus himself is called the Word. But how is that power manifest in people’s lives. Hear the story of Philip, one of the first deacons in Acts 8:26-40  

Reader: But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert.

Reader: He arose and went; and behold, there was a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah..

Reader : The Spirit said to Philip, Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.

 Reader: Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, Do you understand what you are reading?

Reader: He said, How can I, unless someone explains it to me? He begged Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this,

Reader: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.
    As a lamb before his shearer is silent,
    so he doesn’t open his mouth.
In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away.
    Who will declare His generation?
    For his life is taken from the earth.

Reader: The eunuch answered Philip, Who is the prophet talking about? About himself, or about someone else?

Reader: Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached to him Jesus.

Reader: As they went on the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch said,

Reader: Behold, here is water. What is keeping me from being baptized?

Reader: Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’

Reader: He answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’

Reader: He commanded the chariot to stand still, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Reader: When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, and the eunuch didn’t see him any more, for he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. Passing through, he preached the Good News to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.

Comment: In this account an angel and the Spirit led Philip to one who was seeking to know God.  In a similar way God chose people to be his spokespersons and they wrote what God had communicated to them. This is what Peter had in mind in 2 Peter:1:20,21,  

Reader: knowing this first that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit.

Reader: Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim.:3:16,17) Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Comment: This Scripture tells us not only how it came to be but it also suggests what it can do for us, that the man of God may be complete.. Since Scripture is God-breathed we need God’s Spirit to open our understanding and our wills so that we will allow Him to transform us into the kind of people He wants us to be.  This process can be likened to a dark path that is illuminated by His Word. As seen in the following verses David and Solomon both recognized this...

Reader: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  (Ps. 119:105)

Reader:  For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light. Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, Proverbs:6:23   

Reader: When accepted into our hearts as a guide for life we find with Solomon that, every word of God is flawless. He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  (Prov. 30:5)

Comment: The Holy Scriptures reveal to us His will. Our characters and experience are judged by them and through them we can learn sound doctrine and come to appreciate God’s love for humankind.

 Reader : Turn to the law and to the testimony! If they don’t speak according to this word, surely there is no morning for them.  (Isa. 8:20)

Comment: This is a clear call to test everything by the Scriptures. It implies that there will be writings and teachings that are not from God and must be identified and rejected.

Reader: Jesus prayed, Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth.. ( John 17:17)

Reader: For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe..  (1 Thess. 2:13)

Reader:  For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

Comment: Jesus’ prayer for our sanctification is answered when we accept the messages of the Bible not as men’s words and thoughts but rather as the very Word of God. For those words are powerful. By them God created the universe by them our innermost thoughts and intentions are revealed. Not only do His words convict us of sin but they lead us to repentance. By accepting His gift of grace we are forgiven, cleansed and empowered to walk in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.

Note: The Psalmist said,” I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Ps. 119:11 Therefore the readers of this collection of Bible readings are encouraged to memorize choice promises and instructions. A good starting point is to memorize the Books of the Bible in order.

 TOP

The Trinity

Reader:  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)

Comment: Moses, the author of Genesis, grew up in the courts of Pharaoh in a culture that worshiped many gods. So which God created the heavens and the earth? What is He like? Later on in the creation story after He had created the animals we find God creating human beings.

Reader:  God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. (Gen: 1:26 )

Comment: Suddenly we find that God is not alone in His creative activities. In fact there was a hint of that in Gen. 1:2.

Reader:  The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Comment:  Let’s look for other places in Scripture where God talks with himself.

Reader:   Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. Yahweh said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do. Come, let’s go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city. (Gen. 11:5-8)

Reader:    In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God..(Rom. 8:26)

Comment: Here we find the Spirit of God interceding with God for the saints who desire to do God’s will.  Then there is the classic intercession of Jesus for his children just before his trial and crucifixion.

Reader:  Jesus said these things, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you; (John 17:1 )

Comment: After praying for his disciples he prayed for us like this.

Reader:  .  Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23 )

Comment: In that prayer we find the key to understanding Deut. 6:4-7

Reader:    Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one.

Reader:  You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Comment: God is one in character, in love and in purpose. If God were only one being how could love be expressed? So we find Jesus invoking all three beings in the baptismal rite.

Reader:   Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. (Matt. 28:19-20 )

Comment: What do the events around Jesus’ baptism tell us about God? The Gospels record this event as follows. (Selected from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)

Reader:  Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. He came into all the region around the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for remission of sins. (Luke 3:1-3)

Reader: He said,  Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

Reader: . For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, (Matt. 3:2,3)

Reader:  (Luke 3:4-6) The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
    ‘Make ready the way of the Lord.
Make his paths straight.
     Every valley will be filled.
Every mountain and hill will be brought low.
    The crooked will become straight,
    and the rough ways smooth.
 All flesh will see God’s salvation.’

Reader:  Now John himself wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him. They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, (Matt.3:4-7)

Reader:  You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance! Don’t think to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire. (Matt 3:7-10)

Comment: The following dialogue is from Luke 3:7-18.

Reader:  The multitudes asked him, What then must we do?-

Reader:  He answered them, He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.

Reader:  Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, Teacher, what must we do?

Reader:  He said to them, Collect no more than that which is appointed to you..

Reader:  Soldiers also asked him, saying, What about us? What must we do?

Reader:  He said to them, Extort from no one by violence, neither accuse anyone wrongfully. Be content with your wages..

Reader:  As the people were in expectation, and all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he was the Christ, John answered them all

Reader:  I indeed baptize you with water, but he comes who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire, whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Then with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people,

 Reader: Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. But John would have hindered him, saying,

Reader: I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?.

Reader:  But Jesus, answering, said to him, Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he allowed him. (Matt. 3:13-17),

Reader:   Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him. Behold, a voice out of the heavens said,

Reader:  This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. (Matt. 3:16, 17).

Comment:  In another account of John’s testimony we find the following exchange (John 1:19-36).

Reader:  This is John’s testimony, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?

Reader:   He declared, and didn’t deny, but he declared, I am not the Christ.

Reader: They asked him, What then? Are you Elijah?.

Reader: He said, I am not.

Reader:. Are you the prophet?

Reader:  He answered, No.

Rader:  They said therefore to him, Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?

Reader:   He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,

Reader:  . The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. They asked him, Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?

Reader:  John answered them, I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don’t know. He is the one who comes after me, who is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to loosen.

Reader: These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.,

Reader:  The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’ I didn’t know him, but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel. John testified, saying, I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him. I didn’t recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water, he said to me, ‘On whomever you will see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.

Reader: The Son of God!!

Reader:  Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples,  and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, Behold, the Lamb of God!

Comment: In these accounts we have seen God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit clearly portrayed as working together for the salvation of mankind.  It is not surprising then that in the rest of the New Testament we find repeated references to all three. Paul writing to the Corinthians said:

Reader:  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14 )

Comment: And yet when writing to the Ephesians he emphasized the oneness of God and of believers with God.

Reader:  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all (Eph. 4:4-6 )

Comment: And in his letter to Timothy he prayed

Reader:  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim.: 1:17)

 Comment: Peter opened his first letter by recognizing the roles of all three members of the Godhead in calling believers to follow Jesus.

Reader: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen ones who are living as foreigners in the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter: 1:1-2 )

Comment: On several occasions in the apostolic days believers received the Holy Spirit in connection with baptism.  Let’s look at two of them in Acts 19:1-7 we read:

Reader:  While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples. He said to them,

Reader: Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?

Reader:  They said to him, No, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.

Reader:  He said, Into what then were you baptized?

Reader:  They said, Into John’s baptism.

Reader:   Paul said, John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.

Reader:  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus

Reader:  When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with other languages and prophesied. They were about twelve men in all.

Comment: Another event is recorded in the story of Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10.

Reader:  Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house, who gave gifts for the needy generously to the people, and always prayed to God. At about the ninth hour of the day, he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God coming to him, and saying to him, Cornelius!

Reader:  He, fastening his eyes on him, and being frightened, said, What is it, Lord?

Reader:  . He said to him, Your prayers and your gifts to the needy have gone up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and get Simon, who is also called Peter. He lodges with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the seaside.

Reader:  When the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier of those who waited on him continually. Having explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Comment: The following day Peter had a dream and God told him What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.

Reader:  While Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, Behold, three men seek you. But arise, get down, and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.

Reader:   Peter went down to the men, and said, Behold, I am he whom you seek. Why have you come?

Reader:  They said, Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous man and one who fears God, and well spoken of by all the nation of the Jews, was directed by a holy angel to invite you to his house, and to listen to what you say. So he called them in and provided a place to stay.

Reader: On the next day Peter arose and went out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. On the next day they entered into Caesarea. Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his relatives and his near friends.

Reader: When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet, and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying,.

Reader:  Stand up! I myself am also a man.

Reader:  As he talked with him, he went in and found many gathered together. He said to them, You yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come to one of another nation, but God has shown me that I shouldn’t call any man unholy or unclean.

Reader:  Peter opened his mouth and said, Truly I perceive that God doesn’t show favoritism; but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.  . . . you yourselves know what happened,  . . .  John preached; even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they also killed, hanging him on a tree.

Reader:  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. They of the circumcision who believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in other languages and magnifying God.

Reader:  Then Peter answered, Can anyone forbid these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just like us. He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay some days.

Comment: Before his crucifixion in John 14:12-18 Jesus told his disciples that he was going to the Father.

Reader: Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father. Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it.   

Comment: He also promised to send a Counselor.

Reader: If you love me, keep my commandments. I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever,— the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you..

Comment: God spoke audibly of Jesus as His Son at His baptism and on two other occasions. One of these is found In Matthew 17:1-8.

Reader: After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain by themselves. He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as the light..

Reader: Behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them talking with him..

Reader:  Peter answered, and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, let’s make three tents here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Reader:  While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them. Behold, a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.

Comment: This clearly portrays an intimate relationship between Jesus and God the Father and Jesus repeatedly affirms that relationship. So when the angel of revelation calls us to worship God it is to acknowledge all Three as Creator. (Rev. 14:7)

Reader:  He said with a loud voice, Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters!

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The Father

Reader: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1 )

Comment: Here we are back at the beginning.  The beginning of what?  Who is God?  We have already established that there are 3 Beings who work together so closely, like a hand in a glove, that they are said to be One.  But Jesus spoke of the Father in this way

Reader:  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10: 29, 30

 Comment: Clearly while he lived on this earth, Jesus looked to the Father as supreme. And the vision given to John reveals an awesome Being seated on a throne in heaven surrounded by awesome creatures praising Him. Let us, in our imagination, share in this experience as recorded in Revelation 4;

 Reader: After these things I looked and saw a door opened in heaven, . . . Behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting on the throne that looked like a jasper stone and a sardius.

Reader: There was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald to look at. . . .  Out of the throne proceed lightnings, sounds, and thunders. There were seven lamps of fire burning before his throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

Reader: Before the throne was something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal.

Reader: In the middle of the throne, and around the throne were four living creatures . . . . They have no rest day and night, saying,

Reader: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!”

Reader: When the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne, to him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever, and throw their crowns before the throne, saying,

Reader: Worthy are you, our Lord and God, the Holy One, to receive the glory, the honor, and the power, for you created all things, and because of your desire they existed, and were created!”

Comment: We find further evidence, that it is God the Father who is the center of worship and praise.  In 1 Corinthians 15.22-28.we find-

Reader: For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming.

Reader  Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For, “He put all things in subjection under his feet.

Reader:. But when he says, “All things are put in subjection”, it is evident that he is excepted who subjected all things to him. When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all.

 

Comment: So we see that even Christ after his ascension looks to the Father as Supreme.  When faced with such a being our first response is fear. But while we owe Him all due respect and honor, are there reasons for us to have different kinds of emotional responses?  Certainly the message of John 3:16 is one of love.

Reader:  For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Reader: And 1 John 4:7-9 reads Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.

Reader: By this God’s love was revealed in us, that God has sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Comment: Surely these testimonies by one of the disciples who was closest to Him gives us reason to want to be near Jesus’ Father. But it doesn’t appear that all the disciples had clear understanding of the Father.  Notice this dialogue that took place the evening before his betrayal and recorded in John 14:1-25.

Reader: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. Where I go, you know, and you know the way.

Reader: Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?

 Reader: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him.”

Reader: Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Reader: Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

Reader:  Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father. Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it.

Reader:  If you love me, keep my commandments. I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever,— the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more; but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.”

Reader: Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, what has happened that you are about to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Reader:  Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. He who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word which you hear isn’t mine, but the Father’s who sent me.

Reader: I have said these things to you, while still living with you.

Comment: In that exchange Jesus clearly wanted his disciples to love and trust his Father just as they had learned to love and trust Him. Now consider Moses and his relationship to God. It is recorded in Exodus 33:7-23, 34

Reader:  Now Moses used to take the tent and to pitch it outside the camp, far away from the camp, and he called it “The Tent of Meeting.” Everyone who sought Yahweh went out to the Tent of Meeting, which was outside the camp. When Moses went out to the Tent, that all the people rose up, and stood, everyone at their tent door, and watched Moses, until he had gone into the Tent. When Moses entered into the Tent, the pillar of cloud descended, stood at the door of the Tent, and spoke with Moses. All the people saw the pillar of cloud stand at the door of the Tent, and all the people rose up and worshiped, everyone at their tent door.

Reader: Yahweh spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. He turned again into the camp, but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, didn’t depart from the Tent

Reader: Moses said to Yahweh, “Behold, you tell me, ‘Bring up this people:’ and you haven’t let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your way, that I may know you, so that I may find favor in your sight: and consider that this nation is your people.”

Reader: He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Reader:   He said to him, “If your presence doesn’t go with me, don’t carry us up from here. For how would people know that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Isn’t it that you go with us, so that we are separated, I and your people, from all the people who are on the surface of the earth?”

Reader: Yahweh said to Moses, “I will do this thing also that you have spoken; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

Reader: He said, “Please show me your glory.

Reader: He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim Yahweh’s name before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” He said, “You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live.

Reader:  Yahweh also said, “Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on the rock. It will happen, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back; but my face shall not be seen.

Reader: (Exodus 34:1-9) Yahweh said to Moses, “Chisel two stone tablets like the first: and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain. Do not let the flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.”

Reader:  He chiseled two tablets of stone like the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up to Mount Sinai, as Yahweh had commanded him, and took in his hand two stone tablets. Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed Yahweh’s name. Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children, on the third and on the fourth generation.”

Reader: Moses hurried and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, Lord, please let the Lord go among us; although this is a stiff-necked people; pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.

Comment: In writing to Timothy, Paul, the apostle, gives great honor to God the Father, while clearly making a distinction between Jesus and the Father. Compare the following 2 quotations.

Reader: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

Reader: Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen. (1Timothy 6:12-16)

Reader: And in Romans 15:5&6 he wrote, Now the God of patience and of encouragement grant you to be of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Comment: Finally Jesus himself makes a distinction between himself and God the Father in John 16:22-32.

Reader:  Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. “In that day you will ask me no questions. Most certainly I tell you, whatever you may ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

Reader:  Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full. I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. But the time is coming when I will no more speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name;

Reader:  I don’t say to you, that I will pray to the Father for you, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father, and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.”

Reader: His disciples said to him, “Behold, now you speak plainly, and speak no figures of speech. Now we know that you know all things, and don’t need for anyone to question you. By this we believe that you came from God.”

Reader: Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the time is coming, yes, and has now come, that you will be scattered, everyone to his own place, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Comment: So we have the assurance that even though God is an awesome God we can approach Him with our heart’s desire without fear.  Of course we will want to let the Holy Spirit direct our desires and translate our requests.

Reader: (Romans 8;26, 27) In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God.
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The Son
Bible Reading from the World English Bible
Comments by Paul McMillanComment: God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He became a man, a human being, beginning where all of us begin, in our mother’s womb.  Reading from Luke 1&2 we have this story.

Reader:   There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, . . . He had a wife . . .  and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years..

Reader:  Now while he executed the priest’s office before God . . .  his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. The whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him,

Reader: ““Don’t be afraid, Zacharias, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. You will have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth.  For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to prepare a people prepared for the Lord.”

Reader:  Zacharias said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

Reader:  “The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. Behold, you will be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things will happen, because you didn’t believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

Reader:  The people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marveled that he delayed in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. He continued making signs to them, and remained mute.

Reader:  When the days of his service were fulfilled, he departed to his house. After these days Elizabeth, his wife, conceived, and she hid herself five months, saying,

Reader: “Thus has the Lord done to me in the days in which he looked at me, to take away my reproach among men..”

Reader  Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. Having come in, the angel said to her,”,

Reader: “Rejoice, you highly favored one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women!”

Reader:  But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be. The angel said to her,

Reader: ““Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and give birth to a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus.’ He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom..”

Reader: Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?”

Reader:  “The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing spoken by God is impossible.”

Reader: Mary said, “Behold, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”

Reader: The angel departed from her.

Reader: Now in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to enroll themselves, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to David’s city, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; to enroll himself with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him as wife, being pregnant.

Reader:  While they were there, the day had come for her to give birth. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Reader: . In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. (John 1;1-3)

Reader:  The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.. (John 1:14)

Comment: So who is this Son?  Is he somehow like a son of man with no prior existence?  Could He be the first of God’s creation?  Study carefully the following inspired testimony by Paul the apostle.  It is apparent in Col. 1:13-20 that Paul sees Jesus as eternally coexistent with God the Father

Reader: “who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him.

Reader: He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him; and through him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross.

Reader: John the Disciple quoted Jesus as saying, “ I and the Father are one..” John 10:30

Comment: Before and during the Passover meal Jesus had been telling his disciples that he would not be with them much longer. Now he seeks to comfort them. Let’s read from John 14:1-10.

Reader: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. Where I go, you know, and you know the way.”

Reader: Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Reader:  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him.”

Reader: Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Reader:  “ Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works.

Comment: Mark 14:60-64 records that just a few hours after this conversation Jesus stood before the high priest while false witnesses testified against Him but Jesus did not respond.   Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus,

Reader: “Have you no answer? What is it which these testify against you?”

Comment: But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.  Again the high priest asked him,

Reader: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Reader:  Jesus said, “I am. You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of the sky.”

Comment: The high priest tore his clothes and asked;

Reader: “What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”

Comment: They all condemned him to be worthy of death.

Reader: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)  

Reader: For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Cor. 5:21)  

Reader: But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed.. (Isa. 53:5)

Comment: That passage found in Isa. 53:5 is only one of many in the Old Testament that clearly foretell the coming of Jesus.  Here are a few.

Reader:  Gen.49:10  The scepter will not depart from Judah.

Reader: Job 19:20 I know my Redeemer lives

Reader: Psalm 22:My God, my God why have you forsaken me?

Reader: Psalm 16:Will not abandon Me in the grave nor let my body see corruption.

Reader: Psalm 119 You are a priest forever.

Reader: Isa 7:14 The virgin will give birth to a son.

Reader: Isa. 9:6 For unto us a Son is given

Reader: Isa. 42:1-9;Here is my servant . . .

Reader: Isa 52:13-15 Suffering Servant

Reader:  Micah 5:2 to be born in Bethlehem.

Reader: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation;  (2 Cor. 5:17-19)

Reader:  For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he desires. For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who doesn’t honor the Son doesn’t honor the Father who sent him. (John 5:21-23)

Reader: Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.

Reader: Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11)

Comment: Jesus – all these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus.  He was the coming Messiah, Redeemer.   Reading from Heb. 2:9-18

Reader: But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone.

Reader: For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many children to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

Reader: “I will declare your name to my brothers. Among of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Reader: Again, “I will put my trust in him.”

Reader: Again, “Behold, here I am with the children whom God has given me.”

Reader: Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Reader: For most certainly, he doesn’t give help to angels, but he gives help to the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Reader:  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Cor. 15:3, 4)

Reader:  Now in the things which we are saying, the main point is this. We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a servant of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man (Heb. 8:1, 2)

Comment: Following His resurrection Jesus appeared to many of his followers, as many as 500 at one time.(1 Cor. 15:6) On one of those occasions some of his discouraged disciples had gone fishing.  John records the story in John 21:1-14. It happened like this.

Reader:  After these things, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself this way.

Reader: Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.”

Reader: They told him, “We are also coming with you.” They immediately went out, and entered into the boat. That night, they caught nothing.

Reader: But when day had already come, Jesus stood on the beach, yet the disciples didn’t know that it was Jesus. Jesus therefore said to them, “Children, have you anything to eat?”

Reader: They answered him, “No.”

Reader: He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

Reader: They cast it therefore, and now they weren’t able to draw it in for the multitude of fish. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!”

Reader: So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around him (for he was naked), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits away), dragging the net full of fish. So when they got out on the land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them,

Reader:  “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

Reader: Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fish, one hundred fifty-three; and even though there were so many, the net wasn’t torn.

Reader: Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”

Reader: None of the disciples dared inquire of him, “Who are you?” knowing that it was the Lord. Then Jesus came and took the bread, gave it to them, and the fish likewise.

Reader: This is now the third time that Jesus was revealed to his disciples, after he had risen from the dead.

Comment: In Acts 1 Luke gives this account of Jesus’ last appearance to his disciples.

Reader: The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

Reader: To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God’s Kingdom. Being assembled together with them, he commanded them,

Reader: “Don’t depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me. For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore when they had come together, they asked him,

ALL:“Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

Reader: He said to them, “It isn’t for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Reader: When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, who also said,

Reader: “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.”

Comment: Jesus, eternally one with the Father, was given by God the Father to become forever one of us.. He will forever bear the marks of his crucifixion. He lived a life totally in harmony with the Father but bore our sin and its consequence so that we can be forgiven and transformed to live as he lived totally in harmony with the Father. He promised to come again and take his children to dwell with him. Do you believe this? Is that belief transforming your life? Then turn your back on the attractions of this world and look up for your redemption is nearer than you think.

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The Holy Spirit

Comment:   God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption.

Reader:   IN CREATION:  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Gen. 1:1,2)

Reader:   IN INCARNATION:  The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and give birth to a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus.’ He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?” The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God.  (Luke 1:30-35)

Reader:   IN REDEMPTION:  Jesus read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18, 19)

Comment: So we have seen that the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son – the Trinity. Now let’s explore in some detail Scriptural references to events in which actions of the Holy Spirit are identified.  Following the involvement of God’s Spirit at creation we find Him striving with humans before the flood.

Reader:   When men began to multiply on the surface of the ground, and daughters were born to them, God’s sons saw that men’s daughters were beautiful, and they took any that they wanted for themselves as wives. Yahweh said, “My Spirit will not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; so his days will be one hundred twenty years. (Gen. 6:1-3)

Reader:   Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. Yahweh said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground—man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky—for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in Yahweh’s eyes. (Gen. 6:5-8)

Comment:  This is the first place in the Bible to reveal one part of the work of the Holy Spirit.  It says that God’s Spirit “strives” with humans.  Let’s discover how this played out in the lives of people recorded in scripture. First look at the story of Cain and Abel in Gen. 4:1-10

Reader: The man knew Eve his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man with Yahweh’s help.” Again she gave birth, to Cain’s brother Abel.

Reader: Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. As time passed, Cain brought an offering to Yahweh from the fruit of the ground. Abel also brought some of the firstborn of his flock and of its fat.

Reader: Yahweh respected Abel and his offering, but he didn’t respect Cain and his offering. Cain was very angry, and the expression on his face fell.

Reader:  Yahweh said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why has the expression of your face fallen? If you do well, won’t it be lifted up? If you don’t do well, sin crouches at the door. Its desire is for you, but you are to rule over it.”

Reader: Cain said to Abel, his brother, “Let’s go into the field.” While they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him.

Reader: Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel, your brother?”

Reader: He said, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Reader: Yahweh said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.

 Comment: Clearly, God the Spirit, is here striving with Cain, seeking to convince him of the sin that he was cherishing in his heart. Refusing to repent of that sin it grew until he murdered his brother. Now consider the story of David and Bathsheba recorded in 2 Sam. 11

Reader: At the return of the year, at the time when kings go out, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

Reader: At evening, David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to look at. David sent and inquired after the woman.

Reader: One said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, Uriah the Hittite’s wife?”

Reader: David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in to him, and he lay with her (for she was purified from her uncleanness); and she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”

Reader: David sent to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah had come to him, David asked him how Joab did, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered. David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.

Reader:” Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and didn’t go down to his house.

Reader: When they had told David, saying, “Uriah didn’t go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Haven’t you come from a journey? Why didn’t you go down to your house?”

