Week of 7 Epiphany A – 02/19 – 25/2017

February 18, 2017

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

ttp://www.commontexts.org/rcl/ (usage)

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/  (Please bookmark this link).

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 7 Epiphany A

Sunday 7 Epiphany A

First Posted February 20, 2011;

Podcast: Sunday 7 Epiphany A

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 – God’s People Must be Holy;
Psalm 103:1-13 – God’s Steadfast Love;
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 – Call to Holiness;
Matthew 5:38-48 – Higher Righteousness;

Leviticus Paraphrase:

The Lord declared through Moses, that God’s people (the people of Israel; the Church) must be holy (purified from sin: disobedience of God’s Word; consecrated to God’s service), because God is holy (pure and sinless).

We are not to hate one another but instead reason with them, or we will be guilty of sin against them. We are not to take vengeance or bear a grudge against others, but instead love them just as we love ourselves. This is the Lord’s command.

Psalm Paraphrase:

With my soul, may I bless the Lord and his holy name with all that is within me. May I not ever forget all his blessings: he has forgiven all my sins, he heals all my diseases, he redeems my soul from death and the grave, he has anointed me with steadfast love and mercy, he will bless me with everything good all my life long, so that my youth is renewed like that of the eagle’s.

For all those who are oppressed, the Lord works vindication and justice. He revealed his ways to Moses and the people of Israel. Merciful and gracious is the Lord; slow to get angry, and overflowing with unwavering love. He does not always criticize, nor remain angry forever. He hasn’t given us the punishment our sins deserve, or repaid us according to our iniquities. As high as the heavens are above earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. He removes our sin as far from us as the east is from the west. He pities those who fear him, like any good father pities his children.

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul was given a commission to lay a (spiritual) foundation (of the church; by the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ) as an experienced master builder lays a solid foundation for a building. Now others are building on that foundation. Each worker must be careful to build soundly upon it; there is no other foundation upon which to build but the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which Paul had built).

We must realize that we are (individually and collectively) God’s temple, in whom God’s Spirit dwells. God’s temple is holy (free of sin; set apart to God’s service) and so we must be. God will destroy anyone who destroys God’s temple.

Let no one be deceived; if anyone wants to become wise, let him become a fool (according to the standards of this age) so that he may become truly wise (see 1 Corinthians 1:17-25). “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19a). Paul quotes Job 5:13: “[God] catches the wise in their craftiness,” and Psalm 94:11: “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:19b-20). So let us not boast of mankind. We do not belong to any human teacher, but they instead belong to us, but only because we belong to Christ, and through Christ to God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Background:

Jesus taught the multitudes which thronged to him, telling them that they needed to pursue higher righteousness than merely obeying the letter of the Law of Moses.

Text:

Jesus said that they knew the law concerning retaliation: An eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. But Jesus taught them not to resist evil people. If someone strikes a person on the right cheek, that person should offer the other cheek as well. If someone wants to take a person’s cloak, that person should offer his coat as well. If someone forces a person to go a mile with him, that person should go a second mile as well. One should give to someone who begs, and loan to those who ask to borrow.

Jesus said that it not sufficient to love one’s neighbors and hate one’s enemies. We are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. God himself gives the blessings of sun and rain to both good and evil people. How better are we than anyone else, when we love those who love us? How can we expect a reward? Even the worst of people, gentiles (pagans) and tax collectors (Jewish collaborators with the Roman occupying government), love their friends and hate their enemies. So we must be righteous (doing what is good, right and true, according to God’s Word) as God himself is righteous.

Commentary:

God himself is pure and sinless and so we must be also. God is not willing to tolerate sin and rebellion forever, or at all in his eternal kingdom, or it wouldn’t be heaven.

We are all sinners who fall short of God’s standard of righteousness (doing what is good, right, and true, according to God’s Word, in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, the living Word. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived in human flesh in this world (John 1:1-5, 14). Only by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus can we be cleansed of sin.

God has been teaching his people that sin can only be forgiven by blood sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22). Under the Old Covenant (Old Testament) of Law, priests had to continually offer animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of the sin of the people and themselves. Jesus has become the only sacrifice acceptable to God for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal condemnation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Only by the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross can we be cleansed of sin, and be able to be individually temples of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9; note the concept of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit: one God in three persons, or “expressions”). Only by the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit are we able to become “living” stones from which the Church is built, upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ.

Only Jesus gives the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Only by the baptism of the Holy Spirit are we spiritually “born-again” to eternal life (John 3:3, 5-8). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God’s original Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) were intended to restrain God’s People from doing evil, until the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus summarized the Commandment to just two: to love God, and to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). If we truly love God we will earnestly want to obey his commandments, and if we truly love our neighbor (anyone we encounter), we will do them no wrong, but instead treat them just as we ourselves want to be treated (Matthew 7:12, 22:39).

The law of retribution (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21) was intended to limit retaliation to not exceed the original offense. This is an example of how the original Ten Commandments were modified by statute to make it possible to keep the “letter” (though not the “spirit”) of the Law, until the coming of the Messiah (Christ; both words mean [God’s] anointed in Hebrew and Greek, respectively).

Jesus taught a new righteousness, not based on the keeping of the letter of the Law, but emulating the righteousness of God based on God’s Word and the example of Jesus Christ himself. The commandment to love our neighbor goes beyond just loving our friends and family. We are called to love our enemies and those who don’t love us; to go beyond what the Law requires; to forgive, rather than retaliating.

The “coming” of the Messiah, Jesus, is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament* (Psalm 2:1-12; Isaiah 53:1-12; 2 Samuel 7:5-13; Psalm 89:20-29). Jesus came in human flesh, but he also comes personally and individually to those who believe (who trust and obey) Jesus, by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9).

No one was able to keep all the Law all the time (Galatians 2:16; James 2:10). Jesus came to initiate a New Covenant (Testament) of Grace (undeserved favor) as a free gift, to be received by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 8:8-10, 13; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:26-28 KJV; RSV: see note “g”). Under the New Covenant, we are freed from the obligation of the Law, provided that we are obedient to the guidance and empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-10). Only by the indwelling Holy Spirit are we able to do what the Law requires, motivated by love instead of fear.

I am convinced that Paul was deliberately intended by God to be the prototype and example of a “modern, post-resurrection, born-again” disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, as we all can and should be. I believe that Paul was intended by God to be the replacement for Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, rather than Matthias, whom the disciples chose by lot (rather than by the guidance of the Holy Spirit; Acts 1:15-26, which they had not yet received), while they were supposed to be waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, &8). Matthias was never heard from again, after his appointment, whereas, after Paul’s conversion, most of the rest of the New Testament is by or about Paul.

The members of the Church are to be “living” stones to be built into the temple of God. We are called, individually and collectively to be “holy.” In too many instances, the nominal Church today is tolerating “unholiness” among its leaders and members. We should not be allowing God’s grace** to become license for immorality (such as sexual sin,*** adultery, or homosexuality****) within the Church.

All who are led by the Spirit are children of God (Romans 8:9b, 14-16). Anyone who hasn’t been spiritually born-again does not belong to Jesus.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*See also:
http://www.bibleprobe.com/over-300-prophecies.pdf

**See: “Cheap Grace:” See: Ephesians 4:17-24; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. See also: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6.

***1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (6-13).

****See 1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:24-27; from two Greek words meaning “men bedding (or conceiving) with men” (Strong’s #730 & 2845; see Strong’s #733); i.e., “sodomites,” after the city of Sodom, destroyed by God for its homosexual practice (Genesis 19:4-5 (24-25); men who have unnatural sexual relations with men (and, by extension, women who have unnatural sexual relations with women). The KJV translates as: “men defiling themselves with men.


Monday Before Last Epiphany – A

To be used after the last Variable Sunday of Epiphany until Transfiguration.
First Posted 2/28/2011;

Podcast: Monday 8 Epiphany A

Psalm 2:6-13 – The Lord’s Anointed King;

Paraphrase:

The Lord declares that he has enthroned his “anointed” (eternal) king on Zion (the temple mount; Jerusalem; the people of God; the Church; the heavenly city), God’s holy hill.

The Lord has declared that the Christ (Messiah; both words mean “anointed” in Greek and Hebrew, respectively) is God’s (only; John 1:14b; 3:16) “begotten” Son [begotten physically by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20, 23; Luke 1:34-35) and spiritually (John 1:32-34; Matthew 3:17) by the Holy Spirit (John 1:33]. God has given all nations and all people to the inheritance of Jesus Christ. God has given the power of physical and spiritual life and death over all the earth and all people to Jesus Christ. Christ’s authority is like a rod of iron against a clay pot.

The kings and rulers of earth are warned to serve the Lord with fear and trembling (having a healthy respect for the power and authority of the Lord), to avoid perishing (eternally) by the wrath of God. Those who take refuge in the Lord will be glad that they did.