Reader: Uriah said to David, “The ark, Israel, and Judah, are staying in tents; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open field. Shall I then go into my house to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing!”

Reader: David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day, and the next day. When David had called him, he ate and drink before him; and he made him drunk. At evening, he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but didn’t go down to his house. 

Reader: In the morning, David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. He wrote in the letter, saying, “Send Uriah to the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck, and die.”

Reader: When Joab kept watch on the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew that valiant men were. The men of the city went out, and fought with Joab. Some of the people fell, even of David’s servants; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

Reader: Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; and he commanded the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling all the things concerning the war to the king, it shall be that, if the king’s wrath arise, and he asks you, ‘Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Didn’t you know that they would shoot from the wall? Who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Didn’t a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.’”

Reader: So the messenger went, and came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for. The messenger said to David, “The men prevailed against us, and came out to us into the field, and we were on them even to the entrance of the gate. The shooters shot at your servants from off the wall; and some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.”

Reader: Then David said to the messenger, “Tell Joab, ‘Don’t let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Make your battle stronger against the city, and overthrow it.’ Encourage him.”

Reader: When Uriah’s wife heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. When the mourning was past, David sent and took her home to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased Yahweh

Comment: Where was the Holy Spirit in all this or was the Spirit striving with him all along? Did David do all that without any twinge of guilt? How could he suddenly follow such a path of adultery and murder? Bathsheba was a granddaughter of Ahitophel, one of David's chief advisors and daughter of Eliam, one of David's thirty.  This young woman was not a stranger to him.  He had watched her grow up.  Was this the first time he had entertained lustful thoughts toward her? But the thing David had done displeased the Lord and by the Holy Spirit the Lord sent Nathan to David. 2 Sam. 12

Reader: Yahweh sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and raised. It grew up together with him, and with his children. It ate of his own food, drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him.

Reader: A traveler came to the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to prepare for the wayfaring man who had come to him, but took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

Reader:  David’s anger burned hot against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As Yahweh lives, the man who has done this deserves to die! He must restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity!”

Reader: Nathan said to David, “You are the man. This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that would have been too little, I would have added to you many more such things.

Reader: Why have you despised Yahweh’s word, to do that which is evil in his sight? You have struck Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword will never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken Uriah the Hittite’s wife to be your wife.’

Reader: This is what Yahweh says: ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did this secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.’”

Reader: David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against Yahweh.”

Reader: Nathan said to David, “Yahweh also has put away your sin. You will not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to Yahweh’s enemies to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you will surely die.”

Comment: The Holy Spirit once again had access to David’s heart giving him heartfelt contrition and true repentance for his sins. His sincere expression of repentance, given him by the Spirit, is recorded in Psalm 51:1-15

Reader: Have mercy on me, God, according to your loving kindness. According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.

Reader: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. Cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions. My sin is constantly before me. Against you, and you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight; that you may be proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge.

Reader: Behold, I was born in iniquity. In sin my mother conceived me. Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts. You teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow

Reader: Let me hear joy and gladness, That the bones which you have broken may rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all of my iniquities.

Reader:  Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Don’t throw me from your presence, and don’t take your holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Uphold me with a willing spirit.

Reader: Then I will teach transgressors your ways. Sinners shall be converted to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation. My tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips. My mouth shall declare your praise

Comment: Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and it was in the spirit and power of the Spirit that he lived and ministered so that following his baptism we are told in Luke 4:1-12

Reader: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days. Afterward, when they were completed, he was hungry.

Reader:  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Reader: Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’

Reader: The devil, leading him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The devil said to him, “I will give you all this authority, and their glory, for it has been delivered to me; and I give it to whomever I want. If you therefore will worship before me, it will all be yours.”

Reader: Jesus answered him, “Get behind me Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’

Reader: He led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here, for it is written,  ‘He will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you;’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest perhaps you dash your foot against a stone.’

Reader: Jesus answering, said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’

Comment: Jesus lived among us by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the upper room the evening before his crucifixion he promised the disciples that they too would be empowered by the Holy Spirit.  We read in John14:15-21

Reader: If you love me, keep my commandments. I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever,— the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see him, neither knows him.

Reader: You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more; but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Reader: One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.

Reader: I have said these things to you, while still living with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.  (John 14:25-27)

Comment: Jesus had already promised the Spirit to his disciples. It is recorded in Luke 11:11-13

Reader: Which of you fathers, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he won’t give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he asks for an egg, he won’t give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Comment: So then 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection we find the disciples in the upper room.  The Spirit is at work among them. As they come into harmony with one another, they lay aside those things that divide them, no longer seeking first place.  Desiring above everything else the Spirit of Jesus, they repent of sins against each other and God. And as they experience the reality of God’s forgiveness they begin to know what it means to have the mind of Jesus and crucify self.  It is then that they are prepared to receive the Holy Spirit in abundance.  We read about it in Acts 2:1-4.

Reader: Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and one sat on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.

Comment: From that upper room they went out filled with the Spirit.  In the face of death they preached boldly a crucified but risen Savior who would return and make all things right.  Thousands were converted and miracles wrought. As the work grew it was necessary to appoint some to perform special tasks.  Deacons were appointed from among those who were filled with the Spirit.  Read about it in Acts 6:1-7.

Reader: Stephen, full of faith and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. But some of those who were of the synagogue called “The Libertines”, and of the Cyrenians, of the Alexandrians, and of those of Cilicia and Asia arose, disputing with Stephen. They weren’t able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

Reader: Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, and came against him and seized him, and brought him in to the council, and set up false witnesses who said,

Reader: “This man never stops speaking blasphemous words against this holy place and the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” All who sat in the council, fastening their eyes on him, saw his face like it was the face of an angel.

Reader:   The high priest said, “Are these things so?”

Comment: Stephen responded to this question without fear and with great boldness even though he knew it could cost him his life.  His Spirit inspired sermon recorded in Acts 7 ended in this way. (Acts 7:51-60)

Reader: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do. Which of the prophets didn’t your fathers persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, of whom you have now become betrayers and murderers. You received the law as it was ordained by angels, and didn’t keep it!”

Reader: Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

Reader: But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed at him with one accord. They threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying,

Reader: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Comment: No doubt the Spirit had been striving with Saul for some time before this but this event really got to Saul.  He became even more angry with the Christians and refused to give in to the Spirit’s pleadings.  So it was that Jesus intervened and met him on the road to Damascus. The story is recorded in Acts 8:1-3 & 9:1-19

Reader:   But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,  and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Reader: As he traveled, he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him. He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Reader: He said, “Who are you, Lord?”

Reader: The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise up, and enter into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Reader: The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the sound, but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one. They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. He was without sight for three days, and neither ate nor drank.

Reader: Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

Reader: He said, “Behold, it’s me, Lord.”

Reader: The Lord said to him, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”

Reader:  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

Reader: But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Reader: Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized. He took food and was strengthened.

Comment: Saul became Paul who, filled with and taught by the Spirit, brought to the early church important understandings about the inclusiveness of the gospel.  The apostles liberated from the restrictions of Judaism carried the gospel as far as England and India.  All, except John, endured martyr’s deaths.  They were filled with the Spirit. John, also filled with the Spirit, endured torture and exile to the island of Patmos.  It was there that the Spirit revealed to him God’s plans for his church. Those visions have encouraged believers ever since and carried them through all that the Devil has brought on them.  John concluded his letter in the following way.(Rev. 22:16-20)

Reader:  I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star.”

Reader: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” He who hears, let him say, “Come!” He who is thirsty, let him come. He who desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Reader: I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them, may God add to him the plagues which are written in this book. If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, may God take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.

Reader: He who testifies these things says, “Yes, I come quickly.”

Reader: Amen! Yes, come, Lord Jesus.

Comment: Do you want to be filled with the Spirit? Are you active in a community of faith? Take time now to express appreciation for your fellow believers. Let the Spirit, through the blood of Jesus, purge you of all selfishness that keeps us from being united in faith.
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Creation

 Comment:   The writers of the Bible speak with one voice – they all proclaim that God is the Creator. Listen carefully to the Psalmist in Psalm 100.

Reader:  Shout for joy to Yahweh, all you lands! Serve Yahweh with gladness.  Come before his presence with singing. Know that Yahweh, he is God.

Reader: It is he who has made us, and we are his.  We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Reader: Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,  into his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him, and bless his name.

Reader: For Yahweh is good.  His loving kindness endures forever,  his faithfulness to all generations.

Comment: And again in Psalm 95:3-7

Reader : For Yahweh is a great God,  a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth.

Reader : The heights of the mountains are also his. The sea is his, and he made it.  His hands formed the dry land.

Reader : Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.  Let’s kneel before Yahweh, our Maker, for he is our God.  We are the people of his pasture,  and the sheep in his care.

Comment: Jeremiah contrasts the gods of the heathen with the One and Only God – the Creator God in Jeremiah 10:1-16.

Reader: Hear the word which Yahweh speaks to you, house of Israel! Yahweh says,

Reader: Don’t learn the way of the nations, and don’t be dismayed at the signs of the sky; for the nations are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are vanity; for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the ax.

Reader: They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it not move. They are like a palm tree, of turned work, and don’t speak: they must be carried, because they can’t go.

Reader: Don’t be afraid of them;

Reader: for they can’t do evil,

Reader: neither is it in them to do good.

Reader: There is no one like you, Yahweh; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who should not fear you, King of the nations? For it belongs to you; because among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their royal estate, there is no one like you.

Reader: But they are together brutish and foolish: the instruction of idols! it is but a stock. There is silver beaten into plates, which is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the artificer and of the hands of the goldsmith; blue and purple for their clothing; they are all the work of skillful men.

Reader: But Yahweh is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting King: at his wrath the earth trembles, and the nations are not able to withstand his indignation.You shall say this to them: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens.

Reader: He has made the earth by his power, he has established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding has he stretched out the heavens: when he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain, and brings the wind out of his treasuries.

Reader: Every man has become brutish and without knowledge; every goldsmith is disappointed by his engraved image; for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, a work of delusion: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.

Reader: The portion of Jacob is not like these; for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance: Yahweh of Armies is his name.

Comment:  Psalm 33 is a call for the righteous to praise the Lord because of his justice and creative power.

Reader: Rejoice in Yahweh, you righteous!  Praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Yahweh with the lyre.  Sing praises to him with the harp of ten strings.

Reader: Sing to him a new song.  Play skillfully with a shout of joy! For Yahweh’s word is right.  All his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice.  The earth is full of the loving kindness of Yahweh.

Reader: By Yahweh’s word, the heavens were made;  all their army by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap.  He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear Yahweh.  Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Reader: For he spoke, and it was done.  He commanded, and it stood firm.

Comment: Now lets listen to the creation story as recorded in Genesis 1 & 2.

Reader:  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Reader:  God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night”.

Reader:  There was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Reader: God said, “Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse “sky”.

Reader:   There was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Reader: God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land “earth”, and the gathering together of the waters he called “seas”. God saw that it was good.

Reader: God said, “Let the earth yield grass, herbs yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with their seeds in it, on the earth”; and it was so. The earth yielded grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with their seeds in it, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.

Reader: There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

Reader: God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of sky to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs to mark seasons, days, and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of sky to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.

Reader:  He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of sky to give light to the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good.

Reader: There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

Reader: God said, “Let the waters abound with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of sky.” God created the large sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good.

Reader: God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Reader: God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures after their kind, livestock, creeping things, and animals of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the livestock after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good.

Reader: God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them.

Reader:   God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Reader:   God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food.

Reader: To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food;” and it was so.

Reader: God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

Reader: The heavens, the earth, and all their vast array were finished. 

Reader: On the seventh day God finished his work which he had done; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.

Reader: God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work of creation which he had done

Comment: For what purpose did God bless and sanctify the seventh day? It must be that He intended humans to rest from their work on that day to have special time with Him, their Maker.  The Sabbath was to be a perpetual reminder of our Creator. We read in Exodus 20:8-11

Reader: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God.

Reader: You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates;

Reader: for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

Comment: In the remainder of the Scriptures we are reminded repeatedly that there is only one Creator God and therefore we are admonished to worship Him. This is especially true in the Psalms.

Reader:  (Psalm 121:1,2) I will lift up my eyes to the hills.  Where does my help come from?

Reader: My help comes from Yahweh,  who made heaven and earth.

Reader: (Psalm 146:5, 6) Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,  whose hope is in Yahweh, his God: who made heaven and earth,  the sea, and all that is in them;  who keeps truth forever.

 Reader: (Psalm 19:1-6) The heavens declare the glory of God.  The expanse shows his handiwork. Day after day they pour out speech,  and night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their voice has gone out through all the earth, their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,

Reader: which is as a bridegroom coming out of his room,  like a strong man rejoicing to run his course. His going out is from the end of the heavens,  his circuit to its ends;  There is nothing hidden from its heat.

Reader: (Psalm 8) Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,
    who has set your glory above the heavens!
From the lips of babes and infants you have established strength,
    because of your adversaries, that you might silence the enemy and the avenger.

Reader: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;
what is man, that you think of him?
    What is the son of man, that you care for him?

Reader: For you have made him a little lower than God,
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You make him ruler over the works of your hands.

Reader: You have put all things under his feet:
All sheep and cattle,
    yes, and the animals of the field,
The birds of the sky, the fish of the sea,
    and whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
Yahweh, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!.

Comment: (Psalm 104:1-33): is devoted to praising the Creator God who not only creates but also sustains and provides for His Creation.

Reader: Bless Yahweh, my soul.

Reader: Yahweh, my God, you are very great.  You are clothed with honor and majesty. He covers himself with light as with a garment.  He stretches out the heavens like a curtain.

Reader: He lays the beams of his rooms in the waters.  He makes the clouds his chariot.  He walks on the wings of the wind. He makes his messengers winds; his servants flames of fire.

Reader: He laid the foundations of the earth,  that it should not be moved forever. You covered it with the deep as with a cloak.  The waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled.  At the voice of your thunder they hurried away.

Reader: The mountains rose,  the valleys sank down,  to the place which you had assigned to them. You have set a boundary that they may not pass over; that they don’t turn again to cover the earth.

Reader: He sends springs into the valleys.  They run among the mountains. They give drink to every animal of the field.  The wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by them.  They sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his rooms.

Reader: The earth is filled with the fruit of your works. He causes the grass to grow for the livestock,  and plants for man to cultivate,  that he may produce food out of the earth, wine that makes glad the heart of man,  oil to make his face to shine,  and bread that strengthens man’s heart.

Reader: Yahweh’s trees are well watered,  the cedars of Lebanon, which he has planted; where the birds make their nests.  The stork makes its home in the cypress trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats.  The rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.

Reader: He appointed the moon for seasons.  The sun knows when to set. You make darkness, and it is night,  in which all the animals of the forest prowl. The young lions roar after their prey,  and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away,  and lay down in their dens. Man goes out to his work,  to his labor until the evening.

Reader: Yahweh, how many are your works!  In wisdom have you made them all.  The earth is full of your riches. There is the sea, great and wide,  in which are innumerable living things,  both small and large animals. There the ships go, and leviathan, whom you formed to play there.

Reader: These all wait for you, that you may give them their food in due season. You give to them; they gather.  You open your hand; they are satisfied with good. You hide your face: they are troubled;  you take away their breath: they die, and return to the dust. You send out your Spirit and they are created.  You renew the face of the ground.

Reader: Let Yahweh’s glory endure forever.  Let Yahweh rejoice in his works. He looks at the earth, and it trembles.  He touches the mountains, and they smoke.

Reader: I will sing to Yahweh as long as I live.  I will sing praise to my God while I have any being.

Comment: In an age when skepticism concerning a Creator God abounds we must acknowledge that it is only by faith that we can know this as truth. In Hebrews 11:1-3 we read:

Reader: Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen. For by this, the elders obtained testimony. By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible.

Comment: But that faith is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ whose life, death, resurrection and ascension are proclaimed by many reliable witnesses. Perhaps the most articulate of these is His beloved disciple, John.  He affirmed in John 1:1-5 & 14:

Reader: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome.

Reader: The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Comment: One of the final messages to a doomed world calls for us to worship the One who created all things in heaven and in earth. We find it in Revelation 14:6,7.

Reader: I saw an angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal Good News to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said with a loud voice, “Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters!”

Comment: Reader, friend whoever you are won’t you choose to be among those who worship the only true God, Creator of heaven and earth? 
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Nature of Man

Comment: Man and woman were made in the image of God with individuality, the power and freedom to think and to do. Though created free beings, each is an indivisible unity of body, mind, and spirit, dependent upon God for life and breath and all else. Genesis 1:26-28 gives this account of the creation of people,

Reader: God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Reader: God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.

Reader: God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Comment: This simple account establishes, for those who will believe, the origin of mankind and explains our capacity to think, feel and create.  But what is the source of life? Gen. 2:7 says

Reader:  Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Comment: Without that breath of life we would be nothing more than a very detailed manikin. The breath of life was originally given by God and He continues to give it to every living being. Paul acknowledged this when he visited Athens as recorded in Acts 17:22-31.

Reader: Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus, and said, “You men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious in all things. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I announce to you.

Reader: The God who made the world and all things in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself

ALL Readers:  gives to all life and breath, and all things.

Reader: He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

All Reader: For in him we live, and move, and have our being.

Reader: As some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’ Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold, or silver, or stone, engraved by art and design of man.  The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent, because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.

Comment: Adam and Eve chose to follow the “Serpent’s” suggestion and thus isolated themselves from God, the source of life. We find the story in Genesis 3.

Reader:   Now the serpent was more subtle than any animal of the field which Yahweh God had made. He said to the woman,

Reader: “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’”

Reader: The woman said to the serpent,

Reader: “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, but not the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it. You shall not touch it, lest you die.’”

Reader: The serpent said to the woman, “You won’t surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Reader: When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took some of its fruit, and ate; and she gave some to her husband with her, and he ate it, too.

Reader: Their eyes were opened, and they both knew that they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together, and made coverings for themselves.

Reader: They heard Yahweh God’s voice walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden.

Reader: Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Reader: The man said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

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

Reader: The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Reader: Yahweh God said to the woman, “What have you done?”

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

Reader: Yahweh God said to the serpent,

Reader: “Because you have done this,     you are cursed above all livestock,     and above every animal of the field. You shall go on your belly     and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman,     and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head,     and you will bruise his heel.”

Reader: To the woman he said,

Reader: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.     In pain you will bear children. Your desire will be for your husband,     and he will rule over you.”

Reader: To Adam he said,

Reader: “Because you have listened to your wife’s voice,     and ate from the tree,     about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’     the ground is cursed for your sake. You will eat from it with much labor all the days of your life.    It will yield thorns and thistles to you;     and you will eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground,     for out of it you were taken. For you are dust,     and to dust you shall return.”

Reader: The man called his wife Eve because she would be the mother of all the living. Yahweh God made coats of animal skins for Adam and for his wife, and clothed them.

Reader: Yahweh God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever...”

Reader: Therefore Yahweh God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life

Comment: All of Adam’s descendants share in Adam’s fate – lacking access to the tree of life we all die.   But when considering all God’s created works the Psalmist declared in Ps. 8:3-9.

Reader: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,     the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;

Reader: what is man, that you think of him?     What is the son of man, that you care for him?

Reader: For you have made him a little lower than God,     and crowned him with glory and honor.

Reader: You make him ruler over the works of your hands.     You have put all things under his feet:

Reader: All sheep and cattle,     yes, and the animals of the field,  The birds of the sky, the fish of the sea,     and whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

Reader: Yahweh, our Lord,     how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Comment: This marvelous view of humanity’s place in creation must be kept in perspective, for we are fallen, sinful creatures.  So much so that after the flood God said- (Gen. 8:21)

Reader: “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake because the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. I will never again strike every living thing, as I have done.

Comment:  David acknowledged the same thing in his payer for forgiveness in Ps. 51:1-5

Reader: Have mercy on me, God, according to your loving kindness.     According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.

Reader: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.     Cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions.     My sin is constantly before me.

Reader: Against you, and you only, have I sinned,     and done that which is evil in your sight; that you may be proved right when you speak,     and justified when you judge.

Reader: Behold, I was born in iniquity.     In sin my mother conceived me

Comment: In Romans 5:12-21 Paul contrasts the hopelessly sinful condition of humanity and its consequence, death, with the hope of deliverance from both sin and its consequence through Jesus.

Reader:  Therefore as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned.

Reader:  For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not charged when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren’t like Adam’s disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come.

Reader:   But the free gift isn’t like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.  

Reader:  The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification. For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.

Reader:  So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life.

Reader:  For as through the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous.

Reader:   The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly; that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 Comment:  That deliverance is clearly portrayed in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Reader: For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again.

Reader: Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more.

Reader: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.

Reader: But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Reader: We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Comment:  We were created for the glory of God, and are called to love Him and one another, and to care for our environment. However because of our sinful nature we naturally live contrary to that ideal.  Consider Jesus’ disciples, James and John.   In Mark 3:17 Jesus called them “sons of thunder” Why? Notice Jesus’ instructions in Luke 9:1-6, when he sent them out to share the good news.

Reader: He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them out to preach God’s Kingdom and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—neither staffs, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats apiece. Into whatever house you enter, stay there, and depart from there. As many as don’t receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

Reader: They departed, and went throughout the villages, preaching the Good News, and healing everywhere.

Comment:  Notice their response when a few days later a Samaritan town rejected them. (Luke 9:51-56)

Reader: It came to pass, when the days were near that he should be taken up, he intently set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face. They went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, so as to prepare for him. They didn’t receive him, because he was traveling with his face set towards Jerusalem.

Reader:  When his disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from the sky, and destroy them, just as Elijah did?”

Reader: But he turned and rebuked them, “You don’t know of what kind of spirit you are. For the Son of Man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. They went to another village.

Comment:  Not many days later we find this episode recorded in Mark 10:35-45

Reader:  James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came near to him, saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we will ask.”

Reader: He said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Reader: They said to him, “Grant to us that we may sit, one at your right hand, and one at your left hand, in your glory.”

Reader: But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

Reader: They said to him, “We are able.”

Reader: Jesus said to them, “You shall indeed drink the cup that I drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit at my right hand and at my left hand is not mine to give, but for whom it has been prepared.”

Reader: When the ten heard it, they began to be indignant towards James and John.

Reader: Jesus summoned them, and said to them, “You know that they who are recognized as rulers over the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant.

Reader: Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Comment:  John, Jesus’ disciple, one of the sons of thunder, was so transformed by Jesus’ love and grace that in his later years he could write the following in First John 4:7-21.

Reader:  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.

Reader: By this God’s love was revealed in us, that God has sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Reader: In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Reader: Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us.

Reader: By this we know that we remain in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world.

Reader: Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God. We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

Reader: In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world.

Reader: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love.

Reader: We love him, because he first loved us.

Reader: If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

Reader: This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother.

Comment: This does not come naturally, however by spending time with Jesus we too can experience that transformation. Friend won’t you make it a priority in your life to live and walk with Jesus every day?
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The Great Controversy

Comment: All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe.  How did it all start? We read in Revelation 12:1-9

Reader:  A great sign was seen in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child. She cried out in pain, laboring to give birth.

Reader:   Another sign was seen in heaven. Behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns. His tail drew one third of the stars of the sky, and threw them to the earth.

Reader:  The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.

Reader:   Her child was caught up to God, and to his throne.

Reader:   The woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that there they may nourish her one thousand two hundred sixty days.

Reader:  There was war in the sky. Michael and his angels made war on the dragon. The dragon and his angels made war. They didn’t prevail, neither was a place found for him any more in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, the old serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Comment: Isaiah tells us about this fallen creature in chapter 14:12-14

Reader:   How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, who laid the nations low! You said in your heart,

Reader:  “I will ascend into heaven! I will exalt my throne above the stars of God! I will sit on the mountain of assembly, in the far north! I will ascend above the heights of the clouds! I will make myself like the Most High!”

Comment: Ezekiel, in his prophecy against the king of Tyre, describes a being that could not have been the king of Tyre. Instead this narration clearly describes God’s antagonist, where he came from (he was created), his ambitions and his ultimate fate (reduced to ashes). Reading from Ezekiel 28:11-18

Reader:  Moreover Yahweh’s word came to me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and tell him,

Reader:   Thus says the Lord Yahweh: You seal up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onyx, jasper, sapphire,[a] turquoise, and beryl. Gold work of tambourines and of pipes was in you. In the day that you were created they were prepared.

Reader:   You were the anointed cherub who covers: and I set you, so that you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you.