Commentary:

The Lord has always been the intended King of God’s people (1 Samuel 8:5-7). When Israel asked for a human king, God allowed them to have one, although he warned them of the consequences (1 Samuel 8:11-18). The king was chosen by the “anointing” of the Lord (1 Samuel 9:15-17; 10:1-9). God has given all power and authority, in heaven and earth, to Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18).

Jesus came to be the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of our sins (disobedience of God’s Word; Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right) and restoration to fellowship with God and to eternal life, both lost through sin.

Jesus is the righteous Judge, who is coming again, at the end of time (this temporal age; our lifetime), to judge the living (“quickened”) and dead in both the physical and spiritual senses (1 Peter 4:5; John 5:28-29). All who have ever lived will be accountable to the Lord for what they have done in this temporal lifetime. Those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord (eternal King) and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in heaven; those who have refused to accept Jesus as Lord and have not trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal destruction in hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10).

Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings, whether we recognize him as our Lord and King or not. Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday Before Last Epiphany – A

To be used after the last Variable Sunday of Epiphany until Transfiguration
First Posted March 1, 2011;

Podcast: Tuesday Before Last Epiphany A

Exodus 24:12, 15-18 – Moses in God’s Presence;

Paraphrase:

The Lord told Moses to come to the top of Mt. Sinai and wait, and the Lord would give Moses the Law written on stone tablets. Moses did as God commanded and the cloud (and fire; of God’s presence) settled on the top of the mountain. Moses waited and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. The Glory of the Lord appeared as a “devouring fire” on the mountaintop and was visible to the Israelites waiting below. Moses entered the cloud and was on the mountaintop forty days and nights.

Moses and the Israelites were led through the wilderness by God’s presence manifested as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). When God descended upon Mt. Sinai, he was manifested in a cloud and fire to the Israelites waiting below, but only Moses was allowed to enter into God’s presence.

Commentary:

Jesus came to make it possible, by the blood sacrifice of his body on the Cross, for us to be forgiven and cleansed of sin so that we can enter into God’s presence. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection made it possible for us to be filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God’s presence within us, through whom we have personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the “pillar of cloud and fire” (Acts 2:3; Matthew 3:11) within us to guide us safely through the “wilderness of the spiritually dark night of this world, and into the eternal Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom of heaven. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God calls us to come and enter into his presence through Jesus Christ who is the only way, the only door, to God’s presence and God’s eternal kingdom. We must act at once in faith (obedient trust) in Jesus and God’s Word, and then we must be willing to wait for God’s timing.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday Before Last Epiphany – A

To be used after the last Variable Sunday of Epiphany until Transfiguration.
First Posted March 2, 2011;

Podcast: Wednesday 8 Epiphany A

2 Peter 1:16-19 (20-21) – Apostolic Doctrine;

Paraphrase:

The Gospel is not a collection of myths devised by humans, but the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and his power. Peter (and James and John) were present with Jesus on the mountain at Jesus’ transfiguration, when the voice of God from heaven declared that Jesus is God’s beloved Son, with whom God was pleased. They heard and so testified. Their testimony verifies that the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament prophecies and the Apostolic testimony should be studied, as a light in the darkness, until we have received the indwelling Holy Spirit. The prophecy of scripture is not man’s insight or interpretation, but humans inspired by the Holy Spirit proclaimed the Word of God.

The Apostle Peter was one of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples who was present at the Transfiguration. He witnessed Jesus’ meeting with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop. He saw Jesus become supernaturally radiant (Matthew 17:1-8). Peter heard the voice from heaven declare that Jesus was God’s beloved Son (Matthew 17:5). Peter testified that Jesus had declared that the prophecy of Elijah coming before the manifestation of the Messiah had been fulfilled by John the Baptist (Matthew 17:9-13). Peter witnessed that prophecy fulfilled in both events.

This Letter of 2 Peter is part of the Apostolic (as taught by the Apostles) Gospel which the Apostles had received directly from Jesus Christ, and were passing on to new believers. New believers are to study the Old Testament and the New Testament as they await “rebirth” through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Old Testament contains the prophecies of the Messiah (Christ) and the New Testament is the eyewitness testimony of their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

New believers are to be trained as disciples of Jesus Christ by “born-again” disciples until the new believers have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19b). The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit ends the spiritual night of eternal death and rises as the dawn and the bright morning star (compare Revelation 22:16) to give us the light of Spiritual life and insight within our hearts.

The Apostle Paul is the prototype and example of a modern “born-again” disciple and Apostle of Jesus Christ, as we all can be. Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus) was confronted by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-4). Paul repented, accepted Jesus as Lord (Acts 9:5), obeyed Jesus’ command to wait for further instructions (Acts 9:6-9), was “discipled” by a “born-again” disciple (Acts 9:10-16), until Paul had received the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18). Then he began proclaiming the Gospel (Acts 9:19-20).

Paul’s example is unique in the speed with which he was born-again and became an Apostle. The original Twelve disciples spent two and a half years with Jesus night and day and still had to wait (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, &8) until the Day of Pentecost when they were “reborn” (Acts 2:1-13). Paul had already been formally educated in the Jewish scriptures (The Old Testament) and was zealous for God. He just needed to be pointed to the Messiah, Jesus.

Once Paul had been “reborn” he was guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and he testified to the risen Jesus of whom he had personal experience and knowledge. He became as much an Apostle as the others.

Jesus comes to his disciples individually and personally as they trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

There is a Day of Judgment coming, at the end of the temporal age, when Jesus will return to judge everyone who has ever lived (John 5:28-29). Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life with the Lord in the eternal kingdom of heaven, but those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal condemnation and destruction in Hell (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). No one knows when Jesus will return, but we have only this lifetime to be spiritually “reborn” and no one can be certain that one will live to see tomorrow. Today is the day of salvation; today is the day to receive Jesus and to begin learning to trust and obey him.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*I believe that Paul is the one the Lord chose to take the place of Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, not Matthias (Acts 2:12-26).


Thursday Before Last Epiphany – A

To be used after the last Variable Sunday of Epiphany until Transfiguration.
First Posted March 3, 2011;

Podcast: Thursday 8 Epiphany A

Matthew 17:1-9 – Transfiguration;

Paraphrase:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John, the brother of James, and went up to the top of a mountain. Jesus was transfigured in their presence: his face became bright as the sun, and his clothes became radiant as light. Two figures, Moses and Elijah, appeared with Jesus and were talking with him.

Peter suggested that the disciples should build three booths: one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. While Peter was saying this a bright cloud overshadowed and a voice from the cloud declared that Jesus was [God’s] beloved Son, that God was well pleased with him, and that the disciples should listen (hear and obey) him. The disciples were frightened by what they had heard and seen, and prostrated themselves, but Jesus came and touched them and told them not to be afraid.

When they looked around there was no one with them but Jesus. As they came down from the mountaintop Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they had witnessed “until the Son of Man is raised from the Dead” (Matthew 17:9).

Commentary:

Peter (Cephas; Simon), James and John were the three disciples of Jesus’ inner circle. They had also accompanied Jesus into the home of Jairus, when the daughter was raised from the dead (Luke 8:41-56). The Apostle Paul later stated that they were pillars of the Church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). They were chosen by Jesus to witness Jesus’ transfiguration and the presence of Moses and Elijah during that transfiguration.

The scribes (teachers of the Law; the Jewish Scripture) taught that Elijah was expected to return to prepare Israel for the coming of Messiah. The three disciples asked Jesus about this on the way down from the mountaintop, and Jesus told them that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of that prophecy (Matthew 17:10-13). The three disciples had also witnessed the fulfillment of that prophecy on the mountaintop in the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

Peter suggested building three booths. Booths were temporary shelters set up during the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) to commemorate the Israel’s wilderness experience. Booths had become a religious symbol and shrine. Peter wanted to create a memorial to Moses, the “lawgiver,” and Elijah, the great prophet, as well as Jesus, but the voice of God made it clear that Jesus was of greater magnitude than the Jewish patriarchs; Jesus was the beloved (and only begotten) Son of God, and that we are to trust and obey Jesus, rather than being loyal to the Jewish patriarchs and Jewish tradition. The three disciples were witness to the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, but were not to testify to that experience until after Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Moses’ face had become radiant after being in the presence of God on the mountaintop (Exodus 34:29-35). Jesus’ face was as radiant as the sun and his clothes were also supernaturally radiant. Jesus’ radiance was a greater order of magnitude.

Jesus is the new spiritual “Moses.” He is not only fully human but fully divine (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus is the new mediator between God and mankind. Jesus is the new leader who brings us through the spiritual wilderness into the eternal Promised Land. Jesus doesn’t just reflect God’s presence; he radiates it.

The three disciples were allowed to witness Jesus’ heavenly glory, and to testify about it after Jesus’ death and resurrection, but Jesus did not demonstrate it publicly, so that people would have the freedom to decide for themselves who Jesus is.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday Before Last Epiphany – A

To be used after the last Variable Sunday of Epiphany until Transfiguration.
First Posted March 4, 2011;

Podcast:Friday Before Last Epiphany A

Isaiah 35:3-7 – Promise of Salvation;

1 Peter 3:18-22 – Salvation through Baptism;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Take strength, weak hands; be firm, feeble knees; be strong, fear not, fearful heart! Look and see; your God is coming with vengeance and recompense, to save you.

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped” (Isaiah 35:5); then the lame will leap like a [deer] (see Acts 3:8), the mute will sing for joy. Springs of water will arise in the wilderness, and streams will flow in the desert. Dry ground will be transformed into pools of water, and dry wilderness will become a swamp; reeds and rushes will replace grass.

1 Peter Paraphrase:

Christ died for sin once for all time and all people, the righteous one for the unrighteous, in order to reconcile us to God. He died in the flesh but was made alive in the spirit. He proclaimed the Gospel to those in prison who formerly did not obey God.

In the days of Noah God waited patiently during the building of the ark, by which eight people were saved through water. The Flood corresponds to Christian Baptism which now saves us through water, not as the cleansing of physical dirt from our physical bodies, “but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21) who has entered into heaven and sits at the place of honor at God’s right hand, with authority over angels and all powers (in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

Commentary:

Throughout the Old Testament God has promised to bring forth a Savior, the Messiah. God has designed his plan of salvation into the structure of Creation from the very beginning (John 1:1-5, 14). Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah, during the period of the destruction of the northern kingdom of the ten tribes, Israel.

In this text God promises to come and save those who are trusting in him, bringing vengeance on those who do not trust and obey him and who oppress his people. The Lord will come to repay everyone who has ever lived, according to what they have done in life.

One of the signs of the coming of the Messiah will be the healing of the blind, deaf, lame and mute (Isaiah 35:6a). Spiritually dry wasteland will be transformed by the living water of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39)

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promised Savior, the Messiah (Christ and Messiah each mean “anointed” in Greek and Hebrew, respectively). Jesus is God’s “anointed” eternal Savior and King.

Jesus’ first coming (advent) was distinguished by the healing of the physically blind, deaf, mute and lame (Matthew 9:2-7, 27-33, Mark 7:31-37; John 5:1-9). Jesus also healed the sick and raised the dead (Luke 17:11-19; Matthew 9:18-26). The purpose of Jesus’ miracles of physical healing and restoration were intended to show that he was the promised Messiah, and that he could also heal those who are spiritually blind, deaf, mute, lame, sick, and dead.

Jesus is God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus’ words are the Word of God (John 14:10, 24), and have the creative force of God’s Word (Matthew 8:23-26; Genesis 1:3). Jesus manifests God to those who trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 11:27; John 14:6-11 21, 23).

Jesus has promised to return on the Day of Judgment at the end of time, to judge the living (“quickened”) and the dead, in both physical and spiritual senses (1 Peter 4:5). He is coming with the recompense of God. He will save from God’s vengeance and punishment those who are trusting and obeying Jesus (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right), but he will condemn and eternally destroy those who have refused to accept Jesus and have refused to trust and obey him, who have opposed God and have oppressed God’s people (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Jesus is the one and only blood sacrifice acceptable to God for sin for all time and all people who will accept it by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Jesus is the (Passover) Lamb of God (John 1:35-36); the perfect, blemish-free Lamb sacrificed for the Passover Feast, which protected God’s people from the angel of death, when God destroyed the first-born of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:5-14).

Jesus and God the Father alone are righteous; we are all unrighteous sinners (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). We have been alienated from God because of sin. Jesus is the only way to restore us to fellowship with God and eternal life in his heavenly kingdom (Acts 4:12, John 14:6).

Jesus died in the flesh but was raised from physical death to spiritual, eternal life. In a sense we are all imprisoned by sin and death. Jesus has come to free us from sin and death and give us eternal life (Hebrews 2:14-15; John 10:10).

God once destroyed the earth by the Flood. The people were wicked and didn’t heed God’s Word of warning, but Noah did, and saved his family through God’s provision, by believing God’s Word and following God’s instruction by building the Ark (Genesis 6:5-8:22).

God has given his Word of warning that he is going to destroy the wicked, the rebellious and disobedient; this time by fire in Hell. Jesus Christ is the “Ark” which he has provided to save those who trust and obey God’s Word.

The historical Flood is also a metaphor for the waters of Baptism, through which those who trust and obey Jesus will escape destruction and receive eternal life. We are saved through Baptism by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. In Baptism we have the “promise” of Salvation, but we have to claim and “own” it through obedient trust in Jesus Christ. To all who receive Jesus (Revelation 3:20), who believe (trust and obey) in his name (character and person; i.e. God’s only begotten Son; God’s anointed Savior and eternal King), he gives the *power* (the promise and the ability) to become spiritual children of God, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, by the power and will of God (not by flesh or the effort and will of mankind; John 1:12-13).

We must be spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8), by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether or not one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Those who have been “born-again” have been forgiven all their sins, and have a clear conscience in God’s judgment (Hebrews 9:13-14). God attributes to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ and we have eternal life through Jesus’ resurrection.

We who have been “born-again” can be reassured and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the risen Jesus within us (Romans 8:9), as we approach the Day of Judgment. We can be confident that we will receive a share in the reward of Jesus Christ in heaven (Romans 8:17). We need not fear God’s vengeance and condemnation.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday Before Last Epiphany – A

To be used after the last Variable Sunday of Epiphany until Transfiguration;
First Posted March 5, 2011;

Podcast: Saturday Before Last Epiphany A

John 12:23-36 – The Hour of Salvation;

Paraphrase:

Jesus declared that his “hour” had come for him to be glorified. Jesus compared his death to the process of sprouting seeds. Seeds must be buried in order to sprout and bear fruit. A person who loves life in this world will lose it, but one who hates his life now will keep it for eternity. Anyone who serves the Lord must follow his example and teaching. His servant will be where Jesus is, and God the Father will honor him.

Jesus’ soul was troubled at the knowledge of what was coming, and his flesh would prefer if God would save him from his crucifixion, but he recognized that this was his purpose in coming. So Jesus instead prayed that God would glorify God’s name. A voice from heaven said “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again” (John 12:28). Some who heard, thought it had thundered; others said that an angel had spoken to Jesus. Jesus said that the voice had come for the crowd’s benefit, not Jesus’.

Jesus declared that now, in Jesus’ hour, was the judgment of the world, and the ruler of this world (Satan) would be defeated and cast out. Jesus declared that when Jesus was lifted up from earth (indicating that he would die on the Cross) he would draw all people to himself. People in the crowd said that according to scripture the Christ would remain for ever, so how could Jesus say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is the Son of man?

Jesus replied that the light was present with them a little longer. So they should walk in the light while they had the light, so that they would not overtaken by the darkness. A person walking in darkness does not know where he is going. While the light is present, believe in the light, that you may become children of light.

Commentary:

The timing of Jesus’ coming and sacrifice were according to God’s will, not the world’s (compare John 2:4). Jesus’ death on the Cross was absolutely essential for our salvation, and would produce eternal fruit for all who receive that salvation by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

People who think they have everything in life the way they want it now will lose it all, but people who realize that this life is not as it should be, because of wickedness and sin, will realize that they are just passing through the “wilderness” of this present lifetime and that the destination is the eternal Promised Land of God’s kingdom in heaven. Those who are willing to die to the things of this world will live eternally; those who live for the things of this world will die eternally.

Jesus came to teach us by word and example how to be sons and daughters of God. His followers must follow his word and example. His servants will be doing what Jesus is doing, and be working where Jesus is working. Those who do so will be honored by God the Father.

Jesus was the fullness of God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). He knew what was coming at his crucifixion, and he would have preferred not to go through that agony, but instead of doing what his flesh wanted to do he resolved to trust and obey God’s will.

At Jesus’ death on the Cross, the world has been judged and Satan has been defeated. Jesus’ Crucifixion demonstrates that mankind is sinful. We have all sinned and have made Jesus’ sacrificial death necessary for our salvation (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). Jesus died once, for all time and all people who are willing to trust and obey Jesus for their salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Satan is the enemy of God and of our eternal souls, and his power is sin and death. He has been defeated at the Cross of Jesus Christ, because Jesus demonstrated that those who trust and obey God are raised from physical death to eternal life (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Those who trust and obey Jesus are spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8), by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). We have the proof within ourselves, by faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether or not one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

The voice from heaven is the voice of God. People who trust and obey God can hear that voice, but those who don’t explain it away as some other phenomenon, or as for someone else.

People in the crowd continued to doubt Jesus’ testimony. From scripture, they believed that the Christ was to remain forever. They didn’t understand what Jesus meant about being lifted up, and they didn’t understand what Jesus meant by the “Son of man.” They needed to accept and believe what Jesus was saying, but instead they wanted proof.

Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man, which is true, but which allows his hearers to decide for themselves who Jesus is, with a hint from scripture (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus is the “light” of righteousness (John 3:19-21), spiritual enlightenment (John 1:9), and eternal life (John 1:4-5, 8:12). Jesus told the people that they should believe and act on that light while they had the opportunity, so that they could become children of light (children of God).

Now is the hour of Salvation! Now is the time to follow Jesus’ word and example in obedient trust. Now is the time to learn to walk in the light of his righteousness, enlightenment and eternal life. Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to and know God; Jesus is divine, eternal truth; Jesus’ word and example is our only opportunity to have real, eternal life (John 14:6). Only through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus can we be saved (from our eternal condemnation and destruction by God’s judgment; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 6 Epiphany A – 02/19 – 25/2017

February 11, 2017

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

ttp://www.commontexts.org/rcl/ (usage)

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/  (Please bookmark this link).

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

http://shepherdboy-mydailywalk.blogspot.com/ 

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

.mp3 Podcasts via Linux Festival text-to-speech and Panopreter Basic text-to-speech are available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/a_year/Wklx_a.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/c_year/wklx_c.html

Please Note:

This ‘blog is now available in mobile-optimized format:

http://winksite.mobi/shepherdboy/MyDailyWalk

To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of 6 Epiphany A

Sunday 6 Epiphany A

First Posted February 13, 2011;

Podcast: Sunday 6 Epiphany A

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Blessing and Curse;
Psalm 119:1-16 – The Law of God;
1 Corinthians 2:6-13 – Spiritual Wisdom;
Matthew 5:20-37 – Higher Righteousness;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Through Moses, God laid a challenge upon the people of Israel to choose (true, spiritual, eternal) life and good (according to God’s Word, and our best interest) or (eternal) death and evil. Those who choose to obey God’s Word, his standard of righteousness recorded in the Bible, will love the Lord, will live according to his ways, obeying his commandments. They will have long life and will prosper (in their endeavors; but not necessarily by worldly standards), and the Lord will bless them in the Land the Lord is giving them to enter and possess (the earthly Promised Land, and its ultimate spiritual fulfillment in God’s kingdom in Heaven).

But the Lord declares that if his people turn away from obedient trust in the Lord and are drawn to worship and serve “idols” (anything one loves and serves as much or more than the Lord), they will perish (eternally). They will lose the (eternal) life in Heaven they have been commanded to enter and possess.

All heaven and earth are witnesses to God’s Covenant with his people; God’s people are to choose life or death, blessing or curse. So we are urged to choose life for ourselves and our descendants, that we may love God and live, obeying his “voice” (in his Word in the Bible, and in the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, the “living Word,” fulfilled, embodied, and exemplified: John 1:1-5, 14; and in the prompting of the indwelling Holy Spirit: John 14:15-17, 26). Obedient trust in the Lord means long (eternal) life for us, and a place in the eternal Promised Land which God has promised give us.

Psalm Paraphrase:

Those who live according to God’s Word (in the Bible and in the teaching and example of Jesus Christ), will be blameless in God’s judgment, and will be blessed (favored; have beneficial attributes or qualities invoked or conferred upon). Those who seek him with their entire being, and learn and keep his testimonies (his witness), who do no wrong according to God’s Word, but live according to his teachings will be blessed.

The Lord has commanded that his precepts (instructions) be kept diligently. Let us pray for steadfastness in keeping the Lord’s commandments. When we know and obey God’s Word, we will have no reason to be put to shame. When we learn the Lord’s righteous statutes we will be able to praise the Lord with upright hearts. Let us obey his Word; then we will not be utterly forsaken.

“How can a young [person] keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy Word” (Psalm 119:9). Let us seek the Lord with all our hearts; let us not stray from obedience to his Word. “I have laid up thy Word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). May the Lord be blessed; may he teach us his Word.

Let us declare his Word with our voices. As much as in great wealth, we shall delight in living according to his teachings. Let us meditate on his Word and make obedience our goal. Let us experience the delight of obedience to his teachings; let us never forget his Word.

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

The wisdom that apostles (messengers; of the Gospel of Jesus Christ) teach is not worldly wisdom, nor of the rulers of the present world order, whose fate is to pass away. Our (divine, eternal) wisdom is hidden and secret (a mystery), only understood by those who are spiritually mature (those who have been spiritually enlightened), which God intended from the beginning of Creation, for our glorification. The rulers of this age (Satan and his demons, behind worldly rulers) didn’t know this, or they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord (One who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; a governor; a prince; a proprietor) of glory (splendor, majesty; infinite perfection of moral attributes of God; bliss of heaven).

Paul quoted Isaiah 64:4 to the point that humans have not seen or heard, nor imagined (the glory of) what God has prepared for those who love God. But God has revealed it to his (“born-again;” John 3:3, 5-8) people, by the Holy Spirit. Who knows a person’s own deepest thoughts except his own spirit? Likewise, no one knows the thoughts and intentions of God except the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit; Romans 8:9). The Spirit which we (born-again) Christians have received is not the spirit of the World, but the Spirit of God, so that we can be able to understand spiritual gifts given us by God. And apostles teach what has been imparted to them by the Holy Spirit, explaining spiritual truths to those who have received the (“baptism” of the indwelling) Holy Spirit.

Matthew:

Background:

Matthew chapters 5-7 is known as the Sermon on the Mount. It is a collection of the typical teachings of Jesus.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus warns us that our righteousness must exceed than that of the scribes (teachers of The Law of Moses, the Old Testament; the Jewish Scriptures) and Pharisees (a faction of legalistic leaders of Judaism), in order to enter God’s eternal heavenly kingdom.

Jesus quoted Exodus 20:13, (compare Deuteronomy 5:17), and Deuteronomy 16:18, to teach that it is not enough to simply refrain from actual murder in order to avoid eternal condemnation (Deuteronomy 16:18); anger and insults against a brother are equally damaging and subject to condemnation. So before making an offering to the Lord, one should first seek reconciliation with anyone with whom one is at enmity (discord). Then your offering will be acceptable to the Lord. One would be wise to settle with an accuser “out of court,” before trial. Otherwise, the judge might find him guilty and hand him over to the jailer to be imprisoned until he has made complete restitution.

Commentary:

The history of Israel, recorded in the Bible, is also deliberately intended by God to be a metaphor for the meaning and purpose of life in this world. Moses prefigures Christ (God’s “anointed” eternal savior and king of God’s eternal heavenly kingdom). Jesus is the “New Moses” who leads us out of bondage to sin and death in the “Egypt” of this present world order, through the “sea” of water baptism into Jesus Christ, through the “wilderness” of this temporal lifetime by the indwelling Holy Spirit, “the pillar of fire and cloud” (Exodus 13:21), through the “river” of physical death and into the eternal “promised land” of God’s heavenly kingdom.

This lifetime is our opportunity to learn to trust and obey God’s Word, in the Bible and in the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, the “living Word, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified (John 1:1-5, 14), and thus become people of God in God’s eternal kingdom. We are challenged to choose to trust and obey God’s Word and thus receive what is good, and true eternal life, or not trust and obey God, and receive evil (bad things), and eternal destruction.

God’s Word contains both great and precious promises, and ominous warnings. God’s Word is eternally true and is fulfilled over and over as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. Those who trust and obey God’s Word will receive the blessings he has promised; those who reject and refuse to obey God’s Word will receive the consequences the warnings were intended to help us avoid.

The meaning and purpose of life in this temporal world is to seek, find and have fellowship with the Lord (Acts 17:26-27). The Lord promises to reveal himself to those who love him and earnestly seek him and diligently learn to trust and obey his teachings (John 14:21, 23). Let us pray for steadfastness in keeping the Lord’s commandments (compare Psalm 119:4-5).

Those who seek the Lord will first learn about his nature and character in his Word. The Lord is good and loving toward all people. Good people respond to love with love in return. If we truly love the Lord we will want to know his Word so that we can trust and obey him.

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is deliberately intended by God to be the prototype and example of a “modern, post-resurrection, born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, as we all can and should become. On his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, Paul was convicted by the risen Jesus, was converted (Acts 9:1-9), and then discipled by a born-again disciple, Ananias, until Paul was spiritually “reborn” (Acts 9:10-19a). Then Paul began to fulfill Lord’s Great Commission to his born-again disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, &8) to make (born-again) disciples of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:6) and to teach them to repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2).

God has designed this temporal Creation to allow us the freedom to choose whether to trust and obey his Word or not. He has designed Creation with divine wisdom, which is unlike what the world falsely calls “wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:8-25, 2:1-5).

Jesus is the demonstration of the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24b; 2:4-5). Jesus has been designed into Creation from the very beginning (John 1:1-5, 14). God’s wisdom seems foolish to worldly people (1 Corinthians 1:24-25). Worldly people would not understand how the Lord could win victory by giving himself up to death at the hands of his enemies.

God’s wisdom can only be understood by those who are spiritually enlightened by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only Jesus gives the “baptism” (gift) of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The gift (“baptism”) of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, within them, teaches born-again disciples all spiritual truth and recalls to their minds all Jesus’ teachings (John 14:26).