Reader:  By the abundance of your traffic they filled your insides with violence, and you have sinned: therefore I have cast you as profane out of the mountain of God; and I have destroyed you, covering cherub, from the middle of the stones of fire.

Reader:  Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I have cast you to the ground; I have laid you before kings, that they may see you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your traffic, you have profaned your sanctuaries; therefore have I brought out a fire from the middle of you; it has devoured you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all those who see you.

 Comment: What did this proud, self-centered being find on the earth?  He found a new creation where he led Adam and Eve to sin.  Genesis chapter 4 tells the result of their tragic choice.

Reader:  The man knew Eve his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man with Yahweh’s help.” Again she gave birth, to Cain’s brother Abel. Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Reader:   As time passed, Cain brought an offering to Yahweh from the fruit of the ground. Abel also brought some of the firstborn of his flock and of its fat. Yahweh respected Abel and his offering, but he didn’t respect Cain and his offering.

Reader:  Cain was very angry, and the expression on his face fell. Yahweh said to Cain,

Reader:  “Why are you angry? Why has the expression of your face fallen? If you do well, won’t it be lifted up? If you don’t do well, sin crouches at the door. Its desire is for you, but you are to rule over it.”

Reader:   Cain said to Abel, his brother, “Let’s go into the field.” While they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him.

Reader:  Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel, your brother?”

Reader:  He said, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Reader:  Yahweh said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground. Now you are cursed because of the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. From now on, when you till the ground, it won’t yield its strength to you. You will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth.”

Reader:  Cain said to Yahweh, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me out today from the surface of the ground. I will be hidden from your face, and I will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth. Whoever finds me will kill me.”

Reader:  Yahweh said to him, “Therefore whoever slays Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” Yahweh appointed a sign for Cain, so that anyone finding him would not strike him.

Reader:   Cain left Yahweh’s presence, and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Enoch. He built a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

Reader:   To Enoch was born Irad. Irad became the father of Mehujael. Mehujael became the father of Methushael. Methushael became the father of Lamech.

Reader:   Lamech took two wives: the name of the first one was Adah, and the name of the second one was Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal, who was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal, who was the father of all who handle the harp and pipe.

Reader:   Zillah also gave birth to Tubal Cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron. Tubal Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives,

Reader:  “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice.
You wives of Lamech, listen to my speech,
for I have slain a man for wounding me,
a young man for bruising me.
If Cain will be avenged seven times,
truly Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Reader:  Adam knew his wife again. She gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, saying, “for God has given me another child instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” A son was also born to Seth, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on Yahweh’s name.

Comment: From that beginning there have always been two groups of people – those who follow God’s ways and those who follow the “Serpent.” In Romans 1:18-32  Paul, the Apostle, describes the progression of the lives of those who reject the evidence of God’s love seen in nature

Reader: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them.

Reader:   For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.

Reader:   Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and traded the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things.

Reader:  Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Reader:  For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For their women changed the natural function into that which is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural function of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another, men doing what is inappropriate with men, and receiving in themselves the due penalty of their error.

Reader:  Even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil habits, secret slanderers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.

Comment: But Paul also speaks in Romans 8:19-25 of the grand hope that we can have in the restoration, in the deliverance of creation and of humanity from the blight of sin.

Reader: For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Reader:   For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. Not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body.

Reader:   For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for that which he sees? But if we hope for that which we don’t see, we wait for it with patience

Comment: It only took 11 generations of long-lived people for the degradation of most to be so great that God decided to destroy almost all of them in a great world-wide flood.  The account is found in Genesis 6-8.

Reader: (Gen 6:5-22) Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. Yahweh said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground—man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky—for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in Yahweh’s eyes.

Reader: This is the history of the generations of Noah: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time. Noah walked with God. Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. God saw the earth, and saw that it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Reader:  God said to Noah, “I will bring an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them and the earth. Make a ship of gopher wood.

Reader:  You shall make rooms in the ship, and shall seal it inside and outside with pitch. This is how you shall make it.

Reader:  The length of the ship shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a roof in the ship, and you shall finish it to a cubit upward. You shall set the door of the ship in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third levels.

Reader:   I, even I, do bring the flood of waters on this earth, to destroy all flesh having the breath of life from under the sky. Everything that is in the earth will die. But I will establish my covenant with you. You shall come into the ship, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

Reader:   Of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ship, to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, of the livestock after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every sort will come to you, to keep them alive. Take with you of all food that is eaten, and gather it to yourself; and it will be for food for you, and for them.”

Reader:  Thus Noah did. He did all that God commanded him.

Reader: (Gen. 7)Yahweh said to Noah, “Come with all of your household into the ship, for I have seen your righteousness before me in this generation.

Reader:  You shall take seven pairs of every clean animal with you, the male and his female. Of the animals that are not clean, take two, the male and his female. Also of the birds of the sky, seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed alive on the surface of all the earth.

Reader:   In seven days, I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. Every living thing that I have made, I will destroy from the surface of the ground.”

Reader:  Noah did everything that Yahweh commanded him.

Reader:  Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth. Noah went into the ship with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, because of the floodwaters. Clean animals, unclean animals, birds, and everything that creeps on the ground went by pairs to Noah into the ship, male and female, as God commanded Noah.

Reader:  After the seven days, the floodwaters came on the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep were burst open, and the sky’s windows were opened. It rained on the earth forty days and forty nights.

Reader:  In the same day Noah, and Shem, Ham, and Japheth—the sons of Noah—and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered into the ship— they, and every animal after its kind, all the livestock after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. Pairs from all flesh with the breath of life in them went to Noah into the ship.

Reader:  Those who went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God commanded him; then Yahweh shut him in.

Reader:  The flood was forty days on the earth. The waters increased, and lifted up the ship, and it was lifted up above the earth. The waters rose, and increased greatly on the earth; and the ship floated on the surface of the waters. The waters rose very high on the earth. All the high mountains that were under the whole sky were covered.

Reader:   The waters rose fifteen cubits[a] higher, and the mountains were covered. All flesh died that moved on the earth, including birds, livestock, animals, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All on the dry land, in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died.

Reader:   Every living thing was destroyed that was on the surface of the ground, including man, livestock, creeping things, and birds of the sky. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ship. The waters flooded the earth one hundred fifty days.

 Reader: God remembered Noah, all the animals, and all the livestock that were with him in the ship; and God made a wind to pass over the earth. The waters subsided. The deep’s fountains and the sky’s windows were also stopped, and the rain from the sky was restrained. The waters continually receded from the earth.

Reader:  After the end of one hundred fifty days the waters decreased. The ship rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on Ararat’s mountains. The waters receded continually until the tenth month. In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were visible.

Reader:  At the end of forty days, Noah opened the window of the ship which he had made, and he sent out a raven. It went back and forth, until the waters were dried up from the earth. He himself sent out a dove to see if the waters were abated from the surface of the ground, but the dove found no place to rest her foot, and she returned to him into the ship, for the waters were on the surface of the whole earth.

Reader:  He put out his hand, and took her, and brought her to him into the ship. He waited yet another seven days; and again he sent the dove out of the ship. The dove came back to him at evening and, behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth. He waited yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; and she didn’t return to him anymore.

Reader:   In the six hundred first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth. Noah removed the covering of the ship, and looked. He saw that the surface of the ground was dried. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

Reader:   God spoke to Noah, saying, “Go out of the ship, you, and your wife, and your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh, including birds, livestock, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply on the earth.”

Reader:   Noah went out, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him. Every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, whatever moves on the earth, after their families, went out of the ship.

Reader:   Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal, and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Yahweh smelled the pleasant aroma. Yahweh said in his heart,

Reader:  “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake because the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. I will never again strike every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.”

Comment: Jesus and the apostles taught that the world was indeed cleansed by such a flood.  Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:1-10:

Reader:  This is now, beloved, the second letter that I have written to you; and in both of them I stir up your sincere mind by reminding you; that you should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior: knowing this first, that in the last days mockers will come, walking after their own lusts, and saying,

Reader:   “Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth formed out of water and amid water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.

Reader:   But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Reader:   But don’t forget this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Comment: When Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the good news of His kingdom he gave them power over evil spirits. We read in Luke 9:1, 2

Reader:  He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them out to preach God’s Kingdom and to heal the sick.

Comment: It should not surprise us then that, after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, his followers would continue to have encounters with evil spirits. Here is the story of one such encounter in Acts 16:16-34

Reader: As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” She was doing this for many days.

Reader:  But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour.

Reader:   But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. When they had brought them to the magistrates, they said,

Reader:   “These men, being Jews, are agitating our city, and advocate customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

Reader:  The multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates tore their clothes off of them, and commanded them to be beaten with rods. When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely,  who, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and secured their feet in the stocks.

Reader:  But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were loosened. 

Reader:  The jailer, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Don’t harm yourself, for we are all here!”

Reader:  He called for lights, sprang in, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Reader:  They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all who were in his house.

Reader:  He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized, he and all his household. He brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his household, having believed in God.

Comment: Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. The Apostle Paul  expressed this in 1 Cor. 4:9.

Reader:  For, I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last of all, like men sentenced to death. For we are made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and men.

Comment: To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation. This is clearly stated in Heb.1:13,14.

Reader: But which of the angels has he told at any time,

Reader:  “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet?” Aren’t they all serving spirits, sent out to do service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

Comment:  The conflict between Christ and Satan is real and involves everyone of us. We are either disciples of Jesus or followers of Satan.  There are no spectators!  Now is the time to make our commitment to be a full-time disciple of Jesus.
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Jesus: Life, Death and Resurrection

Comment: .Jesus Christ is not doubt the most influential and yet the most controversial person who ever lived on planet earth. Why? Who is He? He was miraculously conceived so that he was both the Son of God and the Son of Man.  The story, his birth and childhood, is briefly told by Luke in chapters 1-3. He records the message of the angels to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-12 in this way:

Reader: Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.

Comment: When he was 12 years old his parents took him to the temple. His encounter  with the teachers left all who heard him amazed. Luke 2:47-52

Reader: All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him,

Reader: “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you.”

Reader: He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Reader: They didn’t understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth. He was subject to them, and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

Reader: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Comment: Luke continues the story in chapters 3 & 4. He began his ministry by being baptized by John and then going to the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan.  This encounter, recorded in Luke 4:1-13, highlights how he met those temptations without sinning.

Reader: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days. Afterward, when they were completed, he was hungry. 

Reader: The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Reader: Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”

Reader: The devil, leading him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The devil said to him,

Reader: “I will give you all this authority, and their glory, for it has been delivered to me; and I give it to whomever I want. If you therefore will worship before me, it will all be yours.”

Reader: Jesus answered him, “Get behind me Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’”

Reader: He led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here, for it is written,

Reader: ‘He will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you; and,
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest perhaps you dash your foot against a stone.’

Reader: Jesus answering, said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”

Reader: When the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until another time.

Comment:  Luke 4:16-30 also records how Jesus began his ministry by going home.

Reader: Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area.  He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Reader: He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,

Reader: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the broken hearted,[e]
to proclaim release to the captives,
recovering of sight to the blind,
to deliver those who are crushed,
and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Reader He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Reader: All testified about him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, and they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Reader: He said to them, “Doubtless you will tell me this parable, Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in your hometown.’”

Reader: He said, “Most certainly I tell you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, except Naaman, the Syrian.”

Reader: They were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things.  They rose up, threw him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw him off the cliff. But he, passing through the middle of them, went his way.

Comment:  From beginning to end Jesus was faced with opposition and after three and a half years it came to a climax at the cross. Multiple prophecies in the Old Testament predicted so many unique aspects of Jesus’ life and death that one is almost forced to conclude that He was the Promised One. The graphic portrayal of his death in Isaiah 53 is especially moving.

Reader: Who has believed our message?
    To whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?
For he grew up before him as a tender plant,
    and as a root out of dry ground.
He has no good looks or majesty.
    When we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Reader: He was despised,
    and rejected by men;
a man of suffering,
    and acquainted with disease.
He was despised as one from whom men hide their face;
    and we didn’t respect him.

Reader: Surely he has borne our sickness,
    and carried our suffering;
yet we considered him plagued,
    struck by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions.
    He was crushed for our iniquities.

Reader: The punishment that brought our peace was on him;
    and by his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray.
    Everyone has turned to his own way;
    and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Reader: He was oppressed,
    yet when he was afflicted he didn’t open his mouth.
As a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he didn’t open his mouth.

Reader: He was taken away by oppression and judgment;
    and as for his generation,
    who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living
    and stricken for the disobedience of my people?
They made his grave with the wicked,
    and with a rich man in his death;
although he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Reader: Yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise him.
    He has caused him to suffer.
When you make his soul an offering for sin,
    he will see his offspring.
He will prolong his days,
    and Yahweh’s pleasure will prosper in his hand.

Reader: After the suffering of his soul,
    he will see the light and be satisfied.
My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself;
    and he will bear their iniquities.

Reader: Therefore will I give him a portion with the great,
    and he will divide the plunder with the strong;
because he poured out his soul to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Comment:  Jesus summarized his mission when speaking with Nicodemus in John 3:16, 17.

Reader:  For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.

Comment:  Peter in his first letter chapter 2 verses 18-25 gave counsel to slaves who had become believers in this way showing how Jesus did not sin even when tormented.

Reader: Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the wicked. For it is commendable if someone endures pain, suffering unjustly, because of conscience toward God.

Reader: For what glory is it if, when you sin, you patiently endure beating? But if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps, who did not sin, “neither was deceit found in his mouth.”

Reader: Who, when he was cursed, didn’t curse back. When he suffered, didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were going astray like sheep; but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Comment:  The Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1-23 summarizes what he considered to be the most important realities of the gospel. The following are excerpts from that chapter.

Reader: Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Reader: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Reader: Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, most of whom remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to the child born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.

Reader: For I am the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the assembly of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am. His grace which was given to me was not futile, but I worked more than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Whether then it is I or they, so we preach, and so you believed.

Reader: Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain.

Reader: Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn’t raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.

Reader: But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming.

Comment:  In writing his second letter to the Corinthians chapter 5 verses 13 to 21 Paul gives his reason for his unquenchable excitement for telling about Jesus. In so doing he affirms that Jesus lived a sinless life.

Reader:  For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God. Or if we are of sober mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again.

Reader: Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.

Reader: But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Reader: We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Comment:  In his letter to the Romans Paul repeatedly emphasizes the theme that we can be given the righteousness of God because Jesus lived a sinless life but died for us the death we deserve, total and eternal separation from God. But because He was sinless the grave could not hold him.  Nowhere is that more clear than in Romans 4:18-25

Reader:  Besides hope, Abraham in hope believed, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken,

Reader: “So will your offspring be.”  Without being weakened in faith, he didn’t consider his own body, already having been worn out, (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Yet, looking to the promise of God, he didn’t waver through unbelief, but grew strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was also able to perform.

Reader: Therefore it also was “credited to him for righteousness. Now it was not written that it was accounted to him for his sake alone, but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.

Comment:  The apostle John begins the 2nd chapter of his first letter with the very same message, that by transforming faith in Jesus anyone in the entire world can be saved. He wrote in verses 1-6.

Reader: My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. And he is the atoning sacrifice[b] for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.

Reader: This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. One who says, “I know him,” and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn’t in him. But whoever keeps his word, God’s love has most certainly been perfected in him.

Reader:  This is how we know that we are in him: he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.

Comment:  John explains what this means in practical terms in 1 John 4:7-15.

Reader: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.

Reader: By this God’s love was revealed in us, that God has sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Reader: Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us.

Reader: By this we know that we remain in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God.

Comment: Paul shows in Colossians 2:6-15 that just as circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of his faith relationship with God those who accept Jesus as Lord are circumcised in the heart being delivered from bondage to their sinful nature.

Reader:  As therefore you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving. Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.

Reader: For in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principality and power; in whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Reader: You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having stripped the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Comment: The hymn of praise in Philippians 2:5-11 written by Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit proclaims that in the end Jesus will be Lord of all.

Reader:  Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.

Reader: And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.

Reader: Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Comment: This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy-(Isa. 53:12)

Reader: Therefore will I give him a portion with the great,
    and he will divide the plunder with the strong;
because he poured out his soul to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Comment:  Friend, how is it with you? Have you given yourself, your inner most self, fully to Him? If you have, then please share that with someone near you and pray together for the filling of God’s Spirit. If you haven’t, but want to, now is the time. Tell someone of your decision and pray together for Jesus to strengthen your resolve to follow Him.
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Experience of Salvation

Comment: Adam and Eve had experienced walking and talking with God. Then after they sinned they experienced the rupture of that relationship. They lost not only a loving relationship but also their home and livelihood. Let’s read about their loss in Gen 3:9-18

Reader: Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Reader: The man said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

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

Reader: The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Reader: Yahweh God said to the woman, “What have you done?”

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

Reader: Yahweh God said to the serpent,

Reader: “Because you have done this,
    you are cursed above all livestock,
    and above every animal of the field.
You shall go on your belly
    and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.
I will put hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will bruise your head,
    and you will bruise his heel.”

Reader: To the woman he said,“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.
    In pain you will bear children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

Reader: To Adam he said, “Because you have listened to your wife’s voice,
    and ate from the tree,
    about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’
    the ground is cursed for your sake.
You will eat from it with much labor all the days of your life.
   It will yield thorns and thistles to you;
    and you will eat the herb of the field.
By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken.
For you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.

Comment: Notice there were both immediate and long lasting consequences, physical and spiritual. The immediate consequences were the loss of their Eden home, painful child bearing and lives of hard toil to win a lively hood from the soil. The delayed consequences are summarized by Paul in Romans 5:12

Reader: “Therefore as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned.”

Comment:  In addition to the consequences there was a promise of deliverance –victory over the serpent. .That victory would come, but at a cost, here represented by a bruised heel. In the meantime God’s faithful ones lived in expectancy expressing faith in the coming Deliverer through animal sacrifices. The most exquisite sense of that deliverance experienced by the Israelites of old was when they faithfully observed the Day of Atonement. We read in Leviticus 16:29, 30

Reader: It shall be a statute to you forever: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and shall do no kind of work, the native-born, or the stranger who lives as a foreigner among you: for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before Yahweh.

Comment:  This experience of being clean before the eternal God was what David longed for when he confessed his great sin in Ps. 51;1,2

Reader: Have mercy on me, God, according to your loving kindness.
    According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.
    Cleanse me from my sin.

Comment:  Jesus, the Son of God, (the Lamb of God) gave himself as the Sacrificial Lamb to make atonement for the sins of all human beings. But to experience the cleansing of His atonement we must recognize our need of His forgiveness and cleansing. We read in 1 John 1:5-10

Reader:  This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

Reader: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we haven’t sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Comment:  Those who truly get to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord will have a life-changing experience. The Apostle Paul described that transformation in his second letter to the Corinthians. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

Reader: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.

Reader: But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Reader: We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Comment:  What does it mean to “become the righteousness of God?” How can we get that righteousness?  The apostle John tells us in John 3:16.

Reader 1:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  

Comment:  And Paul gives us additional explanation in Gal. 1:3-5 and 4:4-7.

Reader: Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father— to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Reader: But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children.

Reader: And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Comment:  Being a child of God brings with it many privileges and responsibilities. Paul spelled some of these out in his instructions to Titus. Titus 3:3-7.

Reader:  For we were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

Reader: But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy, he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior; that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  

Comment: Jesus tried to prepare those who would be his disciples for the trying time they would face but at the same time He told them that He would provide resources to help them.  We read this in John 16:1-11.

Reader: “These things have I spoken to you, so that you wouldn’t be caused to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues. Yes, the time comes that whoever kills you will think that he offers service to God.

Reader: They will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have told you these things, so that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you about them. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.

Reader: But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have told you these things, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away, the Counselor won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Reader: When he has come, he will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment;  about sin, because they don’t believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to my Father, and you won’t see me anymore; about judgment, because the prince of this world has been judged.

Comment: Judgment has to do with the law and Paul deals with the role of the law in the Christian believer’s life in Gal. 3:10, 11.  He categorically states that those who rely on the works of the law for salvation are “under a curse.”

Reader:  For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”  Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, “The righteous will live by faith.”

Comment:  What does it mean to live by faith?  Remember in 2 Cor. 5 Paul says that ‘in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Then in Galatians 3:13-14 he says:

Reader: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Comment:  Abraham’s failure to trust God resulted in the loss of domestic tranquility. But when Jesus came He showed us what is possible when we trust God completely. He gave us an example of selfless service that, by His grace, we can follow. Notice how Peter says it in 1 Peter 2:20-25

Reader:   For what glory is it if, when you sin, you patiently endure beating? But if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God.

Reader: For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps, who did not sin, “neither was deceit found in his mouth.”

Reader: Who, when he was cursed, didn’t curse back. When he suffered, didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.

Comment:  What is the means that God uses to invite the lost to come to the Good Shepherd? See Romans 10:13-21.

Reader: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher? And how will they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

Reader: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News of peace,
    who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Reader: But they didn’t all listen to the glad news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Comment:  Jesus gave some very pointed instruction as to how we can live in harmony with our brothers and sisters. (Luke 17:3-5)

Reader:  Be careful. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in the day, and seven times returns, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Reader: The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

Comment: While following Jesus sometimes we lack faith and don’t experience the power of the Spirit.  That happened to the 9 disciples while Peter, James and John were on The Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. What did Jesus say was the cause of their failure? (Mark 9:14-29)

Reader:  Coming to the disciples, he saw a great multitude around them, and scribes questioning them. Immediately all the multitude, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and running to him greeted him. He asked the scribes, “What are you asking them?”

Reader: One of the multitude answered, “Teacher, I brought to you my son, who has a mute spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and wastes away. I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they weren’t able.”

Reader: He answered him, “Unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.”

Reader: They brought him to him, and when he saw him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground, wallowing and foaming at the mouth.

Reader: He asked his father, “How long has it been since this has come to him?”

Reader: He said, “From childhood. Often it has cast him both into the fire and into the water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”

Reader: Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Reader: Immediately the father of the child cried out with tears, “I believe. Help my unbelief!”

Reader: When Jesus saw that a multitude came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to him, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!”

Reader: Having cried out, and convulsed greatly, it came out of him. The boy became like one dead; so much that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand, and raised him up; and he arose.

Reader: When he had come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.”

Comment: Prayer and fasting are disciplines practiced by faithful, earnest believers, not as a means to win God’s favor but to fully open their hearts to receive His Spirit. For without God’s transforming Spirit in our lives we are doomed to be under the control of our sinful natures. In writing to the Ephesians Paul describes that transformation (Eph. 2:1-10).

Reader: You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Reader: But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.

Reader: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.

Comment: Paul, here, has clearly differentiated between working to obtain salvation and the good works of those who are recreated by the power of God’s grace. This distinction is easily confused so that the role of the law is lost and many conclude that the law (10 commandments) no longer applies to those who are saved by grace.  So what is the role of the 10 commandments in the born again Christian’s life? Let’s read Rom. 3:19-27.

Reader: Now we know that whatever things the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God. Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight.

Reader: For through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets;  even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe.

Reader: For there is no distinction, for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of prior sins, in God’s forbearance; to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.

Reader: Where then is the boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. We maintain therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Comment:  And James said in James 1:21-25:

Reader: Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.

Reader: For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Comment:  We see then that to remain in grace and grow in grace we must continue to look into that mirror, the law, that brought us to Jesus in the first place. What then is the result of accepting Jesus into our lives? See Rom. 8:10-15.

Reader: If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Reader: So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.

Reader: And in Rom. 12:1,2 Paul writes; Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Comment:  This is possible as a fulfillment of the promise recorded for us in Eze. 36:25-27;

Reader: I will sprinkle clean water on you, from all your idols, will I cleanse you. I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them.

Comment:  With God’s Spirit dwelling within us we have the assurance of God’s love and will radiate hope and love to all around us. That assurance is magnificently expressed by Paul in Romans 8:1-5 & 31-39;

Reader: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.

Reader: For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Reader: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Reader: What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things?

Reader: Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.. . .