It takes born-again disciples to make born-again disciples of Jesus Christ. How can an “unregenerate” (not born-again) person lead someone else to spiritual rebirth? If the unregenerate knew what they were missing and how to get it, they would not be unregenerate.

Sadly, the nominal Church today has failed to make born-again disciples, and has focused on attracting “members, “fair-weather Christians,” and building buildings, instead. Because they haven’t made born-again disciples, there are none in their membership from whom to choose leaders (“apostles;” teachers).

Fortunately, God is faithful, and is able to “convict” people of sin, as he convicted Paul on the road to Damascus. People can be discipled by “born-again” disciples through media, such as this Bible study. I personally testify that I was influenced by the radio ministries of several “born-again” disciples (see Personal Testimonies, sidebar, top right, home).

I was also discipled by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Jesus (Romans 8:9), as I carried out my commitment to read the entire Bible. But unless one has read the entire Bible for oneself, one is vulnerable to false teaching in media and in nominal Churches.

The Bible is the Word of God, and the standard by which all “Christian” teaching must be evaluated. But is not enough to know God’s Word without the commitment of trust and obedience. How can one offer meaningful and acceptable worship and praise to the Lord, unless one is obedient to, and trusting in, his Word?

Jesus taught in “parables:” Common earthly experiences to teach spiritual truth. Worldly people are often wise in worldly things; the example of worldly justice and reconciliation with one’s accuser is an example. We are all guilty of sin (disobedience of God’s Word; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and liable to the condemnation of eternal death (Romans 6:23). God’s Word will be our accuser. We are at enmity with the Lord because of sin.

We’re all on the way to judgment at the Day of Christ’s return, or at the moment of our death. Jesus is the righteous judge, and the standard of judgment by whom we will be judged. We would be wise to seek reconciliation with God’s Word by obedient trust, now, while it is possible.

At the Day of Judgment it will be too late to change our eternal destiny; no restitution will be possible. Those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord (One who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; a governor; a prince; a proprietor) and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in heaven; those who have refused or failed to accept Jesus as their Lord and trust and obey him will be condemned to eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 6 Epiphany A

To be used only if there is a 7 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted February 14, 2011;

Podcast: Monday 6 Epiphany A

Psalm 103:1-13 – Thanksgiving for Healing;

Let us bless the Lord in our innermost selves, and praise his name with all our strength. Let us bless the Lord and remember all his benefits: he has forgiven all our sin, he has healed us from all physical and spiritual illnesses, and he has redeemed our lives from death and grave. He has blessed us with unfailing love and mercy, he gives us what is good, throughout our lives, so that our vigor is renewed like that of an eagle’s.

The Lord gives justice and vindication to all the oppressed. He revealed his nature to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. “The Lord is merciful and gracious (giving undeserved favor) to us; he doesn’t become angry with us quickly, and his love is steadfast and abundant. He is not always criticizing us, and is not angry with us forever. He doesn’t give us the punishment our sins rightly deserve. His unwavering love for us is as great as the highest heavens. He removes our sins from us as far as east is from west. He has pity upon those who fear (have appropriate awe and respect for the power and authority of) him, as a good father pities his children.

Commentary:

This psalm is my own personal testimony also. The Lord has restored me from heart disease and cancer to physical health, to mental health from emotional turmoil and anxiety, and to spiritual health, from eternal death to eternal life by the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The presence of the Holy Spirit within us gives us peace, even in the midst of troubles, which only Jesus can give (John 14:27). His presence reassures us that we are not alone. By experience, we learn to know with assurance that the Lord can deliver us from, or bring us through, anything that happens to us, even physical death (John 6:68-69).

Only by the indwelling Holy Spirit within us can know and do God’s will (Zechariah 4:6c). Only by the indwelling Holy Spirit can we truly praise and worship the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 8:15-16). The indwelling Holy Spirit teaches Jesus’ disciples everything they need to know, recalls to our minds all Jesus’ teachings (John 14:26 and gives us what to say in testimony at the time it’s needed (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11-12).

I keep a list of the blessings the Lord has given me. When troubles assail, I can recall the blessings he has given me in the past and be confident that he will deliver me again (see 1 Peter 5:6-10). In times of stress, I read the Psalms also, beginning with Psalm 1:1, and read until I feel better! The Lord will give us vindication and justice often enough in this world so that we can be sure of his ultimate vindication and justice in his eternal kingdom.

The Lord has promised to reveal himself to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:21, 23). The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit makes it possible for Jesus’ disciples to have the intimate fellowship with God the Father, and Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9), which only a few Old Testament prophets and leaders, like Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10), enjoyed. Through the Holy Spirit we will come to know personally the mercy and grace (undeserved favor) of the Lord, and his steadfast, overflowing love. We will learn from experience that the Lord is not always angry and critical of us. Like a loving father, The Lord has pity on us, and disciplines his children for their own benefit (Hebrews 12:9-13). He doesn’t give us the punishment for our sin (disobedience of God’s Word) which we rightly deserve (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10; Romans 6:23; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 6 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 7 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted February 15, 2011;

Podcast: Tuesday 6 Epiphany A

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 – Life of Holiness;

The Lord told Moses to declare to the congregation of Israel that they will be required to be holy (purified from sin; consecrated to God’s service), because God himself is pure and sinless.

God’s people must not hate brother or neighbor; instead, let us seek agreement and reconciliation with one another, or it will be accounted to us as sin. God’s people must not take vengeance upon or bear a grudge against our own people, but rather love our neighbors as we love ourselves: it is our Lord God who commands this.

Commentary:

God’s people are those who willingly choose to trust and obey God’s Word, in the Bible, and in the “living Word,” fulfilled, embodied, and exemplified in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 14). God’s people are not holy by their own intrinsic nature; they are made holy by their relationship with the holy God, through a covenant he established with them.

Through the Old Covenant (“Testament”) of Law which God established with his people through Moses, disobedience of the Law was the definition of sin. No one was able to keep all the Law all the time, so all were sinners, who needed to be cleansed over and over by the offering of blood sacrifices of animals (Hebrews 9:22-26). The Old Covenant was intended to be a “guardian” (“baby-sitter”) to keep God’s people from disobeying God’s Word.

When Jesus, the promised Messiah (Christ; both words mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively) the “Savior” God designed into Creation from the very beginning (John 1:1-3), came in human flesh (John 1:14), Jesus became the “New Moses,” the mediator of the New Covenant (“Testament”) of grace (undeserved favor) which we receive by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Jesus established the New Covenant at his “Last Supper,” the “New Passover” feast, (which has become Holy Communion; Eucharist) on the eve of his trial and crucifixion (Matthew 26:17, 26-29, KJV; see RSV note g).

By Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, he became the one and only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection demonstrated that there is existence and the possibility of eternal life after physical death. Jesus’ death made it possible for his obedient, trusting disciples to be spiritually “reborn” to eternal life by the “baptism” (gift; anointing) of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), is given only to disciples of Jesus who are committed to trusting and obeying Jesus. We are cleansed and sanctified (made holy) by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, so that we can individually be temples of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Those who live in obedient trust in the Holy Spirit, are not obligated to fulfill the requirements of the Law (Romans 8:1-9); they will fulfill them out of love for the free gift of salvation through Jesus rather than fear of punishment, and are forgiven when they fail.

Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments, the basis of the Holiness Code, in two commandments: Love of God, which makes us willing to trust and obey him; and love of others, as we love ourselves (John 13:34-35). Jesus also taught that it is not enough to love our brethren and neighbors only; we must follow Jesus’ example and love our enemies and those who hate us (Matthew 5:43-45; compare Luke 23:34). The only way we can fulfill the Law of Love (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14), is by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 6 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 7 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted February 16, 2011;

Podcast: Wednesday 6 Epiphany A

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 – Responsibility of Teachers;

Paul compared his ministry to that of a skilled master builder (contractor). Paul laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ; no other foundation will do. Now other workers are building upon that foundation, and must build with care, as has the master builder.

Spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciples (Acts 11:26c) are (individually and collectively) God’s temple, because God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) dwells within them. God will destroy those who destroy (damage; divide) God’s temple, because God’s temple is holy (purified; consecrated to God’s use), and that is what we believers are. So let us not be deceived; Those who consider themselves wise according to worldly wisdom, should instead become foolish (according to worldly wisdom) so that they may be truly wise with true, divine, eternal wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:8).

God considers “worldly wisdom” to be folly. God declares that the craftiness of the “wise” in earthly standards, will be their downfall (1 Corinthians 3:19b; quoting Job 5:13). “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:20; quoting Psalm 94:11). So Christians are not “disciples” of, do not belong to, and should not boast of, any spiritual leader, such as Paul or Apollos, or Cephas (from Aramaic word -which Jesus spoke: “Kepha,” meaning “rock,” which Jesus gave to Peter: Matthew 16:18. The Corinthian congregation had in fact been guilty of this: 1 Corinthians 3:3-9). All the church leaders are for the benefit of believers, along with every other thing, whether earthly or heavenly; whether life or death (in both physical and spiritual senses), present or future, since believers belong to Christ, and Christ to God.