Reader: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Reader: Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Reader: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Comment: Dear Reader, Dear Listener, you too, can have the same joyful, confident spirit. God loves you. God who said, “let us make man in our image” eagerly awaits your confession of faith and acceptance of Jesus as your Savior. You can be born again, a child of God, living a transformed life totally in harmony with the Spirit of God.
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Growing in Christ

Comment: The person who has accepted Jesus as their personal Savior recognizes that on the cross Jesus was victorious over all evil forces. Even though He was sinless He refused to save himself choosing rather to die the sinner’s eternal death. This makes it possible for the believer to be freed from the condemnation of their past sins to walk in a new way. Ps 1:1, 2 says

Reader: Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked,
 nor stand on the path of sinners,
 nor sit in the seat of scoffers;

Reader: but his delight is in Yahweh’s law.
 On his law he meditates day and night.
 He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water,
 that produces its fruit in its season,

Comment: This new relationship with Jesus is a daily, moment by moment walking with Him. The Psalmist describes that relationship in Ps. 23:3,4.

Reader: He restores my soul.
 He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

Reader: I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff,
 they comfort me.

Comment: Sometimes our relationship with Jesus is strained and our experience might be like that described in Ps.77:7-12.

Reader: Will the Lord reject us forever?
 Will he be favorable no more?
Has his loving kindness vanished forever?
 Does his promise fail for generations?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
 Has he, in anger, withheld his compassion?”
Selah

Reader:Then I thought, “I will appeal to this:
 the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember Yah’s deeds;
 for I will remember your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all your work,
 and consider your doings.

Comment: The apostle Paul was filled with love for people desiring that everyone would have the opportunity to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. This was especially true for those who had accepted Jesus through his preaching and teaching. Notice how many aspects of the Christian’s life he touches in his instructions to the Colossians in chapter 1:13-15 and 2:6,7.

 Reader: For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

Reader: that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, for all endurance and perseverance with joy;

Reader: giving thanks to the Father, who made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Reader: As therefore you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving.

Comment: One time Jesus sent 70 of his disciples out, two by two, to the towns and villages where He was about to visit. They were to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was near. The results are recorded in Luke 10:17-20.

Reader: The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

Reader: He said to them, “I saw Satan having fallen like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will in any way hurt you.

Reader: Nevertheless, don’t rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Comment: In this we are assured that in the name of Jesus we can have victory over all the forces of evil in our lives. But this does require watchfulness and the encouragement of others as we share in the recounting of how God has helped us. See Eph. 5:15-21 and 6:10-20.

Reader: Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Reader: Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.

Reader: Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Reader: For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Reader: Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.

Reader: Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.

Reader: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints: on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Comment: Notice that as we pray for one another (the saints) we should especially remember those who are leaders in the church. Jesus prayed for the unity of believers and in 1 Thess. 5:13-23 we are instructed to be at peace with each other.

Reader: Be at peace among yourselves. We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, be patient toward all. See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all.

Reader: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you. Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t despise prophesies. Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Reader: May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reader: and in 2 Peter 2:4-9 we read; For if God didn’t spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and didn’t spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly;

Reader: and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was very distressed by the lustful life of the wicked

Reader: (for that righteous man dwelling among them, was tormented in his righteous soul from day to day with seeing and hearing lawless deeds): the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment;

Comment: Following this introduction Peter draws this valuable conclusion in 2 Peter 3:14-18.

Reader: Therefore, beloved, seeing that you look for these things, be diligent to be found in peace, without defect and blameless in his sight. Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things.

Reader: In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware, lest being carried away with the error of the wicked, you fall from your own steadfastness.

Reader: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Comment: In writing to the Corinthians and the Philippians Paul picks up on this theme of growing in Christ. He identifies the Spirit as being the transforming agent and the glory and love of Christ as the motivating power. Reading 2 Cor. 3:17, 18, and Phil. 3:7-14 we find

Reader: Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Reader: However, I consider those things that were gain to me as a loss for Christ. Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Reader: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am made perfect ; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

Reader: Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Comment: As Jesus was preparing his disciples to be the leaders of His fledgling Church He gave them this instruction in Matt 20:25-28.

Reader: But Jesus summoned them, and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Comment: Then He personally demonstrated this principal of leadership when they were all together at His last Passover meal with them. We read in John 13:1-17

Reader: Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Reader: During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came from God, and was going to God, arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments.

Reader: He took a towel, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him,

Reader: “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

Reader: Jesus answered him, “You don’t know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.”

Reader: Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!”

Reader: Jesus answered him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”

Reader: Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

Reader: Jesus said to him, “Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, “You are not all clean.”

Reader: So when he had washed their feet, put his outer garment back on, and sat down again, he said to them, “

Reader: Do you know what I have done to you? You call me, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord.’ You say so correctly, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

Reader: For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Comment: On the evening of the day of His resurrection Jesus appears to his disciples and conveys on them the same mission that He had received from His Father. He also empowers them with the Holy Spirit. John 20:19-22

Reader: When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the middle, and said to them, “Peace be to you.”

Reader: When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit!

Comment: Gal 5:19-26 contrasts the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

Reader: Now the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.

Reader: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit. Let’s not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.

Comment: Those who are fully committed to Jesus will have the same confidence expressed by Paul in Rom 8:35-39:

Reader: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Reader: No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reader: And in Heb 10:19-25.- Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over God’s house, let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and having our body washed with pure water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful.

Reader: Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.

Comment: In this new freedom in Jesus, we are called to grow into the likeness of His character, communing with Him daily in prayer, feeding on His Word, meditating on it and on His providence, singing His praises, gathering together for worship, and participating in the mission of the Church. What can you do to be more fully engaged with your church family?
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The Church

Comment: Even though Adam and Eve sinned and were banished from their garden home, they and some of their descendents were loyal to God. Before the flood they were called the” Sons of God” in contrast to the “Sons of Men” Noah and his family were part of those loyal to God and were the only ones who survived the flood. Others were laid to rest or translated (Enoch) before the flood. God has always had his faithful ones and one of those was Abram. We read in Genesis 12:1-3:

Reader: Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Leave your country, and your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great.

Reader: You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”

Comment: You can say that those faithful ones make up His church – the called out ones. What is God’s purpose for calling out His faithful ones? He calls them so that “All the families of the earth will be blessed through” them. Notice how Stephen, in his last sermon recorded in Acts 7:35-40, presents Moses as a type of Christ, a ruler and deliverer. Moses, as God’s representative called the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. (The World English Bible uses the word assembly for church.)

Reader: This Moses, whom they refused, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—God has sent him as both a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.

Reader: This man led them out, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord our God will raise up a prophet for you from among your brothers, like me.’

Reader: This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received living revelations to give to us, to whom our fathers wouldn’t be obedient, but rejected him, and turned back in their hearts to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods that will go before us, for as for this Moses, who led us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.’

Comment: It seems that God’s “called out ones” have a hard time remaining faithful. It is for this reason that He places within the church individuals with spiritual gifts. (Eph. 4:11-16)

Reader: He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ;

Reader: until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;

Reader: but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.

Comment: The human body appropriately illustrates how the church consisting of many different members can be united in purpose and love for Jesus. This becomes especially important when people of different languages, ethnicities and cultures are brought together. Reading from Eph 3:1-21:

Reader: For this cause I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, by which, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ;

Reader: which in other generations was not made known to the children of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus through the Good News, of which I was made a servant, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power.

Reader: To me, the very least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ;

Reader: to the intent that now through the assembly the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord; in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in him. Therefore I ask that you may not lose heart at my troubles for you, which are your glory.

Reader: For this cause, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man;

Reader: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

Reader: Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be the glory in the assembly and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Comment: While traveling with his disciples in a foreign country Jesus told his disciples that His church would be formed by those who confess that Jesus is the Christ. (Matt. 16:13-21)

Reader: Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

Reader: They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Reader: He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Reader: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Reader: Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Reader: I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”

Reader: Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.

Comment: However the Christian church was not really launched until the eleven disciples were finally converted after Jesus’ resurrection. In Matt. 28:16-20 we read that Jesus met them after His resurrection, as He had promised, and sent them to all the world with His gospel of peace.

Reader: But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountin where Jesus had sent them. When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted.

Reader: Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Comment: Jesus not only offers His church salvation but gave practical ways for a diversity of believers to be united in peace. In Matt. 18:15-20 we read:

Reader: If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Reader: If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector. Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven.

Reader: Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them.”

Comment: At first the church was made up of Jews but very soon Gentiles, who were shunned by Jews, were accepted into the fellowship of believers in Jesus. In Eph. 2:11-22 Paul explains how this is possible.

Reader: Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision”, (in the flesh, made by hands); that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Reader: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ.

Reader: For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility thereby.

Reader: He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

Reader: So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.

Comment: An important function of the church is to encourage one-another. In Eph. 1:15 - 23 Paul gives us an example of how to do this. We should express appreciation for each other in our diversity and pray for one another.

Reader: For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which you have toward all the saints, don’t cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, hat the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;

Reader: having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might

Reader: which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. 

Reader: He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things for the assembly, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Comment: Christ is the head of the church (the assembly) and gave himself totally so that she will be “holy and without defect. Let’s read Eph.5:25-27.

Reader: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect.

Comment: Praying for one another is a vital function of the church. In Col. 1:9-20 we find Paul’s testimony.

Reader: For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

Reader: that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory,

Reader: for all endurance and perseverance with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love;

Reader: in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him.

Reader: He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Reader: For all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him; and through him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of his cross.

Comment: The Body of Christ, His Church, has the privilege and responsibility of being Jesus’ representative in a broken world. United in love and open to His Spirit’s convicting and cleansing power the Church will fulfill its mission. See Heb. 10:16-25.

Reader: This is the covenant that I will make with them: After those days,’ says the Lord,
‘I will put my laws on their heart,
 I will also write them on their mind;’ “then he says,

Reader: I will remember their sins and their iniquities no more.”

Reader: Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over God’s house,

Reader: let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and having our body washed with pure water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful.

Reader: Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.

Comment: How is it with you, dear friend? Are you a full participant in a fellowship in which you not only receive encouragement but are also encouraging others to “love and good works?” Do you take every opportunity to worship with others? Do you arrive early for your appointments with your Creator God? When you do this you will know great joy in your walk with Jesus.

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Remnant and its Mission

Comment: When wickedness abounds God always has those who are faithful to Him, Noah is one and then there is the story of Elijah. He had cooperated with God in announcing a great famine and for 3 years it did not rain. At the end of that time God sent him to King Ahab to confront the king and the priests of Baal. On Mount Carmel, before all the people, God showed his power and the people once more acknowledged Yahweh as the true God and the priests of Baal were killed. Let’s pick up the story in 1 Kings 19.

Reader: Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying,

Reader: “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I don’t make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time!”

Reader: When he saw that, he arose, and ran for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree.

Reader: Then he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough. Now, O Yahweh, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”

Reader: He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat!”

Reader: He looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on the coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. Yahweh’s angel came again the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”

Reader: He arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, God’s Mountain. He came to a cave there, and camped there; and behold, Yahweh’s word came to him, and he said to him,

Reader: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Reader: He said, “I have been very jealous for Yahweh, the God of Armies; for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Reader: He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before Yahweh.”

Reader: Behold, Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before Yahweh; but Yahweh was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake; but Yahweh was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire passed; but Yahweh was not in the fire.

Reader: After the fire, there was a still small voice. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle, went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. Behold, a voice came to him, and said,

Reader: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Reader: He said, “I have been very jealous for Yahweh, the God of Armies; for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Reader: Yahweh said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. Anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel; and anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah to be prophet in your place.

Reader: He who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and he who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. Yet I reserved seven thousand in Israel, all the knees of which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him.”

Comment: In times of great apostasy the remnant is relatively small and sometimes easily overlooked. Even prophets, as great as Elijah, can be so egocentric that they fail to see the true in heart. In modern times the universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. In Revelation. 12:13-17; we see how, in the Middle Ages, the faithful church (the woman) was to be persecuted but preserved.

Reader: When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. Two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, so that she might be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

Reader: The serpent spewed water out of his mouth after the woman like a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. The earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon spewed out of his mouth.

Reader: The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep God’s commandments and hold Jesus’ testimony.

Comment: Revelation 14:1-16 describes a remnant of “called-out-ones” who had gone through great trials but who had been victorious.

Reader: I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a number, one hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.

Reader: I heard a sound from heaven, like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of a great thunder. The sound which I heard was like that of harpists playing on their harps. They sing a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the one hundred forty-four thousand, those who had been redeemed out of the earth.

Reader: These are those who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, the first fruits to God and to the Lamb. In their mouth was found no lie, for they are blameless.

Comment: John continues by recording the messages of three angels who were announcing the time of the judgment and directing everyone who dwells on the earth to worship the Creator. They proclaim the fall of “Babylon” and the appearance of a remnant “who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”

Reader: I saw an angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal Good News to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said with a loud voice,

Reader: “Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters!”

Reader: Another, a second angel, followed, saying, “Babylon the great has fallen, which has made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her sexual immorality.”

Reader: Another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice,

Reader: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead, or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.

Reader: The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”

Reader: I heard the voice from heaven saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’”

Reader: “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.”

Comment: This is followed by a brief representation of the harvest. That is the time when the remnant of “called-out-ones,” the wheat, are separated from the tares.

Reader: I looked, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting like a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

Reader: Another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Send your sickle, and reap; for the hour to reap has come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe!” He who sat on the cloud thrust his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Comment: Revelation 18:1-5 in graphic detail characterizes the wickedness of Babylon and its fall. Then, the remnant, those who are loyal to God are urged to come out of Babylon.

Reader: After these things, I saw another angel coming down out of the sky, having great authority. The earth was illuminated with his glory. He cried with a mighty voice, saying,

Reader: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and she has become a habitation of demons, a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her sexual immorality, the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from the abundance of her luxury.”

Reader: I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, that you have no participation in her sins, and that you don’t receive of her plagues, for her sins have reached to the sky, and God has remembered her iniquities.

Comment: Paul in 2 Cor. 5:10,11; and Jude both remind us that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul wrote –

Reader: For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are revealed to God; and I hope that we are revealed also in your consciences.

Comment: And Jude 3-15 says-

Reader: Beloved, while I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I was constrained to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 

Reader: For there are certain men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago written about for this condemnation: ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into indecency, and denying our only Master, God, and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Reader: Now I desire to remind you, though you already know this, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who didn’t believe. Angels who didn’t keep their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.

Reader: Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, having, in the same way as these, given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are shown as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire. 

Reader: Yet in the same way, these also in their dreaming defile the flesh, despise authority, and slander celestial beings. But Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil and arguing about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him an abusive condemnation, but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!” 

Reader: But these speak evil of whatever things they don’t know. They are destroyed in these things that they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason.

Reader: Woe to them! For they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden rocky reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever.

Reader: About these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Comment: Since we are living in the time of atonement, Peter gives us some very practical advice on holy living. We read in 1 Peter 1:3-21-

Reader: Therefore prepare your minds for action, be sober, and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ— as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior;

Reader: because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.” If you call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judges according to each man’s work, pass the time of your living as foreigners here in reverent fear: knowing that you were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from the useless way of life handed down from your fathers,

Reader: but with precious blood, as of a faultless and pure lamb, the blood of Christ; who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God.

Comment: Peter continues his advice in 2 Peter 3:1-14 by reminding us to pay attention to what happened in the past and how God has dealt with wickedness. By doing so the remnant will not be caught be surprise when Jesus comes.

Reader: This is now, beloved, the second letter that I have written to you; and in both of them I stir up your sincere mind by reminding you; that you should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior:

Reader: knowing this first, that in the last days mockers will come, walking after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

Reader: For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth formed out of water and amid water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Reader: But don’t forget this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Reader: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

Reader: Therefore since all these things will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, which will cause the burning heavens to be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Reader: Therefore, beloved, seeing that you look for these things, be diligent to be found in peace, without defect and blameless in his sight.

Comment: Finally, in Revelation. 21:1-14, a wonderful promise is made to the faithful “called-out-ones.”

Reader: I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying,

Reader: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.”

Reader: He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He said, “Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.” He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. 

Reader: He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Reader: One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were loaded with the seven last plagues came, and he spoke with me, saying, “Come here. I will show you the wife, the Lamb’s bride.”

Reader: He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, as if it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal; having a great and high wall; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.

Reader: On the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

Comment: Friend, won’t you choose to be a follower of the Lamb? Jesus promised that whoever comes to Him he will not cast out. The path will not be easy. There will be much self-denial but the reward is certain and worth it all.

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Unity in the Body of Christ

Comment: God’s church, the called-out-ones, is as diverse as are all the peoples of the earth. It includes the poor and the rich, the sighted and the blind, the healthy and the infirm, the mentally endowed and the mentally challenged, it includes all who will respond to God’s call. Because these called-out-ones are responding to God’s love as manifest in Jesus’ sacrifice they are bound together in love for God and one another. In Rom. 12:1-19 we read what it takes to be united in spite of this diversity.

Reader: Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.

Reader: Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Reader: For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Reader: Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Reader: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate to one another; in honor preferring one another; not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality.

Reader: Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don’t curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don’t set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don’t be wise in your own conceits.

Reader: Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.

Comment: That unity of spirit is possible because everyone in the church is endowed to serve by one Spirit. In 1 Cor. 12:1-31 we read

Reader: Now concerning spiritual things, brothers, I don’t want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were heathen, you were led away to those mute idols, however you might be led.

Reader: Therefore I make known to you that no man speaking by God’s Spirit says, “Jesus is accursed.” No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Holy Spirit. Now there are various kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

Reader: There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord. There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all.

Reader: For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages.

Reader: But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires.

Reader: For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit.

Reader: For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot would say, “Because I’m not the hand, I’m not part of the body,” it is not therefore not part of the body. If the ear would say, “Because I’m not the eye, I’m not part of the body,” it’s not therefore not part of the body.

Reader: If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as he desired.

Reader: If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now they are many members, but one body. The eye can’t tell the hand, “I have no need for you,” or again the head to the feet, “I have no need for you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. Those parts of the body which we think to be less honorable, on those we bestow more abundant honor; and our unpresentable parts have more abundant propriety; whereas our presentable parts have no such need.

Reader: But God composed the body together, giving more abundant honor to the inferior part, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. Or when one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Reader: Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. God has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages.

Reader: Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. Moreover, I show a most excellent way to you

Comment: After his resurrection Jesus commissioned His disciples and through them His church to carry on the work He had begun. We read in Matt. 28:16-20:

Reader: But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted.

Reader: Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Comment: The Psalmist in Ps. 133 expresses the delight of those who dwell together in unity in this way.

Reader: See how good and how pleasant it is
 for brothers to live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
 that ran down on the beard,
 even Aaron’s beard;
 that came down on the edge of his robes;
 like the dew of Hermon,
 that comes down on the hills of Zion:
 for there Yahweh gives the blessing,
 even life forever more.

Comment: The secret of genuine, lasting unity Paul shares in 2 Cor. 5:14-17. Notice how it arises out of love that can only come from hearts in which self no longer lives.

Reader: For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again.

Reader: Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.

Comment: In his sermon to the Athenians Paul identifies another basis for unity. In this sermon recorded in Acts 17:24-28 he clearly states that even though we may look different on the outside, inside we‘re not so different. In fact all of us depend on the same God who gives us life and sustains us.

Reader: The God who made the world and all things in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself gives to all life and breath, and all things.

Reader: He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being.’

Comment: While it is not always true, the bonds of family relationships are, perhaps, the strongest bonds that hold human beings together. However there is an exception and that is to be drawn together as children of God. John 1:10-13 says

Reader: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him.

Reader: But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Comment: This reality was further developed by Paul in Gal. 3:23-29.

Reader: But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.

Reader: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to promise.

Reader: And then Col. 3: 1-3 says: “If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Comment: Eph. 4:1-16 is the second place in Paul’s writings where he uses the metaphor of the human body to illustrate the unity of the church. Read the following slowly and carefully seeking to discover how God has gifted you to serve his body, the Church.

Reader: I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Reader: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.

Reader: But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore he says, “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” Now this, “He ascended”, what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

Reader: He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Reader: that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.

Comment: While living among His people Jesus repeatedly said that He and His Father were one. He said that his words and his acts were not His own but those of His Father. So closely did he live to His Father that He could tell His disciples ” if you have seen me you have seen the Father”. And it is for this kind of unity that He prays will be experienced by His followers. Here it is in John 17:15-26.

Reader: I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20 

Reader: Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. 

Reader: The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me.

Reader: Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may see my glory, which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world hasn’t known you, but I knew you; and these knew that you sent me. I made known to them your name, and will make it known; that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Comment: Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.”

Friend how is it with you? Have you accepted Jesus into your life? Are you bound in love to the family of God? Do you die to self daily? Do you use your gifts to serve others and thus build up the body of Christ? Remember there is no joy like that of belonging to a family and especially the family of God.
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Baptism

Comment: It is appropriate for us to begin our Bible reading on baptism by reading Mark 1:1-8

Reader: The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophets,

Reader: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way before you.
 The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
    ‘Make ready the way of the Lord!
    Make his paths straight!’

Reader: John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. All the country of Judea and all those of Jerusalem went out to him. They were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 

Reader: John was clothed with camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen. I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

Comment: For the Israelites the ritual use of water for cleansing began when God through Moses taught them about literal and spiritual uncleanness. A person could become physically and thus ceremonially unclean when they had a disease or touched a dead body. One of the things they were to do to be cleansed was to bathe in water. We read in Leviticus 15:13-15:

Reader: When he who has a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes; and he shall bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.

Reader: On the eighth day he shall take two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before Yahweh to the door of the Tent of Meeting, and give them to the priest: and the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering. The priest shall make atonement for him before Yahweh for his discharge.

Comment: We see then that both water and blood were included in this ritual of cleansing. These symbolically pointed forward to the coming of Jesus who came by ‘water (baptism) and by blood (crucifixion). We read about Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13-17

Reader: Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. But John would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”

Reader: But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him

Reader: Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him.  Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Comment: When Jesus was about to leave his disciples He gave them this instruction in Matt. 28:16-20

Reader: But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them.  When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted.  Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying,

Reader: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Comment: It is helpful to understand the significance and meaning of each of the rituals that we, as Christians, practice. In Rom 6:1-18 Paul clearly shows how through the symbol of baptism we share in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Reader: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?

Reader: Or don’t you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.

Reader: For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin.

Reader: For he who has died has been freed from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him; knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him!

Reader: For the death that he died, he died to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Thus consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Reader: Therefore don’t let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Also, do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Reader: For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace.  What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace?

Reader: May it never be! Don’t you know that when you present yourselves as servants and obey someone, you are the servants of whomever you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?

Reader: But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were bondservants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered. Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness.

Comment: On the day of Pentecost the apostles, following Jesus’ instruction, baptized about 3,000 new believers. Peter’s sermon is recorded in Acts 2:22-47.

Reader:  Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him among you, even as you yourselves know, him, being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men, crucified and killed; whom God raised up, having freed him from the agony of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. For David says concerning him,

Reader: I saw the Lord always before my face,
    For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced.    Moreover my flesh also will dwell in hope; because you will not leave my soul in Hades,  neither will you allow your Holy One to see decay. You made known to me the ways of life.    You will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Reader: Brothers, I may tell you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

Reader: Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,  he foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was his soul left in Hades, nor did his flesh see decay.

Reader: This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this, which you now see and hear. For David didn’t ascend into the heavens, but he says himself,

Reader: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit by my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Reader: Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Reader: Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Reader: Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

Reader: Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls.

Reader: They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer. Fear came on every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

Reader: All who believed were together, and had all things in common. They sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need.

Reader: Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the assembly day by day those who were being saved.

 Comment: Notice how, following their baptism, the new believers, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer.” They had a new life that totally replaced the old. The apostle Paul described that new life in Col. 2:6-15.

 Reader: As therefore you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving.

Reader: Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.

Reader: For in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principality and power; in whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ;

Reader: having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh.

Reader: He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having stripped the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it

Comment: The great apostle Paul tells the story of his own conversion and baptism in Acts 22:9-16.

Reader:  Those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they didn’t understand the voice of him who spoke to me. I said,

Reader: ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me,

Reader:  ‘Arise, and go into Damascus. There you will be told about all things which are appointed for you to do.’

Reader: When I couldn’t see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. One Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews who lived in Damascus, came to me, and standing by me said to me,

Reader: ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ In that very hour I looked up at him. He said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. For you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you wait? Arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

Comment: Wherever the gospel was preached new believers were baptized. In Acts 16:13-33 we read the story of Paul and his traveling band of missionaries when they arrived in Philippi.

Reader: On the Sabbath day we went outside of the city by a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down, and spoke to the women who had come together.

Reader: A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Reader: As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” She was doing this for many days.

Reader: But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour.

Reader: But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. When they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men, being Jews, are agitating our city, and advocate customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

Reader: The multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates tore their clothes off of them, and commanded them to be beaten with rods. When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, who, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and secured their feet in the stocks.