Commentary:

Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) had established the church at Corinth on his second missionary journey, accompanied by Timothy and Silas (Acts 15:36-16:5), by Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had learned the Gospel message from the risen, ascended Jesus, by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:1-18). Paul’s preaching of the Gospel to the Corinthian Christians was the same as he preached in every congregation (Acts 9:20-22), and was in agreement with the preaching of the Gospel by Jesus’ original Apostles (Acts 15:1-29; the Eleven of the remaining Twelve disciples, whom Jesus had appointed to be messengers of that Gospel: Luke 6:13-15).

Paul was as much an Apostle as the original Eleven remaining apostles of the Twelve (minus Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer). Paul was deliberately chosen and called by God to be Judas’ replacement, instead of Matthias, whom the Eleven had chosen while they were to be waiting for the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, and without the presence and counsel of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:15-26). Matthias is never heard of again in the New Testament, but after Paul’s conversion, most of the rest of the New Testament is by or about Paul.

Paul was intended by God to be the prototype and example of a “modern, post-resurrection, born-again, disciple and apostle” of Jesus Christ, as all believers can and should be. After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he was “discipled” by a born-again disciple, Ananias (who had a personal relationship with the Lord: Acts 9:10-16, which is only possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit), until Paul was spiritually “reborn” by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and then immediately began the process of proclaiming the Gospel, and making born-again disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-22; 2 Timothy 1:6-7; 2 Timothy 2:2), fulfilling the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20) which Jesus gave to his disciples to be carried out after they had received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

There was dissension within the Corinthian congregation (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:3-9) caused by rivalry among them regarding the teachings of Paul, Peter and Apollos (Acts 18:24, 26-27; 19:1; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:5-7, 22). The same dissension and divisiveness are present in the nominal Church today. Christian teachers and students must remember that the disciples being made are disciples of Jesus Christ, who are being guided to spiritual rebirth, so that they can be further discipled to spiritual maturity by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen, ascended Jesus.

Paul was confronted by, but not filled with, the Holy Spirit, on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:5), until Ananias had led Paul to be born-again by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-20). Paul’s conversion was remarkably rapid. The original disciples had been with Jesus for three years, and still were not ready to preach the Gospel until they had been baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). But remember that Paul was already formally educated in the Bible and loved God; he only needed to be pointed to Jesus as the Messiah (Christ; “God’s Anointed,” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively).

The foundation of the true Church is the Gospel (“good news:” forgiveness of sin, salvation from eternal condemnation and death which is the penalty for sin, and reconciliation with God which was broken by sin) of Jesus Christ was first taught by Jesus, learned by the disciples by Jesus’ teaching and example, and recorded in the Bible. All scripture is inspired by God, and is to be used for doctrine, refutation, correction (of ignorance, misunderstanding, and false teaching), and instruction in righteousness (doing what is right, good, and true according to God’s Word; 2 Timothy 3:16). But the Old Testament must be understood from the perspective of the New Testament.

For example, Jesus is the end of the Old Covenant of Law (Romans 10:4); he established the New Covenant of Grace (undeserved favor) at his “Last Supper” on the night of his betrayal and arrest (Matthew 26:26-28 KJV; see RSV note “g”). Only Jesus gives the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8 by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit are no longer obligated to the Law of Moses, provided that they live according to the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 6 Epiphany A

First Posted February 17. 2011;

Podcast: Thursday 6 Epiphany A

Matthew 5:38-48 – Understanding the Law;

Jesus used the example of the Law concerning retaliation (eye for eye; tooth for tooth; Exodus 21:23-25), to teach that it is not enough for one to keep the “letter” of the Law. Jesus said that one must not resist evil people, or return evil for evil. Instead of retaliating in kind, one should submit to one’s enemy. If an enemy slaps a person on the cheek, the person should offer the other cheek as well. If one’s enemy takes one’s coat, one should offer his overcoat as well. One should offer to go the second mile with a person who has forced one to go a mile. One should contribute to a person who begs, and loan to one who asks to borrow.

The common human response toward others is to love our neighbors (one who is neighborly to us), and hate our enemies. But Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. What credit is it to us if we love our friends and hate our enemies? Don’t even “tax-collectors” (regarded as among the worst of people) do likewise? If we greet our friends and shun our enemies, what credit is that to us? Even Gentiles (non-Jews; pagans) do likewise. So Jesus’ followers must be perfect (spiritually and morally mature; free of defect), like God is perfect.

Commentary:

The spiritual leaders of Judaism at the time of Jesus’ physical ministry were legalistic: They insisted on the keeping of the Law of (given to) Moses in minute detail, but failed to keep the intent of the Law. Jesus said that it isn’t sufficient to refrain from actual physical murder; anger, insult and verbal abuse are as damaging morally and spiritually, and are likely to escalate to physical violence. Instead of perpetuating animosity (active hatred), we should seek reconciliation with our enemies (Matthew 5:21-24).

The original intent of the Law was to restrain God’s people from doing evil until the coming of the Messiah (Christ; God’s “anointed” eternal Savior and King). “An eye for an eye” limited retaliation to no more revenge than initial attack warranted. It was not intended to justify revenge. Instead of sustaining and escalating animosity, “turning the other cheek,” and going “the second mile” promotes peace and reconciliation.

The religious leaders of that time thought that they would be judged “perfect” by God by their keeping of the letter of the Law. But Jesus pointed out that their behavior was no better than those these leaders considered the worst sinners.

Tax collectors were those Jews who made their living by collaborating with the enemy, the Roman occupying government. They were forcing other Jews to pay Roman taxes, and were in a position to also cheat their fellow Jews, collecting more than the required amount of the taxes.

The false teaching of “legalism” (“righteousness” by doing good deeds; “keeping the Law”) was a problem in the first-century Church, and it is a false teaching that still exists in the nominal Church today (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home; see also Galatians 2:12, 16, 21-3:14; 5:1-5, Ephesians 2:8-10).

Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross became the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sin (disobedience of God’s Word). Jesus’ blood sacrifice cleanses believers by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, so that we can become, individually and collectively, the temple of God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Romans 8:9) by the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for us to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 16:7).

Only Jesus gives the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The “infilling” of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). One who has been “baptized” with the indwelling Holy Spirit has been spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life, and has been freed from obligation to obey the Law, provided that one is obedient to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-8).

There is a Day of Judgment coming for everyone who has ever lived physically on earth (John 5:28-29). Jesus has promised to return to judge the “living” (“quickened”) and the “dead” in both physical and spiritual senses (1 Peter 4:5). Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord (one who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; a governor; a prince; a proprietor) and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will have been spiritually reborn to eternal life in this lifetime, and will enter God’s eternal kingdom in Heaven. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused or failed to trust and obey Jesus will be condemned to eternal destruction in hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 6 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 7 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted February 18, 2011;

Podcast:  Friday 6 Epiphany A

Jeremiah 1:4-10 – Jeremiah’s Call;

God’s Word came to Jeremiah, saying that the Lord had known (everything about) Jeremiah before the Lord had even formed him in the womb. Jeremiah had been consecrated by the Lord before he had been born. The Lord had appointed Jeremiah to be his prophet to the nations (heathen peoples; Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Judah).

Jeremiah protested that he was young and inexperienced and didn’t know how to speak. But the Lord reassured Jeremiah; Jeremiah was to stop thinking that he was too young and inexperienced. The Lord told him that he would go wherever the Lord sent him, and would say everything the Lord commanded him to speak. The Lord told Jeremiah not to fear the ones to whom the Lord sent him, because the Lord would be with Jeremiah to deliver him.

The Lord stretched out his hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth, and said that the Lord had put his words in Jeremiah’s mouth. The Lord told Jeremiah to watch and see: The Lord had put Jeremiah over kingdoms and nations, to lift up and to throw down; to overthrow and destroy, and to build up and establish.

Commentary:

The test of God’s Word is its fulfillment (Deuteronomy 18:21-22), and it is fulfilled over and over as the conditions for fulfillment are met. The Lord gave me a specific call from Jeremiah 1:17-19 on January 18, 1996, which led me into evangelism, first in my local congregation, and then ultimately to my present Internet ministry, begun August 8, 2003 on journalspace.com.

Jeremiah’s name means “raised up,” [or] “appointed,” by Jehovah. He was one of the major Old Testament prophets, who prophesied to Judah, the remnant of Israel (the Northern Kingdom of the ten of twelve tribes of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.), beginning in 628 B. C., prior to the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, and Judah’s seventy-year exile in Babylon, which he prophesied (Jeremiah 25:11-12). The seventy years is counted from the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (588~587 B.C.; 2 Kings 25:8-10) to its complete restoration (517 B. C.; Ezra 6:15-16).

Jeremiah’s message was not popular with, or accepted by, the leaders and people of Judah, and Jeremiah suffered great persecution for it (Jeremiah 36:5). King Jehoiakim destroyed the scroll of Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 36:20-25) which his secretary, Baruch, had recorded (Jeremiah 36:4), but could not destroy the message (Jeremiah 36:27-32).

Judah could have avoided conquest, destruction, and deportation if they had heeded the example of the Northern Kingdom, had accepted Jeremiah’s message, and had repented (changed their ways and doings; returned to obedient trust in God), prior to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. The seventy-year exile was a life sentence for those who were adults at the time of the deportation. A renewed Judah was restored to their Promised Land, but they were new people; not the same ones who went into exile.

The experience of the exile of Judah to Babylon is similar to the forty-year wilderness wandering of Israel. Israel had rebelled against the Lord’s command to enter and possess the Promised Land (Numbers 14:26-35), and so were condemned to wander in the wilderness until those who had rebelled against the Lord had died in the wilderness (Joshua 4:19; 5:6). Only Joshua and Caleb (, the scouts among the twelve who had brought back a favorable report on the Promised Land (Numbers 13:6, 8, 16b; 14:6-9), were allowed to live and enter it.

I personally testify that when the Lord calls one to proclaim God’s Word, he provides the resources and abilities needed to do so, by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Jesus has commanded his disciples to go into the world to proclaim the Gospel (God’s Word; “good news” of forgiveness and reconciliation with God through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, and to make “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20) who will repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2).

Note that Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem (the modern equivalent is the Church), until they had been baptized with the indwelling Holy Spirit before going into the world to proclaim the Gospel message (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, 8). Apostles (messengers; of the Gospel), and prophets of God’s Word can only fulfill their call by the gifts, guidance and empowerment given by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

Only Jesus gives the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God’s Word contains precious promises, but also ominous warnings which are designed to help us avoid the consequences of disobedience of God’s Word. The world doesn’t enjoy hearing God’s Word any more today than in the time of Jeremiah (2 Timothy 4:3-4). We are free to choose to hear God’s Word and receive the promises, or reject God’s Word and suffer the consequence of disobedience (of God’s Word; the definition of sin), which is eternal death in Hell with all evil (Romans 6:23; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 6 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 7 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted February 19, 2010
Podcast: Saturday
6 Epiphany A

Acts 17:22-34 – The Meaning and Purpose of Life; Matthew 25:14-30 – Parable of the Talents;

Acts Background:

Paul was waiting in Athens for his missionary associates, Silas and Timothy, to join him. While he waited, Paul went to the Jewish synagogue and to the marketplace, and debated with those present, preaching Jesus and the resurrection. So the Athenians took Paul to the Areopagus (the open-air forum; the hill on which the City Council met, west of the Acropolis), where the Athenians and resident foreigners gathered to hear Paul. (At the time, the Athenians were famous for their curiosity.)

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul addressed the people of Athens, saying that he noted that they were very religious, since he had observed that Athens was full of altars and shrines to the “gods” (idols) of the Athenians. Paul mentioned having seen an altar dedicated to an unknown god. Paul proclaimed to them that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and everything in them, was this “unknown” God.

Paul told them that God doesn’t need to live in shrines built by human hands, nor does he need human hands to supply him with anything, since he provides mankind with everything, including life and breath. “And he made from one every nation of [mankind] to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after (“grope” after) him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘in him we live and move and have our being;’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:26-28; the first quotation is attributed to Epimenides, and the second is from Aratus’ Phaenomena).

Since we are God’s offspring, we should not suppose that God is like some representation made by the art and imagination of mankind, of gold, silver, or stone. God overlooked former times of ignorance, but now he commands all people to repent (change their ways of thinking and doing), because God has set a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness, by a person (Jesus) whom he has appointed, whom he has certified by raising him from physical death.

When they heard Paul claim the resurrection of the dead, some ridiculed him, but others wanted to hear more about this at another time. So Paul left the assembly, but some people believed Paul and joined him. Dionysius, the Areopagite (a member of the council), and a woman named Damaris and others followed Paul’s teaching.

Matthew Paraphrase:

It (the coming of the Kingdom of God) will be like a person who was leaving on a journey, and he assembled his servants and entrusted them with his property. To one he gave five talents (each talent worth about a thousand dollars), to another two talents, and to another one talent, according to the ability of each servant. The servant who had been entrusted with five talents invested them and doubled the money, and the servant entrusted with two talents did likewise. But the one who was entrusted with one talent buried it in the ground.

After a long time, the master returned and summoned his servants to settle accounts with them. The servant who had received five talents, returned them and the profit of five more talents, and was commended by the master for having been a good and faithful servant. The master said that as that servant had been faithful in a “small” matter, he would be entrusted with greater responsibility. So likewise, with the servant who had received two talents.

The servant who had received the one talent came forward and told his master that the servant knew the master expected to gain from another’s work, so the servant had been afraid, and had buried the master’s money in the ground. The master declared that this servant was wicked and lazy. The servant should have at least put the talent in the bank, where it would have earned interest for the master. The master commanded that the talent be taken from the unfaithful servant and given to the servant who had the ten talents.

Jesus declared that, likewise, more will be given to those who appreciate what they have been given, and use it well; but those who fail to appreciate and use what they have been given will lose even what they had. The master will cast the unproductive servant into outer darkness, where people will wail and gnash their teeth.

Commentary:

I am impressed with how Paul used his observation of Athenian culture to present the Gospel in a way that would uniquely appeal to the Athenians. Paul had been formally educated, and was familiar with Greek classical authors and writings. He used the time he spent waiting in Athens to observe the Athenians’ religious practices, and used the situation of the altar to an unknown god to present the Gospel of the true God who is and can be known personally (John 14:21, 23; Jeremiah 29:13-14a). It is important to present the Gospel to people in the context of their present circumstances and understanding.

Paul was provoked by the idolatry of the Athenians, but instead of berating them, he commended them for their religiosity. They simply needed (as Paul had) to be pointed to the true God. Paul, zealous for Judaism, had persecuted Christians as heretics until the Spirit of the risen and ascended Jesus (Romans 8:9) confronted Paul on his way to Damascus, and Paul was pointed to Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah by a faithful servant of Jesus Christ: Ananias (Acts 9:1-18).

Note the difference between Paul’s approach in presenting the Gospel to the Athenians and the unfaithful servant’s approach toward his master. Paul was provoked by the idolatry of the Athenians, but instead of berating them for their idolatry, he commended them for their interest in spiritual things, and for their willingness to acknowledge that they didn’t know all there is to know about God. So the Athenians were willing to hear Paul, and some were converted, or at least willing to listen further. In contrast the unfaithful servant attacked the master for perceived selfishness and greed. The unfaithful servant’s approach ended dialog, rather than opening it. Christian witnesses should note the right way and the wrong way of presenting the Gospel.

Religion is mankind’s attempt to manipulate God to do our own will; Christianity is our attempt to know and do God’s will, which is only possible by the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only Jesus “baptizes” with the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The “baptism” (gift; anointing) of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God is our father, because he is our Creator, whether we acknowledge him or not. But he has designed Creation to allow us the opportunity to become his offspring, by spiritual rebirth, through the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15-17, 23).

The meaning and purpose of life in this world is to allow us the opportunity to seek, find, and have fellowship with God. The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to know personally and have fellowship with God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ (note the Trinity; compare Romans 8:9; Matthew 28:19). God has designed Creation from the very beginning to allow us the opportunity to seek and find God (Acts 17:26-27), and the time to learn by trial-and-error that God’s way is our very best interest.

God wants us to willingly choose to trust and obey him. Sin is disobedience of God’s Word. God has deliberately designed Creation with the possibility of sin, so that we would have the freedom to choose whether to trust and obey God or not. This Creation and we ourselves are limited by time, because God is unwilling to tolerate rebellion and disobedience forever, or at all in his eternal kingdom.

There is a Day of Judgment coming for all who have ever lived in this world (John 5:28-29). Jesus has promised to return to judge the living (“quickened”) and the dead (1 Peter 4:5) in both the physical and spiritual senses. Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord (one who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; a governor; a prince; a proprietor), and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will have been spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life, now in this lifetime, and will enter eternity in God’s eternal kingdom in heaven. Those who have rejected Jesus as Lord, and/or have refused or failed to trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 7:21-26; Luke 6:46), will be condemned to eternal death and destruction in hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

We have all been given physical life, and time to seek and come to a relationship with the Lord, our Creator. Are we seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit? When we have been born-again, are we making the most of the time we have, to proclaim the Gospel and build and strengthen God’s eternal kingdom, before Jesus returns?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

 

 

Week of 5 Epiphany A – 02/05 – 18/2017

February 4, 2017

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/ (usage)

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

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Podcast Download: Week of 5 Epiphany – A

Sunday 5 Epiphany A

First Posted February 6, 2011;

Podcast: Sunday 5 Epiphany A

Isaiah 58:5-9a – What the Lord Requires;
Psalm 112 – Fate of Righteous and Wicked;
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – Divine Wisdom;
Matthew 5:13-20 – Law and Gospel;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord does not desire ritual fasting, the outward show of humility, bowing down before the Lord in sackcloth and ashes. That kind of fasting does not please the Lord. What the Lord desires is the freeing of those who are in bondage to wickedness and oppression. The kind of self-denial the Lord desires is for us to share our food with the hungry, our homes with the homeless, our clothing with the naked; for us not to ignore the needs of our fellow humans around us.