Reader: But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were loosened.

Reader: The jailer, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Don’t harm yourself, for we are all here!”

Reader: He called for lights, sprang in, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Reader: They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all who were in his house.

Reader: He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized, he and all his household. He brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his household, having believed in God.

Comment: The story of the Ethiopian eunuch illustrates the need for Bible instruction before baptism. It is recorded in Acts 8;26-40.

  Reader: But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert.”

Reader: He arose and went; and behold, there was a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.

Reader: The Spirit said to Philip, “Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.”

Reader: Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

Reader: He said, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” He begged Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this,

Reader: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.
    As a lamb before his shearer is silent,
    so he doesn’t open his mouth.
In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away.
    Who will declare His generation?
    For his life is taken from the earth.”

Reader: The eunuch answered Philip, “Who is the prophet talking about? About himself, or about someone else?”

Reader: Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached to him Jesus. As they went on the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Behold, here is water. What is keeping me from being baptized?”

Reader: He commanded the chariot to stand still, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Reader: When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, and the eunuch didn’t see him any more, for he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. Passing through, he preached the Good News to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.

Comment: In conclusion we can say that baptism (immersion in water) is a symbol of one’s union with Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and the reception of the Holy Spirit. It follows a confession of faith in Jesus with evidence of repentance of sin. Every aspect of the “born-again” Christian’s new life is in harmony with Jesus. New believers become full-time disciples of Jesus with the goal of inviting others to know Jesus too.

Dear friend, if you have not experienced that new life, filled with the Holy Spirit, determine now that you will make that transforming confession of faith in Jesus as your Savior.
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Lord’s Supper

Comment: When God delivered the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He instructed them through Moses how to form a united nation. Among the many laws that He gave them were guidelines for a variety of religious practices and observances. The first of these was that of the Passover. We read in Exodus 12:1-14

Reader: Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be to you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying,

Reader: On the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; and if the household is too little for a lamb, then he and his neighbor next to his house shall take one according to the number of the souls; according to what everyone can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.

Reader: Your lamb shall be without defect, a male a year old. You shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats: and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at evening.

Reader: They shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel, on the houses in which they shall eat it. They shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted with fire, and unleavened bread. They shall eat it with bitter herbs. Don’t eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted with fire; with its head, its legs and its inner parts. You shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; but that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire.

Reader: This is how you shall eat it: with your belt on your waist, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is Yahweh’s Passover. For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and animal.

Reader: Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am Yahweh. The blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be on you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

Reader: This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.

Comment: The Passover had a dual significance. It was a memorial of deliverance from Egypt and pointed forward to the coming Messiah who would deliver from bondage to sin. When Jesus is called the Lamb of God it is in reference to the Passover lamb whose blood on the doorposts delivered from the destroying angel. Jesus was the perfect lamb who was crucified on Passover. We read in Matt. 26:17-30  how Jesus, at the last Passover meal, introduced a new symbolic meal to be shared by His followers to the end of time.

Reader: Now on the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

Reader: He said, “Go into the city to a certain person, and tell him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’”

Reader: The disciples did as Jesus commanded them, and they prepared the Passover. Now when evening had come, he was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating, he said,

Reader: “Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me.”

Reader: They were exceedingly sorrowful, and each began to ask him, “It isn’t me, is it, Lord?”

Reader: He answered, “He who dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same will betray me. The Son of Man goes, even as it is written of him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had not been born.”

Reader: Judas, who betrayed him, answered, “It isn’t me, is it, Rabbi?”

Reader: He said to him, “You said it.”

Reader: As they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, and broke it. He gave to the disciples, and said,

Reader: “Take, eat; this is my body.”

Reader: He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave to them, saying,

Reader: “All of you drink it, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins. But I tell you that I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

Reader: When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Comment: In John’s account of this Passover meal he records an additional practice that Jesus introduced, that of washing one another’s feet. It is a practice that, when properly observed, gives believers, who participate, the opportunity to lay aside pride and selfishness and be united to each other. All differences that separate believers will be confessed and forgiven. Reading from John 13:1-17

Reader:  Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Reader: During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came from God, and was going to God, arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments.

Reader: He took a towel, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him,

Reader:  “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

Reader: Jesus answered him, “You don’t know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.”

Reader: Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!”

Reader: Jesus answered him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”

Reader: Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

Reader: Jesus said to him, “Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.”For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, “You are not all clean.”

Reader: So when he had washed their feet, put his outer garment back on, and sat down again, he said to them,

Reader:  “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord.’ You say so correctly, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Comment:  In reflecting on the significance of the communion meal, the apostle Paul, reminds those who would read his first letter to the Corinthians  that all the Israelites of old experienced God’s miraculous care but most of them failed to honor Him in their lives. Then he urges those who partake of the communion meal to totally separate themselves from the idolatry of the world. 1 Cor. 10:1-24.

Reader: Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.

Reader: However with most of them, God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

Reader: Don’t be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Let us not commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell.

Reader: Let us not test Christ, as some of them tested, and perished by the serpents. Don’t grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and perished by the destroyer.

Reader: Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.

Reader: No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Reader: Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men. Judge what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, isn’t it a sharing of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, isn’t it a sharing of the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf of bread, we, who are many, are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf of bread. Consider Israel according to the flesh. Don’t those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?

Reader: What am I saying then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I don’t desire that you would have fellowship with demons.

Reader: You can’t both drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can’t both partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons.  Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?  “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are profitable. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own, but each one his neighbor’s good.

Comment:  In 1 Cor.11:17-33 Paul continues his plea for believers to be united as they share in the eating of meals (both the communion meal and fellowship meals) in God’s presence. There is to be no partiality or selfish gluttony.

Reader:  But in giving you this command, I don’t praise you, that you come together not for the better but for the worse.

Reader: For first of all, when you come together in the assembly, I hear that divisions exist among you, and I partly believe it. For there also must be factions among you, that those who are approved may be revealed among you.

Reader: When therefore you assemble yourselves together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in your eating each one takes his own supper first. One is hungry, and another is drunken. What, don’t you have houses to eat and to drink in? Or do you despise God’s assembly, and put them to shame who don’t have? What shall I tell you? Shall I praise you? In this I don’t praise you.

Reader: For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread. When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said,

Reader: “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in memory of me.”

Reader: In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Reader: Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in a way unworthy of the Lord will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup.

Reader: For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy way eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he doesn’t discern the Lord’s body. For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep. For if we discerned ourselves, we wouldn’t be judged. But when we are judged, we are punished by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

Comment:  Early in Jesus’ ministry He laid the foundation for instituting the communion meal. He clearly says that He, not the manna, is the true Bread that came down from heaven. We read this discourse in John 6:22-69..

Reader: On the next day, the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except the one in which his disciples had embarked, and that Jesus hadn’t entered with his disciples into the boat, but his disciples had gone away alone.

Reader: However boats from Tiberias came near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. When the multitude therefore saw that Jesus wasn’t there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Reader: Jesus answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Don’t work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has sealed him.”

Reader: They said therefore to him, “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Reader: Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Reader: They said therefore to him, “What then do you do for a sign, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you do? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. As it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’”

Reader: Jesus therefore said to them, “Most certainly, I tell you, it wasn’t Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

Reader: They said therefore to him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

Reader: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But I told you that you have seen me, and yet you don’t believe. All those whom the Father gives me will come to me. He who comes to me I will in no way throw out.

Reader: For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise him up at the last day. This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Reader: The Jews therefore murmured concerning him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down out of heaven.” They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then does he say, ‘I have come down out of heaven?’”

Reader: Therefore Jesus answered them, “Don’t murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets,

Reader: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except he who is from God. He has seen the Father. Most certainly, I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life. 48

Reader: I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Reader: The Jews therefore contended with one another, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Reader: Jesus therefore said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don’t have life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

Reader: For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven—not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

Reader: Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?”

Reader: But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

Reader: It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.”

Reader: At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?”

Reader: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Comment: Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 10:15-17 that whenever we share a meal together and give thanks for our drink and bread we are celebrating our Lord’s sacrifice for us.

Reader:  I speak as to wise men. Judge what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, isn’t it a sharing of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, isn’t it a sharing of the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf of bread, we, who are many, are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf of bread.

Comment:  Finally in the message to Laodicea we find Jesus knocking at the heart’s door seeking to share in communion with His children. (Rev. 3:14-22)

Reader: To the angel of the assembly in Laodicea write:

Reader: “The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Head of God’s creation, says these things:

Reader: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;

Reader: I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

Reader: As many as I love, I reprove and chasten. Be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. 21

Reader: He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.”

Comment:  Friend, won’t you purpose in your heart to never choose to absent yourself from participating in the communion service  (including foot washing) with your church family?
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Spiritual Gifts and Ministries

Comment: Those who respond to God’s call to come out from the world’s culture He sends, and those He sends He equips. Let’s first consider how He called and sent His disciples.

Reader: Matt. 4:17-22 From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Reader: Walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers: Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men.”

Reader: They immediately left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them. They immediately left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Reader:  Matt 10:1-8  He called to himself his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these. The first, Simon, who is called Peter; Andrew, his brother; James the son of Zebedee; John, his brother; Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus; Lebbaeus, who was also called Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

Reader: Jesus sent these twelve out, and commanded them, saying, “Don’t go among the Gentiles, and don’t enter into any city of the Samaritans. Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give.

Comment: Notice that Jesus not only taught them what their message should be but He also equipped them to meet the needs of those they served.  In Rom. 12:1-8 The apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, identifies the preparation needed by all believers so that they can fill the place God has for them in the body of Christ.

Reader: Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Reader: For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.

Reader: For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 

Reader: Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Comment: He continues in verses 9-21 by showing how members of the church with their varied gifts can work together and encourage  one another.

Reader: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate to one another; in honor preferring one another; not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality.

Reader: Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don’t curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don’t set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don’t be wise in your own conceits.

Reader: Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay,” says the Lord.”

Reader: Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him.     If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
    for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Comment: Then in First Cor. 12:1-30 Paul carefully explains how members who are gifted with different gifts can serve God and the church.

  Reader: Now concerning spiritual things, brothers, I don’t want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were heathen, you were led away to those mute idols, however you might be led. 

Reader: Therefore I make known to you that no man speaking by God’s Spirit says, “Jesus is accursed.” No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Holy Spirit. Now there are various kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

Reader: There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord. There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all.

Reader: For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages. But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires.

Reader: For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit.

 Reader: For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot would say, “Because I’m not the hand, I’m not part of the body,” it is not therefore not part of the body. If the ear would say, “Because I’m not the eye, I’m not part of the body,” it’s not therefore not part of the body.

Reader: If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as he desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?

Reader: But now they are many members, but one body. The eye can’t tell the hand, “I have no need for you,” or again the head to the feet, “I have no need for you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. Those parts of the body which we think to be less honorable, on those we bestow more abundant honor; and our unpresentable parts have more abundant propriety; whereas our presentable parts have no such need.

Reader: But God composed the body together, giving more abundant honor to the inferior part, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. Or when one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Reader: Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. God has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages.

Reader: Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. Moreover, I show a most excellent way to you

Comment: Since all gifts come from God and since all gifts are equally needed by the church, there is no place for personal pride among the members of the church. We find this instruction in Eph. 4:1-16:

Reader: I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Reader: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Reader: Therefore he says, “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” Now this, “He ascended”, what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

Reader: He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Reader: that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.

Comment: We find in Acts 6:1-7 how these principles were applied in the early church.

 Reader: Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily service. The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said,

Reader: “It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word.”

Reader: These words pleased the whole multitude. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the apostles. When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. The word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly. A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Comment: Those who are led to become leaders (pastors and teachers) in the church must lead exemplary lives. When it is evident that God has called them for leadership it is appropriate for the church to have a special service of dedication (ordination). The requirements for such a position of leadership are spelled out in First Tim. 3:1-7

Reader: This is a faithful saying: if a man seeks the office of an overseer, he desires a good work. The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching; not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;

Reader: one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence; (but if a man doesn’t know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the assembly of God?) not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are outside, to avoid falling into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Comment:  In the same way those who serve as deacons must provide a good example. In First Tim. 3:8-13 we read:

Reader: Servants, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. Let them also first be tested; then let them serve if they are blameless.

Reader: wives in the same way must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let servants be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well gain for themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Comment: Peter instructs all believers to serve the church with the gifts they have been given out of love for God and one another. 1 Peter 4:7-11.

   Reader: But the end of all things is near. Therefore be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer. And above all things be earnest in your love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

Reader: As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms. If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God. If anyone serves, let it be as of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Comment: Luke in Acts 9:32-42 recounts the experiences of Peter as he ministered to the saints in Lydda and Joppa. He encouraged the believers using his gifts of healing and exhortation. One of the faithful members in Joppa became ill and died. Dorcas had been using her gifts to bless the needy so her death was keenly felt.

 Reader: As Peter went throughout all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, because he was paralyzed. Peter said to him,

Reader: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” Immediately he arose. All who lived at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Reader: Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means Dorcas.This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did. In those days, she became sick, and died.

Reader: When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. As Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.

Reader: Peter got up and went with them. When he had come, they brought him into the upper room. All the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out, and knelt down and prayed. Turning to the body, he said,

Reader: “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand, and raised her up. Calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. He stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.

Comment:  For many years before the fall of Israel to the king of Assyria and Judah to Babylon God sent many prophets warning them of what was to come. Jeremiah was one whose ministry spanned the fall of Jerusalem. God not only gifts prophets for service but He also helps people to acquire special skills that can be used in His service.  We read about one of those in Jer. 36:1-32.

  Reader: In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, Take a scroll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do to them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

Reader: Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all Yahweh’s words, which he had spoken to him, on a scroll of a book. Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying,

Reader: “I am shut up; I can’t go into Yahweh’s house: Therefore you go, and read in the scroll, which you have written from my mouth, Yahweh’s words in the ears of the people in Yahweh’s house on the fast day; and also you shall read them in the ears of all Judah who come out of their cities. It may be they will present their supplication before Yahweh, and will return everyone from his evil way; for great is the anger and the wrath that Yahweh has pronounced against this people.”

Reader: Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book Yahweh’s words in Yahweh’s house.

Reader: Now in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem, and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem, proclaimed a fast before Yahweh.

Reader: Then Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the book in Yahweh’s house, in the room of Gemariah the son of Shaphan, the scribe, in the upper court, at the entry of the new gate of Yahweh’s house, in the ears of all the people.

Reader: When Micaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all Yahweh’s words, he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s room: and behold, all the princes were sitting there, Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes.

Reader: Then Micaiah declared to them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people. Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to Baruch, saying,

Reader: “Take in your hand the scroll in which you have read in the ears of the people, and come.” So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand, and came to them. They said to him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears.

Reader: Now when they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one toward another, and said to Baruch, “We will surely tell the king of all these words.” They asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How did you write all these words at his mouth? Then Baruch answered them,

Reader: He pronounced all these words to me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book. Then the princes said to Baruch, Go, hide, you and Jeremiah; and let no man know where you are.  They went in to the king into the court; but they had laid up the scroll in the room of Elishama the scribe; and they told all the words in the ears of the king.

Reader: So the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll; and he took it out of the room of Elishama the scribe. Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes who stood beside the king.

Reader: Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month: and there was a fire in the brazier burning before him. When Jehudi had read three or four leaves, the king cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 

Reader: They were not afraid, nor tore their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words. Moreover Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the scroll; but he would not hear them.

Reader: The king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet; but Yahweh hid them.

Reader: Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the scroll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, Take again another scroll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned.

Reader: Concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, Yahweh says: You have burned this scroll, saying, Why have you written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from there man and animal? Therefore Yahweh says concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on David’s throne; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.

Reader: I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them, but they didn’t listen.

Reader: Then took Jeremiah another scroll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.

Comment: God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts which each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and of humanity. Given by the agency of the Holy Spirit, who apportions to each member as He wills, the gifts provide all abilities and ministries needed by the church to fulfill its divinely ordained functions.

Friend, how has the Spirit gifted you? Are you using those gifts to bless your family, your church and your community?

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Gift of Prophecy

Comment: Prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Many of the books of the Old Testament were almost entirely prophetic messages and many of these provide a clear basis for identifying the coming Messiah. The fact that many believers were recognized as having the prophetic gift during apostolic times is often over looked. We will explore some of those in this reading beginning with Acts 2:14-21.

Reader:  But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke out to them, “You men of Judea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words. For these aren’t drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel:

Reader: It will be in the last days, says God,
    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions.
    Your old men will dream dreams.
Yes, and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days,
    I will pour out my Spirit, and they will prophesy.

Reader:  I will show wonders in the sky above,
    and signs on the earth beneath;
    blood, and fire, and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness,
    and the moon into blood,
    before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
It will be that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Comment: When we recall scriptures, even those we have memorized, the words we choose may be different from those in the original text.  Let’s see what Joel actually wrote in Joel 2:23-32.

Reader:  Be glad then, you children of Zion,
    and rejoice in Yahweh, your God;
    for he gives you the former rain in just measure,
    and he causes the rain to come down for you,
    the former rain and the latter rain,
    as before.

Reader:  The threshing floors will be full of wheat,
    and the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
    the great locust, the grasshopper, and the caterpillar,
    my great army, which I sent among you.

Reader: You will have plenty to eat, and be satisfied,
    and will praise the name of Yahweh, your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you;
    and my people will never again be disappointed.
You will know that I am among Israel,
    and that I am Yahweh, your God, and there is no one else;
    and my people will never again be disappointed.

Reader:  “It will happen afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
    and your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
    Your old men will dream dreams.
    Your young men will see visions.
And also on the servants and on the handmaids in those days,

Reader:    I will pour out my Spirit.
I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
    blood, fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness,
    and the moon into blood,
    before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes.

Reader:  It will happen that whoever will call on Yahweh’s name shall be saved;
    for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as Yahweh has said, and among the remnant, those whom Yahweh calls.

Comment: The author of Hebrews contrasts the revelations of God brought to the Israelites of old by the prophets with that of Jesus. Jesus was the perfect revelation of God. Heb. 1:1-3  

Reader:  God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds.

Reader: His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Comment: Since Jesus was the perfect revelation of God, does that mean that there would be no further need for prophets? Apparently not for it is clear from Rev. 12:7-17 that the dragon (Satan) makes war with the saints who hold Jesus’ testimony.

Reader: There was war in the sky. Michael and his angels made war on the dragon. The dragon and his angels made war. They didn’t prevail, neither was a place found for him any more in heaven.

Reader:  The great dragon was thrown down, the old serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,

Reader: “Now the salvation, the power, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ has come; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. They overcame him because of the Lamb’s blood, and because of the word of their testimony.

Reader: They didn’t love their life, even to death. Therefore rejoice, heavens, and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has gone down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time.”

Reader:  When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. Two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, so that she might be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

Reader: The serpent spewed water out of his mouth after the woman like a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. The earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon spewed out of his mouth.

Reader: The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep God’s commandments and hold Jesus’ testimony.

Comment: So what is Jesus’ testimony? We read in Rev. 19:1-10.

Reader: After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation, power, and glory belong to our God: for true and righteous are his judgments. For he has judged the great prostitute, who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality, and he has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.”

Reader: A second said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke goes up forever and ever.” The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne, saying, “Amen! Hallelujah!”

Reader:  A voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, the small and the great!”

Reader:  I heard something like the voice of a great multitude, and like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of mighty thunders, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let us give the glory to him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.” It was given to her that she would array herself in bright, pure, fine linen: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Reader: He said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” He said to me, “These are true words of God.”

Reader: I fell down before his feet to worship him. He said to me, “Look! Don’t do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.”

Comment: That the gift of prophecy was manifest in the days of the apostles is evident from several New Testament accounts. In Acts 11:1-30 we find the story of one of Peter’s visions and of how “prophets” from Jerusalem visited Antioch.

Reader:  Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. When Peter had come up to Jerusalem, those who were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men, and ate with them!”

Reader: But Peter began, and explained to them in order, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision: a certain container descending, like it was a great sheet let down from heaven by four corners. It came as far as me. When I had looked intently at it, I considered, and saw the four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky.

Reader: I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter, kill and eat!’ But I said, ‘Not so, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered into my mouth.’ But a voice answered me the second time out of heaven, ‘What God has cleansed, don’t you call unclean.’ This was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

Reader: Behold, immediately three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent from Caesarea to me. The Spirit told me to go with them, without discriminating.

Reader: These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying to him, ‘Send to Joppa, and get Simon, who is called Peter, who will speak to you words by which you will be saved, you and all your house.’

Reader: As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave to them the same gift as us, when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?”

Reader: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!”

Reader: They therefore who were scattered abroad by the oppression that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews only. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Reader: The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. The report concerning them came to the ears of the assembly which was in Jerusalem. They sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch, who, when he had come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad. He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they should remain near to the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and many people were added to the Lord.

Reader: Barnabas went out to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they were gathered together with the assembly, and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Reader: Now in these days, prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up, and indicated by the Spirit that there should be a great famine all over the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius. As any of the disciples had plenty, each determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea; which they also did, sending it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul

Comment: Then in Acts 13 1-4 we learn how those who were recognized as having the gift of the Spirit of Prophecy shared in the calling of Barnabas and Saul to their work.

Reader: Now in the assembly that was at Antioch there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.”

Reader: Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia. From there they sailed to Cyprus.

Comment:  Sometimes there are false teachers and false prophets. Their messages are usually a mixture of truth and error. How are errors recognized? The story in Acts 15:1-35 tells us how the early church dealt with an error.

Reader: Some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.”

Reader: Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them, they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question.

Reader: They, being sent on their way by the assembly, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. They caused great joy to all the brothers.

Reader: When they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the assembly and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all things that God had done with them.

Reader: But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

Reader: The apostles and the elders were gathered together to see about this matter. When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them,

Reader:  “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.

Reader:  Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

Reader: All the multitude kept silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul reporting what signs and wonders God had done among the nations through them. After they were silent, James answered,

Reader: “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has reported how God first visited the nations, to take out of them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets. As it is written,

Reader: After these things I will return.
I will again build the tabernacle of David, which has fallen.
I will again build its ruins.
I will set it up,
That the rest of men may seek after the Lord;
all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who does all these things.
All of God’s works are known to him from eternity.’

Reader:  Therefore my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Reader:  Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole assembly, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brothers.They wrote these things by their hand:

Reader: The apostles, the elders, and the brothers, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: greetings. Because we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law,’ to whom we gave no commandment; it seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose out men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reader:  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves will also tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden on you than these necessary things: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you. Farewell.”

Reader: So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers with many words, and strengthened them. After they had spent some time there, they were sent back with greetings from the brothers to the apostles. But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

Comment: John in 1 John 4:1-3 warns us

Reader:  Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already.

Comment: And in Isaiah 8:19-22 we find another test..

Reader: When they tell you, “Consult with those who have familiar spirits and with the wizards, who chirp and who mutter:” shouldn’t a people consult with their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?

Reader: Turn to the law and to the testimony! If they don’t speak according to this word, surely there is no morning for them   They will pass through it, very distressed and hungry; and it will happen that when they are hungry, they will worry, and curse by their king and by their God. They will turn their faces upward, and look to the earth, and see distress, darkness, and the gloom of anguish. They will be driven into thick darkness.

Comment: If there are false prophets there must also be true prophets but apparently the messages of many of the true prophets were not preserved to become a part of the sacred Scriptures. Such is the case of a modern prophet, Ellen G. White. Her many letters, testimonies and books have proven of great value to those who read them. But they all are based on and point to the Scriptures. Some quotations from her writings that confirm this follow.

Quotation: In harmony with the Word of God, His Spirit was to continue its work throughout the period of the gospel dispensation. During the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate light to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied in the Sacred Canon.

Quotation: The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction, in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scriptures. And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God. The Great Controversy p. VIII

Quotation: I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged. God has, in that Word, promised to give visions in the "last days"; not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth. Thus God dealt with Peter when He was about to send him to preach to the Gentiles. (A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, p. 64 [1851]. Reprinted in Early Writings, p. 78.)

Quotation: The Lord desires you to study your Bibles. He has not given any additional light to take the place of His Word. This light is to bring confused minds to His Word, which, if eaten and digested, is as the lifeblood of the soul. Then good works will be seen as light shining in darkness. (Letter 130, 1901.)

Comment:  The Bible and the Bible only is the basis for all Christian faith. We must never neglect reading and studying it. However when the writings of Ellen White are read alongside the Bible, not as being above or even equal to the Bible, it will be discovered that the Scriptures glow with a new radiance.

So, dear Reader, try reading the gospels alongside the book, The Desire of Ages. Your walk with Jesus will be energized and blessed.

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Law of God

Comment: In the World English Bible the word “commandment” occurs 294 times and “law” occurs 524” times. No civil society can exist without laws so it was that when God brought a million slaves into freedom one of the first things He did was to give them laws by which they would be governed. The great principles of those laws are expressed in the ten commandments that are found in Ex. 20:1-26.

 Reader:  God spoke all these words, saying, I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Reader:  You shall have no other gods before me.

Reader:  You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Reader:  You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Reader:  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

Reader:  Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

Reader:  You shall not murder.

Reader:  You shall not commit adultery.

Reader:  You shall not steal.

Reader:  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Reader:  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Reader:  All the people perceived the thunderings, the lightnings, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled, and stayed at a distance. They said to Moses, “Speak with us yourself, and we will listen; but don’t let God speak with us, lest we die.”

Reader:  Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, and that his fear may be before you, that you won’t sin.” The people stayed at a distance, and Moses came near to the thick darkness where God was.

Reader:  Yahweh said to Moses, “This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall most certainly not make alongside of me gods of silver, or gods of gold for yourselves.

Reader:  You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you.

Reader:   If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it. You shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.’

Comment: In Ps. 40:1 – 8 the psalmist expresses great appreciation for the super abundant blessings received from Yahweh, God. Then in a prophetic statement the predicted Messiah is represented as One who delights to do God’s will because God’s law is in His heart.

Reader:  I waited patiently for Yahweh.
    He turned to me, and heard my cry.
He brought me up also out of a horrible pit,
    out of the miry clay.

Reader:  He set my feet on a rock,
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God.
    Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in Yahweh.

Reader:  Blessed is the man who makes Yahweh his trust,
    and doesn’t respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.

Reader:  Many, Yahweh, my God, are the wonderful works which you have done,
    and your thoughts which are toward us.
They can’t be declared back to you.
    If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

Reader:  Sacrifice and offering you didn’t desire.
    You have opened my ears.
    You have not required burnt offering and sin offering.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come.
    It is written about me in the book in the scroll.
I delight to do your will, my God.
    Yes, your law is within my heart.”

Comment: The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were constantly looking for a way to trap and condemn Him so that they could get rid of Him. One of those occasions is recounted in Matt. 22:34-40.

 Reader:  But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

Reader:  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Comment: In the book of Deuteronomy Moses reminds the Israelites of the things that took place during their 40 years of wandering in the desert. He also reiterated the instructions they had received from God and repeatedly urged them to obey all that God had commanded. Near the end of this book he instructed them to gather all the people together, after they had entered Canaan, to hear the reading of curses and blessings that would come to them when they disobeyed or  obeyed God’s laws. The blessings are recorded in Deut. 28:1-14.

Reader:  It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to Yahweh your God’s voice, to observe to do all his commandments which I command you today, that Yahweh your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2

Reader:   All these blessings will come upon you, and overtake you, if you listen to Yahweh your God’s voice. You shall be blessed in the city, and you shall be blessed in the field. You shall be blessed in the fruit of your body, the fruit of your ground, the fruit of your animals, the increase of your livestock, and the young of your flock.

Reader:  Your basket and your kneading trough shall be blessed. You shall be blessed when you come in, and you shall be blessed when you go out.

Reader:  Yahweh will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be struck before you. They will come out against you one way, and will flee before you seven ways. Yahweh will command the blessing on you in your barns, and in all that you put your hand to. He will bless you in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

Reader:  Yahweh will establish you for a holy people to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you shall keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, and walk in his ways. All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by Yahweh’s name, and they will be afraid of you. Yahweh will grant you abundant prosperity, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground, in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers to give you.

Reader:  Yahweh will open to you his good treasure in the sky, to give the rain of your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You will lend to many nations, and you will not borrow.

Reader:  Yahweh will make you the head, and not the tail. You will be above only, and you will not be beneath; if you listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I command you today, to observe and to do, and shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Comment: Some 500 years before Jesus came to live among us both the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah experienced those curses because of their disregard for God’s laws. So it was that when the Jews were reinstated in their land, they devised hundreds of rules to “help” them to keep God’s laws and those rules were what they were trying to live by when Jesus came. Since Jesus and his disciples did not follow those rules, they were accused of breaking God’s law. Therefore Jesus found it necessary to make the statement found in Matt. 5:17-20.

 Reader:  Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.

Reader:  Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Reader:  For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Comment: At Sinai God and the Israelites made a covenant with each other. God promised to guide and provide for them and they promised to keep His commandments. This was the old covenant but the Israelites failed to remain true to it. Ezekiel prophesied that the day would come when God would make a new covenant with His people. This is what is referenced in Heb. 8:8-10.

 Reader:  For finding fault with them, he said,

Reader:  “Behold, the days come”, says the Lord,
    “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers,
    in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
for they didn’t continue in my covenant,
    and I disregarded them,” says the Lord.

Reader:  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel.
    After those days,” says the Lord;
“I will put my laws into their mind,
    I will also write them on their heart.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

Comment: Jesus, while instructing His disciples told them how they could experience this radical change of heart – by abiding in Him. John 15:1-17

Reader:   “I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Reader:   You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can’t bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me.

Reader:  I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you.

Reader:  In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples. Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love.

Reader:  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and remain in his love. I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Reader:  This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.

Reader:  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn’t know what his lord does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you.

Reader:  You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. “I command these things to you, that you may love one another.

Comment: How do we abide in Christ? There is a vast difference between obeying God because we have to (to be saved) and obeying Him because we want to (because we are saved). According to Eph. 2:1-10, that transformation is a gift of grace and our response of faith is to obey.

Reader:  You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Reader:   But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus;

Reader:   for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.

Comment: Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. His disciple, John, says the same thing to all believers in 1 John 5: 1 – 5.

 Reader:  Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments.

Reader:   For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Comment: Paul, in Rom. 8:1 – 14 clearly contrasts what it means to have our lives directed by our sinful natures with living in response to the Spirit dwelling in our hearts.

Reader:  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.

Reader:   For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Reader:  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be.

Reader:  Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.

Reader:   If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you..

Reader:   So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.

Comment: Psalm 19 is a marvelous anthem recognizing the gifts of God in his created works. Then a reflection on the truth and righteousness of God’s law leads to an acknowledgement of a need for pure thoughts and words. Ps. 19:1-14

Reader:  The heavens declare the glory of God.
    The expanse shows his handiwork.
Day after day they pour out speech,
    and night after night they display knowledge.

Reader:  There is no speech nor language,
    where their voice is not heard.
Their voice has gone out through all the earth,
    their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which is as a bridegroom coming out of his room,
    like a strong man rejoicing to run his course.
His going out is from the end of the heavens,
    his circuit to its ends;
    There is nothing hidden from its heat.

Reader:  Yahweh’s law is perfect, restoring the soul.
    Yahweh’s testimony is sure, making wise the simple.
Yahweh’s precepts are right, rejoicing the heart.
    Yahweh’s commandment is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Reader:  The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever.
    Yahweh’s ordinances are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
    sweeter also than honey and the extract of the honeycomb.

Reader:   Moreover by them is your servant warned.
    In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
    Forgive me from hidden errors.

Reader:  Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins.
    Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I will be upright.
    I will be blameless and innocent of great transgression.

Reader:  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Yahweh, my rock, and my redeemer.

Comment: Friend, do you want to experience that new heart, the born again life? When you look into that perfect law of liberty do you feel condemned because you are holding onto some cherished sin? Then flee to Jesus and stay in his presence. You must cling to Jesus as the branches must cling to the vine then you will bear much fruit.

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Sabbath

Comment: The Bible teaches us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Gen. 1:1 “For he spoke, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood firm.” Ps 33:9 For 6 days God continued His creative activities but then on the seventh day He ceased this work We read in Gen. 2:1-3

Reader:  The heavens, the earth, and all their vast array were finished. On the seventh day God finished his work which he had done; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work of creation which he had done.

Comment: Thus from the very beginning the seventh day was set aside, blessed and made holy, so that throughout all human history and for all humanity it would memorialize our Creator God. When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, where they had almost totally forgotten this day of rest, God reminded them in two ways. First in Exodus 16:1-34 we find this story/

Reader: They took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

Reader: The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness; and the children of Israel said to them,

Reader:  “We wish that we had died by Yahweh’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots, when we ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Reader: Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from the sky for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law, or not.

Reader: It shall come to pass on the sixth day, that they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”

Reader: Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening, then you shall know that Yahweh has brought you out from the land of Egypt; and in the morning, then you shall see Yahweh’s glory; because he hears your murmurings against Yahweh.

Reader: Who are we, that you murmur against us?” Moses said, “Now Yahweh shall give you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to satisfy you; because Yahweh hears your murmurings which you murmur against him. And who are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against Yahweh.”

Reader: Moses said to Aaron, “Tell all the congregation of the children of Israel, ‘Come near before Yahweh, for he has heard your murmurings.’”

Reader: As Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, Yahweh’s glory appeared in the cloud. Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying,

Reader: ‘At evening you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread: and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God.’”

Reader: In the evening, quail came up and covered the camp; and in the morning the dew lay around the camp.  When the dew that lay had gone, behold, on the surface of the wilderness was a small round thing, small as the frost on the ground. When the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another,

Reader:  “What is it?” For they didn’t know what it was. Moses said to them,

Reader: “It is the bread which Yahweh has given you to eat.” This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded: “Gather of it everyone according to his eating; an omer a head, according to the number of your persons, you shall take it, every man for those who are in his tent.”

Reader: The children of Israel did so, and gathered some more, some less. When they measured it with an omer, he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack. They gathered every man according to his eating. Moses said to them,

Reader: “Let no one leave of it until the morning.” Notwithstanding they didn’t listen to Moses, but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and became foul: and Moses was angry with them.

Reader: They gathered it morning by morning, everyone according to his eating. When the sun grew hot, it melted. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one, and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.

Reader: He said to them, “This is that which Yahweh has spoken, ‘Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake that which you want to bake, and boil that which you want to boil; and all that remains over lay up for yourselves to be kept until the morning.’” They laid it up until the morning, as Moses asked, and it didn’t become foul, and there were no worms in it. Moses said,

Reader: “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahweh. Today you shall not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath. In it there shall be none.”

Reader: On the seventh day, some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. Yahweh said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?

Reader:  Behold, because Yahweh has given you the Sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days. Everyone stay in his place. Let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

Comment: Two of the principles we learn from that experience is that the sixth day, Friday, is a day to prepare for the Sabbath and that unnecessary labor is not to interfere with our communion with God on His day. Then when God proclaimed his 10 Commandments from the top of Mount Sinai and wrote them on two tablets of stone  He could say “remember.” This was not something new. We read in Ex. 20:8-11:

Reader:   “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God.

Reader: You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

Comment: After His temptation in the wilderness Jesus returned to Galilee teaching in their synagogues. Then He came to Nazareth where He formally announced His mission.  We read in Luke 4:14-19.

Reader:  Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Reader: He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,

Reader: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the broken hearted,
    to proclaim release to the captives,
    recovering of sight to the blind,
    to deliver those who are crushed,
 and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Comment: Notice that it was Jesus’ custom to gather with others for worship each Sabbath. Isaiah was called to minister to the kingdom of Judah at a time of advancing apostasy. We find in his messages a consistent call to “remember” the Sabbath. Isa. 56: 1-8 says

Reader:  Yahweh says, “Maintain justice,
    and do what is right;
for my salvation is near,
    and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
    and the son of man who holds it fast;
who keeps the Sabbath without profaning it,
    and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Reader: Let no foreigner, who has joined himself to Yahweh, speak, saying,
    “Yahweh will surely separate me from his people.”
    Do not let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

Reader: For Yahweh says, “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    and choose the things that please me,
    and hold fast to my covenant:
I will give them in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters.

Reader:    I will give them an everlasting name, that will not be cut off.
Also the foreigners who join themselves to Yahweh,
    to serve him,
and to love Yahweh’s name,

Reader:  to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it,     and holds fast my covenant;
I will bring these to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer.

Reader: Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar;
    for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
The Lord Yahweh, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says,
    “I will yet gather others to him,
    besides his own who are gathered.”

Comment:  Then in Isa. 58:1-9, 13, 14 we find God pleading with His people to come back to Him. This passage ends with another call to “remember” the Sabbath and shows that in doing so a delightful relationship with God can be experienced.

Reader: “Cry aloud, don’t spare.
    Lift up your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their disobedience,
    and to the house of Jacob their sins.

Reader: Yet they seek me daily,
    and delight to know my ways.
As a nation that did righteousness,
    and didn’t forsake the ordinance of their God,
they ask of me righteous judgments.
    They delight to draw near to God.

Reader: ‘Why have we fasted,’ say they, ‘and you don’t see?
    Why have we afflicted our soul, and you don’t notice?’

Reader: “Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,   and oppress all your laborers.
Behold, you fast for strife and contention,
    and to strike with the fist of wickedness.
    You don’t fast today so as to make your voice to be heard on high.

Reader: Is this the fast that I have chosen?
    A day for a man to humble his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under himself?
Will you call this a fast,
    and an acceptable day to Yahweh?

Reader: “Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen:
    to release the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
    and that you break every yoke?

Reader: Isn’t it to distribute your bread to the hungry,    and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house?
When you see the naked,
    that you cover him;
    and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Reader: Then your light will break out as the morning,     and your healing will appear quickly;
then your righteousness shall go before you;
    and Yahweh’s glory will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and Yahweh will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

. . Reader:  . If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,    from doing your pleasure on my holy day;and call the Sabbath a delight,
    and the holy of Yahweh honorable;
    and shall honor it,
    not doing your own ways,
    nor finding your own pleasure,
    nor speaking your own words:

Reader: then you shall delight yourself in Yahweh;
    and I will make you to ride on the high places of the earth;
    and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father:”
    for Yahweh’s mouth has spoken it.

Comment: In Jesus’ day numerous man-made rules had made the Sabbath anything but a delight. As Jesus and His disciples went about caring for human needs on the Sabbath they found themselves at odds with the religious leaders. A couple of these events are recorded in Matt. 12:1-14.

Reader: At that time, Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the grain fields. His disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.

Reader: But the Pharisees, when they saw it, said to him, “Behold, your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

Reader: But he said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him; how he entered into God’s house, and ate the show bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 

Reader: Or have you not read in the law, that on the Sabbath day, the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless?

Reader: But I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Reader: He departed there, and went into their synagogue. And behold there was a man with a withered hand. They asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” that they might accuse him.

Reader: He said to them, “What man is there among you, who has one sheep, and if this one falls into a pit on the Sabbath day, won’t he grab on to it, and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep!

Reader: Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” Then he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out; and it was restored whole, just like the other.

Reader: But the Pharisees went out, and conspired against him, how they might destroy him.

Comment: The importance of the Sabbath is shown by the fact that in Ex. 31:12-17 God instructed Moses to enforce the keeping of the Sabbath with the death penalty. That is rooted in the fact that from the beginning the Sabbath was a sign of God’s creative power. This is what distinguishes Yahweh from all other gods.

 Reader: Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying,

Reader:  ‘Most certainly you shall keep my Sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy to you.

Reader: Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to Yahweh. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death.

Reader: Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.’”

Comment: The prophet, Ezekiel, was sent to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. He reminded them of how their fathers rebelled and worshiped other gods but God didn’t totally reject them. Instead He gave them laws to guide them and especially the Sabbath as a sign that He delivered them Eze. 20:10 – 20.

Reader:  So I caused them to go out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them my statutes, and showed them my ordinances, which if a man does, he shall live in them.

Reader: Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they didn’t walk in my statutes, and they rejected my ordinances, which if a man keep, he shall live in them; and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned.

Reader: Then I said I would pour out my wrath on them in the wilderness, to consume them. But I worked for my name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I brought them out.

Reader: Moreover also I swore to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands; because they rejected my ordinances, and didn’t walk in my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.

Reader:  Nevertheless my eye spared them, and I didn’t destroy them, neither did I make a full end of them in the wilderness. I said to their children in the wilderness,

Reader:  Don’t walk in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their ordinances, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am Yahweh your God: walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them; and make my Sabbaths holy; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am Yahweh your God.

Comment: The Sabbath commandment is repeated in Deut. 5:12-15.Take note of the fact that not only is the householder to rest from his labors but also his entire household.

Reader:  “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Yahweh your God commanded you. You shall labor six days, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God, in which you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.

Reader: You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and Yahweh your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm. Therefore Yahweh your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Comment: We find in Lev. 23:26-32 instructions for keeping the Day of Atonement. In keeping with the Genesis record of creation when a day consisted of an evening and morning, we find that a day is considered to be from even to even.

 Reader: Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “However on the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to Yahweh.

Reader: You shall do no kind of work in that same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before Yahweh your God. For whoever it is who shall not deny himself in that same day; shall be cut off from his people.

Reader: Whoever it is who does any kind of work in that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no kind of work: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall deny yourselves. In the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall keep your Sabbath.”

Comment: According to Mark 1:21-34 on the Sabbath following the call of James and John and Peter and Andrew, only two miracles of healing took place. But then as soon as the sun went down the entire city came to the door seeking healings of all kinds.

Reader: They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught. They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes.

Reader: Immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, saying, “Ha! What do we have to do with you, Jesus, you Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know you who you are: the Holy One of God!”

Reader: Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”

Reader: The unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying,

Reader:  “What is this? A new teaching? For with authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him!” The report of him went out immediately everywhere into all the region of Galilee and its surrounding area.

Reader: Immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.

Reader: He came and took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.

Reader: At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to him all who were sick, and those who were possessed by demons. All the city was gathered together at the door. He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. He didn’t allow the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Comment: Heb. 4:1-12 is a discourse that brings together three different experiences of rest. First there is the Sabbath rest. God rested (ceased creating) from his labors and so should we. Second God had promised the Israelites a home for their nation. No longer would they wander. And third God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and he delivers all who trust in him from bondage to sin. Try to recognize these different kinds of rest in this reading.

Reader: Let us fear therefore, lest perhaps anyone of you should seem to have come short of a promise of entering into his rest. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, even as they also did, but the word they heard didn’t profit them, because it wasn’t mixed with faith by those who heard.

Reader: For we who have believed do enter into that rest, even as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, they will not enter into my rest”;although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Reader: For he has said this somewhere about the seventh day, “God rested on the seventh day from all his works”;and in this place again, “They will not enter into my rest.”

Reader: Seeing therefore it remains that some should enter therein, and they to whom the good news was before preached failed to enter in because of disobedience, he again defines a certain day, today, saying through David so long a time afterward (just as has been said),

Reader: “Today if you will hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts.”

Reader: For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

Reader: For he who has entered into his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.

Reader: For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Comment: Friend, have you experienced both the Sabbath rest and the rest of salvation? By laying aside all secular activities on the Sabbath you will find freedom and rest to commune with God, join with others in worship and in ministering to the needs of those around you. Salvation rest comes when we cease trying to obey our way and let the love of Jesus fill us so that obedience flows freely from the heart.

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Stewardship

Comment: A steward is someone whose job is to manage the property of another. Our Creator God has placed us on this planet to care for his creation. We read about that in Gen. 1:26-30.

Reader: God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Reader: God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them. God said to them,

Reader:  “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God said,

Reader: “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food. To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food;” and it was so.

Comment: And again in Gen. 2:4-17 we read how God placed Adam in the midst of the special garden he had made and gave him the responsibility to care for it.

 Reader: This is the history of the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens. No plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for Yahweh God had not caused it to rain on the earth.

Reader: There was not a man to till the ground, but a mist went up from the earth, and watered the whole surface of the ground. Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Yahweh God planted a garden eastward, in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

Reader: Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Reader: A river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became the source of four rivers.

Reader: The name of the first is Pishon: it flows through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and onyx stone are also there.

Reader: The name of the second river is Gihon. It is the same river that flows through the whole land of Cush.

Reader: The name of the third river is Hiddekel. This is the one which flows in front of Assyria.

Reader: The fourth river is the Euphrates.

Reader: Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”

Comment: The patriarch, Abraham, recognized God as the source of his wealth and his ability to deliver the people of Sodom from their captors by tithing the increase. Genesis 14:17-20

Reader: The king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

Reader: Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him, and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Reader: Abram gave him a tenth of all.

Comment: The patriarchs acknowledged God’s ownership by dedicating a portion of their possessions to Him. So it was that when Jacob was given a vision of God’s presence with him that he made a vow that is found in Genesis 28:10-22

Reader: Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place, and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. He took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.

Reader: He dreamed. Behold, a stairway set upon the earth, and its top reached to heaven. Behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Behold, Yahweh stood above it, and said,

Reader: “I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon you lie, to you will I give it, and to your offspring Your offspring will be as the dust of the earth, and you will spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. In you and in your offspring will all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you, and will keep you, wherever you go, and will bring you again into this land. For I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken of to you.”

Reader: Jacob awakened out of his sleep, and he said, “Surely Yahweh is in this place, and I didn’t know it.” He was afraid, and said, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other than God’s house, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Reader: Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on its top. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Jacob vowed a vow, saying,

Reader: “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothing to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, and Yahweh will be my God, then this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, will be God’s house. Of all that you will give me I will surely give a tenth to you.”

Comment: When the Israelites were instructed by God to build the portable Tabernacle in the wilderness, the people gave willingly. They had obtained many articles of silver, gold and precious gems from the Egyptians just before they left Egypt. The Bible says that they “plundered” the Egyptians and now they gave so much that they had to be restrained. David wanted to build a permanent house for God but God said, “No! Your son Solomon will build it.” Pay close attention to the account recorded in 1 Chron. 29:1–19. See how the leaders set an example of cheerful giving.

 Reader: David the king said to all the assembly, “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great; for the palace is not for man, but for Yahweh God.

Reader: Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, the brass for the things of brass, iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood; also onyx stones, stones to be set, stones for inlaid work, of various colors, all kinds of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance.

Reader: In addition, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, since I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, I give it to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, even three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, with which to overlay the walls of the houses; of gold for the things of gold, and of silver for the things of silver, and for all kinds of work to be made by the hands of artisans. Who then offers willingly to consecrate himself today to Yahweh?”

Reader: Then the princes of the fathers’ households, and the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers over the king’s work, offered willingly; and they gave for the service of God’s house

Reader:  of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand darics, of silver ten thousand talents, of brass eighteen thousand talents, and of iron one hundred thousand talents.

Reader: People with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of Yahweh’s house, under the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite.

Reader: Then the people rejoiced, because they offered willingly, because with a perfect heart they offered willingly to Yahweh; and David the king also rejoiced with great joy. Therefore David blessed Yahweh before all the assembly; and David said,

Reader:  “You are blessed, Yahweh, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, Yahweh, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty! For all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, Yahweh, and you are exalted as head above all.

Reader: Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all! In your hand is power and might! It is in your hand to make great, and to give strength to all! Now therefore, our God, we thank you, and praise your glorious name.

Reader:  But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you, and foreigners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no remaining. Yahweh our God, all this store that we have prepared to build you a house for your holy name comes from your hand, and is all your own.

Reader: I know also, my God, that you try the heart, and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things. Now have I seen with joy your people, who are present here, offer willingly to you.

Reader: Yahweh, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this desire forever in the thoughts of the heart of your people, and prepare their heart for you; and give to Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for which I have made provision.

Comment:  When Jerusalem was conquered by Babylon Solomon’s temple was destroyed.  Then when the people were allowed to return they built their own houses before the temple was restored. Consequently they experienced crop failures. These experiences are recounted in Haggai 1:1-15.

 Reader: In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, Yahweh’s word came by Haggai, the prophet, to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,

Reader:  This is what Yahweh of Armies says: These people say, ‘The time hasn’t yet come, the time for Yahweh’s house to be built.’”Then Yahweh’s word came by Haggai, the prophet, saying,

Reader: “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies waste? Now therefore this is what Yahweh of Armies says: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and bring in little. You eat, but you don’t have enough. You drink, but you aren’t filled with drink. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm, and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes in it.”

Reader: This is what Yahweh of Armies says: “Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, bring wood, and build the house. I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified,” says Yahweh. You looked for much, and, behold, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says Yahweh of Armies,

Reader: “Because of my house that lies waste, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore for your sake the heavens withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on that which the ground produces, on men, on livestock, and on all the labor of the hands.”

Reader: Then Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed Yahweh, their God’s voice, and the words of Haggai, the prophet, as Yahweh, their God, had sent him; and the people feared Yahweh.

Reader: Then Haggai, Yahweh’s messenger, spoke Yahweh’s message to the people, saying, “I am with you,” says Yahweh.

Reader: Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of Yahweh of Armies, their God, in the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

Comment: Malachi, the last prophet whose writings were preserved in the Old Testament spoke with great earnestness of the coming of the Messiah. He sought to prepare a people for that wonderful event. Part of that preparation was to call the people back to being faithful stewards. Here are his words in Mal. 3:1-12 

Reader:  “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes!” says Yahweh of Armies.

Reader:   “But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap; and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer to Yahweh offerings in righteousness.

Reader:  Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to Yahweh, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years. I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the perjurers, and against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and who deprive the foreigner of justice, and don’t fear me,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Reader:  “For I, Yahweh, don’t change; therefore you, sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Reader:  “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’

Reader:  Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me! But you say, ‘

Reader:  How have we robbed you?’

Reader:  In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with the curse; for you rob me, even this whole nation. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this,” says Yahweh of Armies, “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there will not be room enough for (it).

Reader:  I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before its time in the field,” says Yahweh of Armies.  “All nations shall call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Comment: In 1 Cor. 9:1-14 the apostle, Paul, declares that the minister of the gospel can expect to receive tangible support from those they serve even though he, himself, did not require that of the Corinthians. He was a tent maker and by working that trade supported his entire team while they were working in Corinth. Today the believers’ tithe goes to support gospel ministers and offerings above the tithe support the local church work.

Reader:  Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus Christ, our Lord? Aren’t you my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Reader:  My defense to those who examine me is this. Have we no right to eat and to drink? Have we no right to take along a wife who is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or have only Barnabas and I no right to not work?

Reader:  What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and doesn’t eat of its fruit? Or who feeds a flock, and doesn’t drink from the flock’s milk? Do I speak these things according to the ways of men? Or doesn’t the law also say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses,

Reader:  “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it for the oxen that God cares, or does he say it assuredly for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should partake of his hope.

Reader:  If we sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your fleshly things? If others partake of this right over you, don’t we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right, but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the Good News of Christ.

Reader:  Don’t you know that those who serve around sacred things eat from the things of the temple, and those who wait on the altar have their portion with the altar? Even so the Lord ordained that those who proclaim the Good News should live from the Good News.

Comment: In Matt. 23:16-24 Jesus affirmed the principle of returning God’s tithe to the church treasury while highlighting the need to show mercy and generosity to the needy.

Reader:  “Woe to you, you blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obligated?’

Reader:  You blind fools! For which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? He therefore who swears by the altar, swears by it, and by everything on it. He who swears by the temple, swears by it, and by him who was living in it. He who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him who sits on it.

Reader:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!

Comment: In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he shares with them how God has helped the churches in Macedonia to give generously to relieve the suffering of the church in Jerusalem. In this way he was encouraging the Corinthians to do likewise. We read in 2 Cor. 8:1-15:

Reader:   Moreover, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia; how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality.

Reader:  For according to their power, I testify, yes and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty to receive this grace and the fellowship in the service to the saints. This was not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God.

Reader:  So we urged Titus, that as he made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace. But as you abound in everything, in faith, utterance, knowledge, all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that you also abound in this grace.

Reader:  I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love.

Reader:  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich. I give a judgment in this: for this is expedient for you, who were the first to start a year ago, not only to do, but also to be willing.

Reader:  But now complete the doing also, that as there was the readiness to be willing, so there may be the completion also out of your ability. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you don’t have. For this is not that others may be eased and you distressed, but for equality.

Reader:  Your abundance at this present time supplies their lack, that their abundance also may become a supply for your lack; that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.

Comment: In the book of Romans Paul gives us a glimpse into how those offerings to relieve the Jerusalem saints were going to be delivered to them. The principles of transparency and accountability in the use of contributions to the work of God are illustrated in the following passage, .Rom. 15:22-29

Reader:  Therefore also I was hindered these many times from coming to you, but now, no longer having any place in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come to you, whenever I travel to Spain, I will come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.

Reader:  But now, I say, I am going to Jerusalem, serving the saints. For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem. Yes, it has been their good pleasure, and they are their debtors.

Reader:  For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to serve them in fleshly things. When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by way of you to Spain. I know that, when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of the Good News of Christ.

Comment: Dear reader have you experienced the joy and the blessings of being a cheerful giver?  If not now is the time to begin. You can only have that experience if you truly die to self every day. When you have a living relationship with Jesus, you can trust Him to give you wisdom to be a faithful steward of all the resources He entrusts to you. By following God’s plan of tithing and giving freewill offerings you may have victory over selfishness and covetousness. You will find great joy in helping others and in caring for His creation.

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Christian Behavior

Comment: As full-time disciples of Jesus we live every day as if in His visible presence. Our thoughts and feelings and thus our words and deeds are in harmony with Him. This is the theme of Rom. 12:1-3.

 Reader:  Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Reader: For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.

Comment: Love is the motivating force in the Christian’s life. It directs in all relationships but is especially evident in the relationships between believers. John, the beloved disciple, puts it this way in 1 John 2:1-11.

 Reader:  My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

Reader: And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world. This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. One who says, “I know him,” and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn’t in him.

Reader: But whoever keeps his word, God’s love has most certainly been perfected in him. This is how we know that we are in him: he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.

Reader: Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.  

Reader: Again, I write a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you; because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shines. He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now.

Reader: He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no occasion for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Comment: In Hebrews 10:16-25, the author of Hebrews explains the results of this love dwelling in the heart. Notice at the end of this passage how that love leads us to meet together and encourage one another.

Reader: “This is the covenant that I will make with them:
    ‘After those days,’ says the Lord,
‘I will put my laws on their heart,
    I will also write them on their mind;’

Reader: then he says,  “I will remember their sins and their iniquities no more.”Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

Reader: Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus,  by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over God’s house, let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and having our body washed with pure water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful.

Reader: Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.

Comment: . By involving ourselves in activities that nurture spiritual growth we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit to His glory. Our choice of entertainment and amusement will not, in quality or quantity, distract from the goal of being full-time disciples fully engaged in the community of faith.  In this way the sinful, immoral practices of the world described in Eph. 5:1-21 will not find a place to grow.

 Reader: Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.

Reader: But sexual immorality, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be mentioned among you, as becomes saints; nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not appropriate; but rather giving of thanks.

Reader: Know this for sure, that no sexually immoral person, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.

Reader: Let no one deceive you with empty words. For because of these things, the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience. Therefore don’t be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord.

Reader: Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth,  proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather even reprove them.

Reader:  For the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that reveals is light. Therefore he says, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Reader: Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Reader: Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.

Comment: A peaceful, trusting relationship with God is the basis for being kind and gentle with everyone we meet. Reading from Phil. 4:1-9:

Reader:  Therefore, my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to think the same way in the Lord.

Reader: Yes, I beg you also, true partner, help these women, for they labored with me in the Good News, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!”

Reader: Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

Reader: Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Comment: It is evident that we are in a cosmic conflict which requires a total commitment to Jesus. We read in 2 Cor. 10:3-5 what that means.

Reader: For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;

Comment:  The necessity of  being fully committed to Jesus is again emphasized in 2 Cor. 6:13-18- 7:1.

Reader:  Now in return, I speak as to my children, you also be open wide. Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols?

Reader:  For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Reader: Therefore

“‘Come out from among them,
    and be separate,’ says the Lord.
‘Touch no unclean thing.
    I will receive you.
I will be to you a Father.
    You will be to me sons and daughters,’

says the Lord Almighty.”

Reader: Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Comment: Being separate from the world involves rejection of common practices even if doing so results in personal loss. But to participate in some of those practices also can result in personal loss. 1 Cor. 6:1-20

Reader: Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

Reader: Don’t you know that we will judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then, you have to judge things pertaining to this life, do you set them to judge who are of no account in the assembly? 

Reader: I say this to move you to shame. Isn’t there even one wise man among you who would be able to decide between his brothers? But brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers! Therefore it is already altogether a defect in you, that you have lawsuits one with another.

Reader: Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? No, but you yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that against your brothers. Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s Kingdom?

Reader: Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom.

Reader: Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are expedient. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be brought under the power of anything.

Reader: “Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods,” but God will bring to nothing both it and them. But the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Reader:  Now God raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power. Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or don’t you know that he who is joined to a prostitute is one body? For, “The two”, he says, “will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.

Reader: Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin that a man does is outside the body,” but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Comment: As ambassadors for the King of kings our dress and deportment will be of the most refined character. We recognize that true beauty is that of the inner being, a gentle and quiet spirit, therefore our dress will not be extravagant but clean, simple, neat and modest. This is evident in 1 Peter 3:1-4.

Reader:  In the same way, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; so that, even if any don’t obey the Word, they may be won by the behavior of their wives without a word; seeing your pure behavior in fear.

Reader: Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious.

Comment: Full-time disciples of Jesus call on Him whenever they are tempted to idolatry of any kind. They know that they cannot serve two masters. We read this in 1 Cor. 10:13-33.

   Reader: No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Reader: Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men. Judge what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, isn’t it a sharing of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, isn’t it a sharing of the body of Christ?

Reader: Because there is one loaf of bread, we, who are many, are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf of bread. Consider Israel according to the flesh. Don’t those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?

Reader: What am I saying then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I don’t desire that you would have fellowship with demons.

Reader: You can’t both drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can’t both partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? “

Reader: All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are profitable. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own, but each one his neighbor’s good. Whatever is sold in the butcher shop, eat, asking no question for the sake of conscience, for “the earth is the Lord’s, and its fullness.”

Reader: But if one of those who don’t believe invites you to a meal, and you are inclined to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for the sake of conscience. But if anyone says to you,

Reader:  “This was offered to idols,” don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”

Reader: Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other’s conscience. For why is my liberty judged by another conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced for that for which I give thanks?

Reader: Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no occasions for stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the assembly of God; even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.

Comment: Since Jesus dwells in us by his Spirit we choose a life style that contributes to the optimum health of body and mind. We avoid eating the unclean foods identified in Scripture and abstain from all substances and practices that excite or benumb the brain and/or injure the body. It was not until after the flood that flesh was included in the diet and then only the flesh of clean animals. We now understand that many of the unclean animals are scavengers and thus prone to be carriers of diseases. We read about these unclean animals in Leviticus 11. Two portions of that chapter, Lev. 11:1-23, & 43-44, follow.

  Reader: Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them,  “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the living things which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and chews the cud among the animals, that you may eat.

Reader: Nevertheless these you shall not eat of those that chew the cud, or of those who part the hoof: the camel, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you. The cony, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you.

Reader: The hare, because she chews the cud but doesn’t part the hoof, she is unclean to you. The pig, because he has a split hoof, and is cloven-footed, but doesn’t chew the cud, he is unclean to you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you.

Reader: These you may eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, that you may eat. All that don’t have fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination to you, and you detest them. You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. Whatever has no fins nor scales in the waters, that is an abomination to you.

Reader: These you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the vulture, and the black vulture, and the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, and the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Reader: All flying insects that walk on all fours are an abomination to you. Yet you may eat these: of all winged creeping things that go on all fours, which have legs above their feet, with which to hop on the earth. Even of these you may eat: any kind of locust, any kind of katydid, any kind of cricket, and any kind of grasshopper. But all winged creeping things which have four feet, are an abomination to you.

Reader: By these you will become unclean: whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening. Whoever carries any part of their carcass shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening. . . .

Reader: You shall not make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be defiled thereby. For I am Yahweh your God. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy.

Comment: In 2 Tim 3:1-5 Paul predicts that the prevailing behavior of people in the last days will be totally godless.

Reader: But know this, that in the last days, grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, not lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied its power. Turn away from these, also.

Reader: In Third John 2.John prays,   Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy, even as your soul prospers.

Comment: We see then, that Christian behavior is not a means of winning God’s favor or of becoming “good enough” to be saved, rather it is the natural result of Jesus living within one who is being saved. May you let that happen in your life.

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 Marriage and the Family

Comment: From the creation story we learn that while God created Adam before Eve they were not intended to be alone. In fact since Eve was made from a tissue from Adam their intimate relationship was established from the beginning. The story is found in Genesis 2:18-25

Reader: Yahweh God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Reader: Out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature became its name.

Reader: The man gave names to all livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field; but for man there was not found a helper comparable to him.

Reader: Yahweh God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Yahweh God made a woman from the rib which he had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

Reader: The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of Man.”

Reader: Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.

Comment: Among the topics Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount was the subject of divorce. He said in Matt. 5:31, 32:

Reader:  “It was also said, ‘Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce,’  but I tell you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the cause of sexual immorality, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries her when she is put away commits adultery.

Comment: Later when confronted on this subject He expanded this teaching by quoting from Genesis 2. We read in Matt. 19:3-12:

Reader: Pharisees came to him, testing him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”

Reader: He answered, “Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall join to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’

Reader: So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.”

Reader: They asked him, “Why then did Moses command us to give her a bill of divorce, and divorce her?”

Reader: He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been so. I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries her when she is divorced commits adultery.”

Reader: His disciples said to him, “If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.”

Reader: But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

Comment: In Jesus’ response we understand that the gift of celibacy for the sake of the gospel is given to a few people. (See 1 Cor. 7)  In Mark 10:5- 12 we find a slightly different ending of the same story.

Reader: But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.  For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will join to his wife, and the two will become one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Reader: In the house, his disciples asked him again about the same matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her. If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Reader: And in Luke 16:17, 18  Luke simply says: But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall. Everyone who divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery. He who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.

Comment: By attending the wedding in Cana Jesus clearly honored this institution that was initiated in Eden by God Himself. The story is told in John 2:1-11

Reader: The third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus also was invited, with his disciples, to the marriage. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine.”

Reader: Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.”

Reader: His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”

Reader: Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews’ way of purifying, containing two or three metretes apiece. Jesus said to them,

Reader: “Fill the water pots with water.”

Reader:  They filled them up to the brim. He said to them,

Reader: “Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast.”

Reader: So they took it. When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn’t know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom, and said to him,

Reader: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Comment:  Jesus prayed for his disciples that while they are in the world they would not be a part of it. In a similar way Paul in 2 Cor. 6:11-16 makes it clear that believers should not be linked with unbelievers. This is especially true in the marriage relationship.

Reader: Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians. Our heart is enlarged. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return, I speak as to my children, you also be open wide.

Reader: Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever?

Reader: What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Comment: Probably the most detailed instruction in the Bible, regarding the loving, self-sacrificing relationship that can exist between husband and wife is found in Eph. 5:15-33

Reader:  Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Reader: Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.

Reader: Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything.

Reader: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect.

Reader: Even so husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.

Reader: For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly; because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones.

Reader: “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.”  This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the assembly. Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Comment: Another passage by Paul that deals with the role of sexual intimacy within the marriage relationship is in 1 Cor. 7:1-17.

 Reader: Now concerning the things about which you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

Reader: Let the husband render to his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband.

Reader: Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife.

Reader: Don’t deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and may be together again, that Satan doesn’t tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Reader: But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment. Yet I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind.

Reader: But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am.

 Reader: But if they don’t have self-control, let them marry. For it’s better to marry than to burn.

Reader: But to the married I command—not I, but the Lord—that the wife not leave her husband (but if she departs, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband not leave his wife.

Reader: But to the rest I—not the Lord—say, if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she is content to live with him, let him not leave her.

Reader: The woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he is content to live with her, let her not leave her husband. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

Reader: Yet if the unbeliever departs, let there be separation. The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us in peace.

Reader: For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Only, as the Lord has distributed to each man, as God has called each, so let him walk. So I command in all the assemblies.

Comment: From the beginning marriage was between one man and one woman. All other arrangements are outside of God’s plan. Although there are many examples in the Bible of polygamous marriages, they were not ideal. One example is that of Abraham found in Gen. 16:1-14.

Reader: Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had a servant, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. Sarai said to Abram,

Reader: “See now, Yahweh has restrained me from bearing. Please go in to my servant. It may be that I will obtain children by her.”

Reader: Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife.

Reader: He went in to Hagar, and she conceived. When she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. Sarai said to Abram,

Reader: “This wrong is your fault. I gave my servant into your bosom, and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes. Yahweh judge between me and you.”

Reader: But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your hand. Do to her whatever is good in your eyes.” Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her face.

Reader: Yahweh’s angel found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where did you come from? Where are you going?”

Reader: She said, “I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai.”

Reader: Yahweh’s angel said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hands.” Yahweh’s angel said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, that they will not be numbered for multitude.”

Reader: Yahweh’s angel said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and will bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because Yahweh has heard your affliction. He will be like a wild donkey among men. His hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. He will live opposite all of his brothers.”

Reader: She called the name of Yahweh who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees,” for she said, “Have I even stayed alive after seeing him?” Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi. Behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

Comment: A stable, loving relationship between wife and husband is the cornerstone of a happy family. As parents lead their children to know and love God they, in turn, will honor their parents. The fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12) is written on their hearts.

 Reader: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

Comment: A Christian relationship between parents and their children is mutually respectful. Eph. 6:1-4 says:

Reader: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: “that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.”

Reader: You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Comment: This kind of relationship develops over time. By faithfully instructing their children morning and evening, the chances of the children becoming faithful followers of Jesus is greatly increased. We are instructed to do this in  Deut. 6:1-9.

Reader:  Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which Yahweh your God commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you go over to possess it; that you might fear Yahweh your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you; you, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life; and that your days may be prolonged.

Reader: Hear therefore, Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with you, and that you may increase mightily, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised to you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

Reader: Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one. You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.

Reader: These words, which I command you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Reader: You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.

Reader: Then we can claim the promise in Prov. 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
    and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Comment: One of the most challenging aspects of parenting is to not spoil an only child or to have a favorite among siblings. Here is a Bible story of how favoritism not only spoiled a family but resulted in animosities between peoples that still exist today. Reading from Gen. 25:19-34.

 Reader: This is the history of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham became the father of Isaac.  Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Paddan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian, to be his wife.

Reader: Isaac entreated Yahweh for his wife, because she was barren. Yahweh was entreated by him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her. She said, “If it is so, why do I live?” She went to inquire of Yahweh. Yahweh said to her,

Reader: “Two nations are in your womb.
Two peoples will be separated from your body.
The one people will be stronger than the other people. The elder will serve the younger.”

 

Reader: When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red all over, like a hairy garment. They named him Esau.

Reader: After that, his brother came out, and his hand had hold on Esau’s heel. He was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

Reader: The boys grew. Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field. Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he ate his venison. Rebekah loved Jacob.

Reader: Jacob boiled stew. Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob,

Reader:  “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom.

Reader: Jacob said, “First, sell me your birthright.”

Reader: Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?”

Reader: Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”

Reader: He swore to him. He sold his birthright to Jacob   Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils. He ate and drank, rose up, and went his way. So Esau despised his birthright.

Comment: We believe that we are living in the last days. Let’s pray that God will fulfill the promise recorded in Mal. 4:5, 6.

Reader: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

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 Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary

Comment: God has provided us with 4 wonderful accounts of Jesus’ life on earth, the 4 Gospels. The Bible also gives us a brief look at what happened after He rose from the grave. The book of Hebrews gives us the most detailed account of what He has been doing in heaven since his ascension. In Heb. 7:20-28-8:10 we learn that He is serving as our intercessor Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.

Reader: Inasmuch as he was not made priest without the taking of an oath (for they indeed have been made priests without an oath), but he with an oath by him that says of him,

Reader: “The Lord swore and will not change his mind,     ‘You are a priest forever,
    according to the order of Melchizedek.’”

Reader: By so much, Jesus has become the collateral of a better covenant. Many, indeed, have been made priests, because they are hindered from continuing by death. But he, because he lives forever, has his priesthood unchangeable.

Reader: Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, seeing that he lives forever to make intercession for them.

Reader: For such a high priest was fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who doesn’t need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices daily, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.

Reader: For he did this once for all, when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men as high priests who have weakness, but the word of the oath which came after the law appoints a Son forever who has been perfected.

Reader: Now in the things which we are saying, the main point is this. We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a servant of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.

Reader: For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses was warned by God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for he said,

Reader: “See, you shall make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain.” But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which on better promises has been given as law. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he said,

Reader: “Behold, the days come”, says the Lord,
    “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers,     in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
for they didn’t continue in my covenant,
    and I disregarded them,” says the Lord.

Reader: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel.
    After those days,” says the Lord;
“I will put my laws into their mind,
    I will also write them on their heart.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

Comment: Hebrews 4:8-16 invites us to experience the rest that we can have by trusting Jesus to hear our confession of faith in Him. We can know that He will forgive us and empower His Spirit through His Word  to root out sin in our lives.

Reader: For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For he who has entered into his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his.

Reader: Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Reader: There is no creature that is hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account. Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold tightly to our confession.

Reader: For we don’t have a high priest who can’t be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need.

Comment: Hebrews 9:11-28 clearly connects the wilderness tabernacle and its services with the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus ministers today. It shows that when the Israelites sacrificed an animal they were expressing faith in a Redeemer to come through whom the ultimate forgiveness and cleansing would come.

Reader:  But Christ having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption.

Reader: For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify to the cleanness of the flesh: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without defect to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Reader: For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Reader: For where a last will and testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him who made it. For a will is in force where there has been death, for it is never in force while he who made it lives.

Reader: Therefore even the first covenant has not been dedicated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.”

Reader: Moreover he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry in the same way with the blood. According to the law, nearly everything is cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.

Reader: It was necessary therefore that the copies of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ hasn’t entered into holy places made with hands, which are representations of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;

Reader: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place year by year with blood not his own, or else he must have suffered often since the foundation of the world. But now once at the end of the ages, he has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Reader: Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without sin, to those who are eagerly waiting for him for salvation.

Comment:  This reference to the judgment before Jesus comes the second time is supported in Revelation. 22:12 which says, “Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work.” If the reward is with Him judgment has already occurred.  But we need not fear for we read in Hebrews 10:15-23

 Reader: The Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them:
    ‘After those days,’ says the Lord,
‘I will put my laws on their heart,
    I will also write them on their mind;’”then he says,

“I will remember their sins and their iniquities no more.”

Reader: Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

Reader: and having a great priest over God’s house, let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and having our body washed with pure water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful.

Comment:  Hebrews 1:1-5 assures us of Jesus’ irreproachable qualifications to be our High Priest.

Reader: God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds.

Reader: His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become so much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they have. For to which of the angels did he say at any time,

Reader: “You are my Son.
    Today have I become your father?”  and again, “I will be to him a Father,
    and he will be to me a Son?”

Comment: More than that, having taken on human flesh and blood, Jesus calls us brothers. Now we have the assurance of deliverance from the power of death and there is no fear of the judgment.    Hebrews 2:11-18 says.

Reader: For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

Reader: “I will declare your name to my brothers.
    Among of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Reader: Again, “I will put my trust in him.” Again, “Behold, here I am with the children whom God has given me.”

Reader: Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Reader: For most certainly, he doesn’t give help to angels, but he gives help to the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.

Reader: For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Comment:  The judgment scene and its outcome is portrayed in Dan. 7:9-27. A succession of earthly kingdoms is represented by animals seen in an earlier vision. An unusual king arises out of the last animal that will “speak words against the Most High.”

Reader: I saw until thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat: his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels burning fire.

Reader: A fiery stream issued and came out from before him: thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

Reader: I saw at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke; I saw even until the animal was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the animals, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

Reader: I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

Reader: There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Reader: As for me, Daniel, my spirit was grieved within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.

Reader: These great animals, which are four, are four kings, who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.

Reader: Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth animal, which was diverse from all of them, exceedingly terrible, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails of brass; which devoured, broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three fell, even that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke great things, whose look was more stout than its fellows.

Reader: I saw, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.

Reader: Thus he said, The fourth animal shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings.

Reader: He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.

Reader: But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it to the end. The kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Comment:  While victory for the saints is assured not before the little horn power is allowed to cause great trouble. We find this in Daniel 8:9-14.

Reader: Out of one of them came out a little horn, which grew exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the army of the sky; and some of the army and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled on them.

Reader: Yes, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the army; and it took away from him the continual burnt offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. The army was given over to it together with the continual burnt offering through disobedience; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered.

Reader: Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who spoke, How long shall be the vision about the continual burnt offering, and the disobedience that makes desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the army to be trodden under foot?

Reader: He said to me, To two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

Comment:  What is the cleansing of the sanctuary? What is the meaning of the 2,300 days? A careful study of these prophecies, including Numbers 14:33,34 and Ezekiel 4:4-6 to establish the day for a year principle in interpreting prophecy, will support the view that the 2,300 days/years ended in 1844. So what is the cleansing of the sanctuary? The connection between the wilderness tabernacle services and the heavenly sanctuary has already been established. Now we take a look at the Day of Atonement.  It is described in detail in Lev. 16. The purpose of those services was to make atonement for the tabernacle and the people. Reading from Lev. 16:29-34:

Reader: It shall be a statute to you forever: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and shall do no kind of work, the native-born, or the stranger who lives as a foreigner among you: for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before Yahweh.

Reader:  It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. The priest, who is anointed and who is consecrated to be priest in his father’s place, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, even the holy garments.

Reader: Then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary; and he shall make atonement for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar; and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.

Reader: “This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.

It was done as Yahweh commanded Moses.

Comment: So we believe that in 1844 the heavenly Day of Atonement began. It is a time for God’s people to humble themselves before God to be cleansed of all that defiles. We read about these closing events in Revelation.

Reader: Rev. 14:6, 7 I saw an angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal Good News to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said with a loud voice,

Reader: “Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters!”

Reader: Rev. 20:11, 12   I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them.

Reader: I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Reader: Rev. 14:8-12 Another, a second angel, followed, saying, “Babylon the great has fallen, which has made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her sexual immorality.”

Reader: Another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead, or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger.

Reader: He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.

Reader: Here is the patience of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”

Reader: Rev. 22:12-17 “Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Reader: Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.

Reader: Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Reader: I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star.”

Reader: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” He who hears, let him say, “Come!” He who is thirsty, let him come. He who desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Comment: We are living in the time of the atonement or judgment. Jesus is cleansing all those who are willing to be made ready for His coming. Since we know all this “what manner of persons ought we to be?” May everyone who reads or hears these words determine to let the Spirit of Jesus reside in their hearts.

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Second Coming of Christ

Comment: Jesus grew up in a home with older half brothers and sisters and then for three and a half years he lived among his disciples, more than just the twelve. It was a close relationship and while some doubted, especially his own family, they were very closely attached to him. So they were troubled when he spoke of leaving them. In John 14:1-3 Jesus seeks to comfort them and give them hope.

Reader: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you.

Reader: I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.

Comment: However it was not until after His ascension that they really took hold of that promise. For we have this experience recorded in Acts 1:6-11.

Reader: Therefore when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them,

Reader: “It isn’t for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Reader: When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, who also said,

Reader: “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.”

Comment: The apostle John wrote of that event in Rev. 1:7 & 8.

Reader: Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.

Comment: Even his brother Jude recalled Enoch’s prophecy of that event in Jude 14 & 15.

Reader: About these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Comment: The believer’s preparation for Jesus’ return is highlighted in these statements from Titus and Hebrews.

Reader: Titus 2:11-14   For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;

Reader: looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works.

Reader: Heb. 9:27, 28  Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without sin, to those who are eagerly waiting for him for salvation.

Comment: With these assurances of Jesus’ return it is natural to want to know when and how. So did his disciples. We read in Matt. 24:3-14:

Reader: As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered them,

Reader: “Be careful that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will lead many astray. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you aren’t troubled, for all this must happen, but the end is not yet.

Reader: For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are the beginning of birth pains.

Reader: Then they will deliver you up to oppression, and will kill you. You will be hated by all of the nations for my name’s sake. Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another.

Reader: Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved.

Reader: This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

 

Comment: The apostle Paul by inspiration gives us this account of what it will be like when Jesus returns. He wrote in 1 Thess. 4:13-18:

Reader:  But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Reader: For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet.

Reader: The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Comment: The drama of this event was further emphasized by Jesus himself in Matt. 24:25-31 .

Reader: “Behold, I have told you beforehand. If therefore they tell you, ‘Behold, he is in the wilderness,’ don’t go out; ‘Behold, he is in the inner rooms,’ don’t believe it. For as the lightning flashes from the east, and is seen even to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Reader: For wherever the carcass is, there is where the vultures  gather together. But immediately after the oppression of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.

Reader: Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. He will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Comment: Clearly this event is earth shaking, it is not secret as is popularly believed. That belief is partly derived from Jesus’ own words in Matt. 24:37- 44. But take note of who was taken away at the time of the flood.

Reader: “As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ship, and they didn’t know until the flood came, and took them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Reader: Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one will be left; two women grinding at the mill, one will be taken and one will be left. Watch therefore, for you don’t know in what hour your Lord comes.

Reader: But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore also be ready, for in an hour that you don’t expect, the Son of Man will come.

Comment: In a court of law the agreement of 2 or 3 witnesses helps establish the truth. So we find Mark and Luke agreeing with Matthew in reporting Jesus’ own words about His return.

Reader: Mark 13:23-33  But you watch. “Behold, I have told you all things beforehand. But in those days, after that oppression, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 

Reader: Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out his angels, and will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky.

Reader: “Now from the fig tree, learn this parable. When the branch has now become tender, and produces its leaves, you know that the summer is near; even so you also, when you see these things coming to pass, know that it is near, at the doors.

Reader: Most certainly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.

Reader: Luke 21:25-28 There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and on the earth anxiety of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the waves; men fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Reader: Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near.”

Comment: First Cor. 15:51-58 describes several more things that happen when Jesus comes again.

Reader:  Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.

Reader: For this perishable body must become imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable body will have become imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Reader: “Death, where is your sting?
    Hades, where is your victory?”

Reader: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Comment: Second Thess. 1:3-10 gives believers who experience persecution the assurance that when Jesus comes God will “repay affliction to those who afflict you.”

Reader: We are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers, even as it is appropriate, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of each and every one of you towards one another abounds; so that we ourselves boast about you in the assemblies of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you endure.

Reader:  This is an obvious sign of the righteous judgment of God, to the end that you may be counted worthy of God’s Kingdom, for which you also suffer. Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire,

Reader: giving vengeance to those who don’t know God, and to those who don’t obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus, who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired among all those who have believed (because our testimony to you was believed) in that day.

Comment: In Paul’s day there were some who taught that Jesus’ coming had already taken place. To counteract that he wrote in 2 Thess. 2:1-10:

 Reader:  Now, brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him, we ask you not to be quickly shaken in your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by letter as from us, saying that the day of Christ had come.

Reader: Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of destruction, he who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped;

Reader: so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself up as God. Don’t you remember that, when I was still with you, I told you these things?

Reader: Now you know what is restraining him, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness already works. Only there is one who restrains now, until he is taken out of the way. Then the lawless one will be revealed,

Reader: whom the Lord will kill with the breath of his mouth, and destroy by the manifestation of his coming; even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deception of wickedness for those who are being lost, because they didn’t receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Comment: In Revelation 14:14-20 we have a prophecy of the second coming that likens it to the time of the harvest. It portrays the righteous as fully ripe grain that is gathered into the barn and the wicked as fully ripe grapes that are gathered into the wine press. Think about what it means to be fully ripe

Reader: I looked, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting like a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. Another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud,

Reader: “Send your sickle, and reap; for the hour to reap has come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe!” He who sat on the cloud thrust his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Reader: Another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven. He also had a sharp sickle. Another angel came out from the altar, he who has power over fire, and he called with a great voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying,

Reader: “Send your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for the earth’s grapes are fully ripe!”

Reader: The angel thrust his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. The wine press was trodden outside of the city, and blood came out of the wine press, even to the bridles of the horses, as far as one thousand six hundred stadia.

Comment: A further description of the out pouring of God’s wrath is found in Rev. 19:11-21.

 Reader: I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns.

Reader: He has names written and a name written which no one knows but he himself. He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called “The Word of God.”

Reader: The armies which are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in white, pure, fine linen. Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He treads the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.

Reader: He has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Reader: I saw an angel standing in the sun. He cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the sky, “Come! Be gathered together to the great supper of God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, and small and great.”

Reader:  I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him who sat on the horse, and against his army.

Reader: The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who worked the signs in his sight, with which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

Reader: These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword of him who sat on the horse, the sword which came out of his mouth. All the birds were filled with their flesh.

Comment: In anticipation of that final day of reckoning Paul admonishes Timothy, the Thessalonians and us to be ready.

Reader: 2 Tim. 3:1-5 But know this, that in the last days, grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, not lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied its power.

Reader: 1 Thess. 5:1-6 But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they are saying, “Peace and safety,” then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape.

Reader: But you, brothers, aren’t in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don’t belong to the night, nor to darkness, so then let’s not sleep, as the rest do, but let’s watch and be sober.

Comment: We are living at a wonderful time in this earth’s history. Awesome events are about to take place. It is time for God’s people to wake out of sleep and be totally committed to being Jesus’ full-time disciples.

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Death and Resurrection

Comment: Death is the lot of all life on earth since Adam and Eve sinned. From the very beginning God told Adam and Eve that if they sinned they would die. Satan, speaking through the serpent lied and said you will not die. That lie has been perpetuated in the belief that humans have an immortal soul. Let’s begin by reading Rom. 6:12-23.

 Reader: Therefore don’t let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Also, do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Reader: For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace?

Reader: May it never be! Don’t you know that when you present yourselves as servants and obey someone, you are the servants of whomever you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?

Reader: But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were bondservants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered. Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness.

Reader: I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh, for as you presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to wickedness upon wickedness, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness for sanctification.

Reader: For when you were servants of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit then did you have at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life.

Reader: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Comment: Who does have immortality?        Read 1 Tim. 6:11-16 .

Reader: But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.

Reader:  I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen.

Comment: Solomon, when considering all the things that happen to good and bad people alike came to the conclusion that everybody ends the same way. We read about it in Eccl. 9:1-6.

Reader:  For all this I laid to my heart, even to explore all this: that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; whether it is love or hatred, man doesn’t know it; all is before them.

Reader: All things come alike to all. There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good, to the clean, to the unclean, to him who sacrifices, and to him who doesn’t sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath, as he who fears an oath.

Reader: This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one event to all: yes also, the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. For to him who is joined with all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

Reader: For the living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything, neither do they have any more a reward; for their memory is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy has perished long ago; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.

Comment: The psalmist agrees with Solomon in that the dead are not conscious. They have no thoughts and cannot praise God for there is no breath (spirit) left in them. Psalm 146:1-7 says:

Reader:   Praise Yah!
    Praise Yahweh, my soul.
While I live, I will praise Yahweh.
    I will sing praises to my God as long as I exist.
Don’t put your trust in princes,
    each a son of man in whom there is no help.


Reader: His spirit departs, and he returns to the earth.
    In that very day, his thoughts perish.
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
    whose hope is in Yahweh, his God:
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them;
    who keeps truth forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
    who gives food to the hungry.

Comment: The story of Jesus raising Lazarus to life establishes at least two facts about death and resurrection. The first is that Jesus himself looked on death as a sleep. The second is that Jesus can give life to the dead. Let’s read the story as recorded in  John 11:1-46.

Reader:  Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, of the village of Mary and her sister, Martha. It was that Mary who had anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother, Lazarus, was sick.

Reader: The sisters therefore sent to him, saying, “Lord, behold, he for whom you have great affection is sick.”

Reader: But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that God’s Son may be glorified by it.”

Reader: Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore he heard that he was sick, he stayed two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let’s go into Judea again.”

Reader: The disciples told him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”

Reader: Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours of daylight? If a man walks in the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if a man walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light isn’t in him.” He said these things, and after that, he said to them,

Reader: “Our friend, Lazarus, has fallen asleep, but I am going so that I may awake him out of sleep.”

Reader: The disciples therefore said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”

Reader: Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he spoke of taking rest in sleep. So Jesus said to them plainly then,

Reader: “Lazarus is dead. I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe. Nevertheless, let’s go to him.”

Reader: Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go also, that we may die with him.”

Reader: So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days already. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia away. Many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother.

Reader: Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary stayed in the house. Therefore Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Reader: Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Reader: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Reader: She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, he who comes into the world.”

Reader: When she had said this, she went away, and called Mary, her sister, secretly, saying, “The Teacher is here, and is calling you.”

Reader: When she heard this, she arose quickly, and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was in the place where Martha met him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and were consoling her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying,

Reader: “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”

Reader: Therefore when Mary came to where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

Reader: When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?”

Reader: They told him, “Lord, come and see.”

Reader: Jesus wept.

Reader: The Jews therefore said, “See how much affection he had for him!” Some of them said, “Couldn’t this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have also kept this man from dying?”

Reader: Jesus therefore, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Reader: Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

Reader: Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?”

Reader: So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you listened to me. I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude that stands around I said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice,

Reader: “Lazarus, come out!”

Reader: He who was dead came out, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.

Reader: Jesus said to them, “Free him, and let him go.”

Reader: Therefore many of the Jews, who came to Mary and saw what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done.

Comment: From the earliest days, even the days of the apostles, doctrinal errors have been introduced into the Christian Church and aggressively taught. In Paul’s day there were those in Corinth who taught that resurrection from the dead cannot happen. Paul deals with that heresy forcefully and extensively in 1 Cor. 15:1-58.

 Reader:  Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Reader: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Reader: Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, most of whom remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to the child born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.

Reader: For I am the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the assembly of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am. His grace which was given to me was not futile, but I worked more than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Whether then it is I or they, so we preach, and so you believed.

Reader: Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised.

Reader: If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn’t raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised.

Reader: For if the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.

Reader: But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

Reader: But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming. Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power.

Reader: For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For, “He put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when he says, “All things are put in subjection”, it is evident that he is excepted who subjected all things to him.

Reader: When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all.

Reader: Or else what will they do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead aren’t raised at all, why then are they baptized for the dead? Why do we also stand in jeopardy every hour? I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If I fought with animals at Ephesus for human purposes, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, then “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Reader: Don’t be deceived! “Evil companionships corrupt good morals.” Wake up righteously, and don’t sin, for some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. But someone will say,

Reader: “How are the dead raised?” and, “With what kind of body do they come?”

Reader: You foolish one, that which you yourself sow is not made alive unless it dies. That which you sow, you don’t sow the body that will be, but a bare grain, maybe of wheat, or of some other kind. But God gives it a body even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.

Reader: All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial differs from that of the terrestrial.

Reader: There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown perishable; it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is also a spiritual body.

Reader: So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Reader: However that which is spiritual isn’t first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, made of dust. The second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the one made of dust, such are those who are also made of dust; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

Reader: As we have borne the image of those made of dust, let’s also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood can’t inherit God’s Kingdom; neither does the perishable inherit imperishable.

Reader: Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.

Reader: For this perishable body must become imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable body will have become imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory.]

Reader: “Death, where is your sting?
    Hades, where is your victory?”

Reader: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Comment: In 1 Thess. 4:13-18 Paul gives us another view of Jesus’ second coming and the resurrection of “the dead in Christ.”

Reader:  But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Reader: For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep.

Reader: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever.

Reader: Therefore comfort one another with these words

Comment: In John 5:24-30 Jesus clearly identifies two resurrections, one a resurrection to life the other to judgment.

Reader:  “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Reader: Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God’s voice; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself.

Reader: He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

Reader: I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I don’t seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me.

Comment: In Rev. 20:1-10 the two resurrections are more clearly explained both in terms of who are being resurrected and when they take place.

Reader: I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. He seized the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole inhabited earth, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were finished.

Reader: After this, he must be freed for a short time. I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as didn’t worship the beast nor his image, and didn’t receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand.

Reader:  They lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead didn’t live until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years.

Reader: And after the thousand years, Satan will be released from his prison, and he will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. They went up over the width of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city.

Reader:  Fire came down out of heaven from God, and devoured them. The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Comment: Surely we all want to be among those taken to be with Jesus at his second coming, either resurrected in the first resurrection or taken up without seeing death. In anticipation of that wonderful time we would do well to respond positively to the appeal Paul sent to the Colossians. Col. 3:1-17

Reader: If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Reader: When Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory. Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, depraved passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.

Reader: You also once walked in those, when you lived in them; but now you also put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and shameful speaking out of your mouth. Don’t lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his Creator, where there can’t be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondservant, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.

Reader: Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do.

Reader: Above all these things, walk in love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Reader: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord.

Reader: Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him.

Comment: Amen and Amen

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 Millennium and the End of Sin

Comment: The decisive battle in the conflict between Christ and Satan was won at the cross. Through Christ’s victorious life and death we are assured that ultimately sin and sinners will be forever removed from the universe. When and how that will occur is revealed in Revelation chapter 20.

Reader: I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. He seized the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole inhabited earth, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were finished. After this, he must be freed for a short time.

Reader: I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as didn’t worship the beast nor his image, and didn’t receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand.

Reader: They lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead didn’t live until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years.

Reader: And after the thousand years, Satan will be released from his prison, and he will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

Reader: They went up over the width of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. Fire came down out of heaven from God, and devoured them. The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Reader: I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life.

Reader:  The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works.

Reader: Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

Comment: Several times in Scripture it says that the wicked will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” It is from such statements that the popular idea of a forever burning hell is derived. However consider Jude verses 5-7.

Reader: Now I desire to remind you, though you already know this, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who didn’t believe.

Reader: Angels who didn’t keep their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.

Reader: Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, having, in the same way as these, given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are shown as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.

Comment: That passage ends by saying that those cities suffered the punishment of “eternal fire” but they are not still buning. Then there is this passage from Mal. 4:1-3.

Reader:  “For, behold, the day comes, it burns as a furnace; and all the proud, and all who work wickedness, will be stubble; and the day that comes will burn them up,” says Yahweh of Armies, “that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 

Reader: But to you who fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings. You will go out, and leap like calves of the stall. You shall tread down the wicked; for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I make,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Comment: The revelation concerning Satan as the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:12-19 says the same thing about him. He will become ashes.

Reader: Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and tell him, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: You seal up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onyx, jasper, sapphire] turquoise, and beryl.

Reader: Gold work of tambourines and of pipes was in you. In the day that you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub who covers: and I set you, so that you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire.

Reader: You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you. By the abundance of your traffic they filled your insides with violence, and you have sinned: therefore I have cast you as profane out of the mountain of God; and I have destroyed you, covering cherub, from the middle of the stones of fire.

Reader: Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I have cast you to the ground; I have laid you before kings, that they may see you.

Reader: By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your traffic, you have profaned your sanctuaries; therefore have I brought out a fire from the middle of you; it has devoured you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all those who see you.

Reader: All those who know you among the peoples shall be astonished at you: you have become a terror, and you shall nevermore have any being.

Comment: Those passages all indicate that there will be a complete end of all wickedness, they become as ashes. Moreover, consider Jesus’ death. He died the death that we deserve. It was a death of total separation from God. He said in great agony, “My God why have you forsaken me.” He did not burn forever. Now let’s read some other scriptures that shed light on Revelation 20. In 1 Cor. 6:1-3 we read:

Reader:  Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Don’t you know that we will judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

Comment: Revelation 20 said that the righteous will reign with Christ for 1,000 years. Is this the time the “saints will judge the world?” A careful reading of Revelation 20 will reveal that only the righteous are raised at Jesus second coming and taken with the living righteous to heaven. The living wicked die at his coming so that Satan and his angels are all alone on the earth. This condition was described in Jeremiah 4:19-28

Reader: My anguish, my anguish! I am pained at my very heart; my heart is disquieted in me; I can’t hold my peace; because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

Reader: Destruction on destruction is cried; for the whole land is laid waste: suddenly are my tents destroyed, and my curtains in a moment. How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?

Reader: “For my people are foolish, they don’t know me. They are foolish children, and they have no understanding. They are skillful in doing evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.”

Reader: I saw the earth, and, behold, it was waste and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I saw the mountains, and behold, they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth. I saw, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the sky had fled.

Reader: I saw, and behold, the fruitful field was a wilderness, and all its cities were broken down at the presence of Yahweh, before his fierce anger. For Yahweh says, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet will I not make a full end. For this the earth will mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and I have not repented, neither will I turn back from it.”

Comment: At the second resurrection there are multitudes of people for Satan to lead to attack the New Jerusalem. When they do, fire comes out from God and destroys them. The fire purifies the earth so that it is ready for God to recreate it. We read in Rev. 21:1-8:

Reader:   I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying,

Reader: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Reader: He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.”

Reader:  He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He said, “Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.” He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Reader:  I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Comment: Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matt. 5:6  We now see how that promise will ultimately be fulfilled. The blessing and joy of being with God throughout eternity in a new earth cannot be over estimated. But we dare not wait to receive the blessing He wants to give us now.

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New Earth

Comment: The righteous saved, having spent 1,000 years in heaven with all the heavenly hosts reviewing the books that condemn the wicked to eternal loss, return to this earth with the new Jerusalem. When Satan and his angels provoke those raised in the second resurrection to attack the New Jerusalem, they are destroyed and the earth purified by “eternal fire.” God then recreates the world as the eternal home of the saved. The Bible gives us a glimpse of what that will be like. Second Peter 3:1-13 says:

 Reader: This is now, beloved, the second letter that I have written to you; and in both of them I stir up your sincere mind by reminding you; that you should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior: knowing this first, that in the last days mockers will come, walking after their own lusts, and saying,

Reader: “Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

Reader: For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth formed out of water and amid water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.

Reader: But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Reader: But don’t forget this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Reader: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

Reader:  Therefore since all these things will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, which will cause the burning heavens to be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

Reader:  But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells

Comment: The entire chapter of Isaiah 35 is a vision describing that new Earth. Listen carefully to what it says.

Reader: The wilderness and the dry land will be glad. The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.
It will blossom abundantly,
    and rejoice even with joy and singing.

Reader:    Lebanon’s glory will be given to it,
    the excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
    They will see Yahweh’s glory,
    the excellence of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.

Reader: Tell those who have a fearful heart, “Be strong.    Don’t be afraid.
    Behold, your God will come with vengeance, God’s retribution.
    He will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

Reader: Then the lame man will leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute will sing;
    for waters will break out in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert

Reader: The burning sand will become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water.
    Grass with reeds and rushes will be in the habitation of jackals, where they lay.

Reader: A highway will be there, a road,
    and it will be called The Holy Way.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
    but it will be for those who walk in the Way.
    Wicked fools will not go there.

Reader: No lion will be there,
    nor will any ravenous animal go up on it.
    They will not be found there;
    but the redeemed will walk there.

Reader: The Yahweh’s ransomed ones will return,
    and come with singing to Zion;
    and everlasting joy will be on their heads.
They will obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Comment: Isaiah continues that description in even more appealing language in Isa. 65:17-25.

Reader:  “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
    and the former things will not be remembered,
    nor come into mind.

Reader: But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create;
    for, behold, I create Jerusalem to be a delight,
    and her people a joy.

Reader: I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
    and delight in my people;
and the voice of weeping and the voice of crying
    will be heard in her no more.

Reader: “No more will there be an infant who only lives a few days,
    nor an old man who has not filled his days;
for the child will die one hundred years old,
    and the sinner being one hundred years old will be accursed.

Reader: They will build houses, and inhabit them.
    They will plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.
 They will not build, and another inhabit.

Reader: They will not plant, and another eat:
for the days of my people will be like the days of a tree,
    and my chosen will long enjoy the work of their hands.

Reader: They will not labor in vain,
    nor give birth for calamity;
for they are the offspring of Yahweh’s blessed,
    and their descendants with them.

Reader: It will happen that, before they call, I will answer;
    and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.

Reader: The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
    Dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,”
    says Yahweh

Comment:  Jesus said in Matthew  5:5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. The apostle John describes that experience not so much in terms of physical beauty and peace but in terms of an eternal relationship with God;  This is what we find in Rev. 21:1-8.

Reader:  I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more.

Reader: I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying,

Reader: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.”

Reader: He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He said, “Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.” He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Reader: I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.

Reader: But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Comment: And in  Revelation 22:1-5 we read:

Reader:  He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month.

Reader: The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him.

Reader: They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them. They will reign forever and ever.

Comment: We read of the ultimate victory in Rev. 11:15-17.

Reader:  The seventh angel sounded, and great voices in heaven followed, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. He will reign forever and ever!”

Reader: The twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God’s throne, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give you thanks, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who was; because you have taken your great power, and reigned.

Comment: May everyone who has shared in these Bible readings know Jesus as their Savior and also have a share in that New Earth. Now is the time to share with each other how you will continue to explore the Word of God. Consider organizing another small group to once again discover What The Bible Says.”

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