When we practice those kinds of self-sacrifice, the light of our righteousness will break forth like dawn in the spiritual darkness of this world. We will quickly be spiritually healed, our righteousness will be seen and acknowledged, and God will be glorified. Then, when we call upon the Lord he will hear and answer us.

Psalm Paraphrase:

Let us praise the Lord! Happy is the person who fears (has appropriate respect for the power and authority of) God, and who greatly delights in God’s Word. His descendants will be great in the land and his generation will be blessed. His family will prosper and his righteousness will endure for ever.

“Light rises in the darkness for the upright; the Lord is gracious, merciful and righteous” (Psalm 112:4). All will be well with those who conduct their affairs with justice and generosity and lend to others. Those who do what is right will prevail and be remembered for their righteousness. They need not be afraid of bad news; they will trust in the Lord and not be afraid. They will wait patiently and will see the just punishment of their enemies.

Those who have been generous and have given to the poor will be honored and their righteousness will endure for ever. The wicked will see and be angry, and hate the righteous, but they will disappear, and their desires will accomplish nothing.

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

God wisely chose not to make himself known through what the world falsely calls wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21), so that eternal life cannot be earned, bought, or taken by force or deception. Paul refused to make the Gospel more attractive to his hearers by lofty rhetoric or display of worldly wisdom. He just presented the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, who was crucified as the one and only sacrifice acceptable to God for our sin (disobedience of God’s Word). Although the messenger was humanly weak, the power of the message was by God’s Spirit working through Paul and within the Corinthians, so that their faith was not in human wisdom but in God’s power.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus taught his disciples that they were to be the “salt” (having seasoning, purifying and preserving properties) of the earth. If salt were to lose its “salty” properties, it would be worthless.

Disciples are also to be the “light” of righteousness, spiritual insight, and true eternal life, in a spiritually dark and dying world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. One does not light a lamp and hide it under a basket or under a bed. So disciples are to shine as lights in the darkness so that others will see their good works, and praise and glorify God.

Jesus came to fulfill, not do away with the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets (the Old Testament of the Bible; God’s Word). This world will pass away but God’s Word will endure for ever. Those who relax the least commandment and teach others to do so will be called least in God’s eternal kingdom; but those who do God’s commandments and teach others to do so will be called great in God’s kingdom. Jesus warns that our righteousness must be greater than that of the scribes (teachers of the Law) and the Pharisees (predominant legalistic faction of Judaism), or we will never enter God’s eternal kingdom.

Commentary:

God wants his people to trust and obey God’s Word. God wants obedient trust instead of religious ritual. God wants us to be kind and just in our relations with one another; to work to oppose wickedness and oppression, hunger, poverty and homelessness. That is the kind of sacrifice God desires.

God promises that when we do what he wants we will receive spiritual enlightenment and healing, so that we can bring light to others and glorify God. God promises to hear and answer our prayers and our needs when we trust and obey his will (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right).

“The fear (appropriate respect for the power and authority) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). One cannot begin to know anything useful until one realizes his true relationship to God our Creator. God is the Lord of all Creation, whether we acknowledge him or not, and he has the power of eternal life or death over us.

God’s Word promises that those who trust and obey God’s Word will be blessed. They will prosper, and prevail over their enemies; they will have no fear, because they have learned that the Lord is able and faithful to protect and deliver them from any trouble or adversary. They will have light in the spiritual darkness, and grace, mercy, true eternal life, and the blessing of the Lord. They will learn that God’s commandments become a delight and a blessing to them.

All that God requires is that we love, honor and trust him enough to obey his commands, and that we love one another enough to treat them as we would want to be treated: with kindness and justice (Micah 6:8b).

Salvation from eternal condemnation and destruction is a gift from God to all who are willing to receive it by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians, 2:8-9), God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right). Saving faith is obedient trust in Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46). Just calling ourselves Christians doesn’t save us; church membership won’t save us; religious rituals won’t save us; knowing the Bible won’t save us.

The Corinthians weren’t saved by Paul’s oratorical eloquence, or by human wisdom, but by the power of God’s Spirit, as they as they accepted Jesus as the Messiah, God’s anointed eternal Savior and King, and began to trust and obey Jesus.

Jesus wants his disciples to be “salt” in the world. If his disciples don’t have distinctive properties which differentiate them from worldly people, then they are worthless, and in danger of being thrown out. The characteristic which distinguishes them from worldly people is obedient trust in God’s Word, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in Jesus Christ, the “living Word” (John 1:1-3, 14).

Jesus’ disciples are to be “light” in the world. They become “light” as they receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the “light of the World” (John 8:12), the light of spiritual enlightenment (John 1:9; 14:15-17, 26; 16:13-14), the light of God’s righteousness (John 3:19-21; Philippians 3:9), the light of eternal life (John 1:4-5; 8:12). Christians must be “re-born” by obedient trust in Jesus, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then by the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit they are to go out into the world to be “salt” and “light.”

Jesus is not the end of the Law of Moses, the Word of God, but its fulfillment. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). The Old Covenant of Law (the Old Testament; the Law of Moses) teaches us the righteousness which God requires, and restrains us until we have been “born-again” to spiritual, eternal life through the gift of the Holy Spirit which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34) only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

No one can fulfill the requirements of the Law, God’s Word (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), except through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, by his indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:16). Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the Holy Spirit and are freed from condemnation under the Law, provided that they live according to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Jesus warns that those who don’t obey God’s Word, and teach others not to obey, will be disgraced in the kingdom of God, but those who obey and teach others to do so will be glorified and rewarded in God’s eternal kingdom. There are those in the nominal “Church” today who teach salvation (from eternal condemnation) by grace (unmerited favor; a free gift) without the requirement of discipleship and obedient trust (“Cheap Grace;” see False Teachings, sidebar, top right).

Jesus also warned that those who depend upon their own keeping of the Law of Moses for their salvation, like the scribes and Pharisees, will never enter eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom, because salvation is only by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus and “rebirth” by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (see “Legalism,” False Teachings, sidebar, top right).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 5 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 6 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 7, 2011;

Podcast: Monday 5 Epiphany A

Psalm 119:1-16 — Living According to God’s Word;

Paraphrase:

Happy are those who live according to God’s Word and are blameless in his judgment. Happy are those who keep God’s commandments and earnestly seek him; who avoid wrongdoing, and follow God’s ways. God has commanded us to keep his commands with diligence and steadfastness. Then we will have no reason to be ashamed, because we have committed ourselves to keep all of God’s commandments. When we have learned his righteous ordinances we will be able to praise the Lord with an upright heart. Let us be committed to keeping God’s laws, so that the Lord will not completely forsake us.

“How can a young man [person] keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy Word” (Psalm 119:9). Let us seek the Lord with all our hearts, and not stray from obedience to his teachings. “I have laid up thy Word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). May the Lord be blessed and may he teach me his ways. I will proclaim thy Word. I will delight in God’s Word as much as all riches. I will meditate on God’s Word and live according to his teachings. Let me not forget his Word.

Commentary:

God has designed this Creation for a purpose. From the very beginning God has always intended to create an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly choose to trust and obey God. In order to give us the freedom to choose whether or not to obey God, he designed this Creation with the possibility of sin (disobedience of God’s Word), but God is not going to tolerate disobedience and rebellion in his eternal kingdom. God has set a time-limit on this Creation and our lifetimes. This lifetime is our opportunity to learn to know, trust and obey God.

God knew that by giving us the choice, we would all sin and come short of his righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). But God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish eternally (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8), so he provided forgiveness of sin and salvation from eternal condemnation as a free gift to all who are willing to accept it through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right).

This lifetime is our opportunity to seek God our Creator and come to personal knowledge of and fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). God wants to be found by us (Matthew 7:7). He wants us to know his purpose for Creation, so he has revealed it in the Bible, and in Jesus Christ, the Messiah (Christ and Messiah each mean “anointed” in Greek and Hebrew respectively; i.e. God’s chosen and designated eternal Savior and King).

Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word, lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus’ word is the Word of God (John 14:10, 24). Jesus has promised to reveal himself and God the Father to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:21, 23).

This lifetime is our only opportunity to be spiritually “reborn” to eternal life (John 3:3, 5-8), and this is only possible through obedient trust in Jesus Christ. Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

There is a Day of Judgment coming at the end of this temporal age (and our lifetimes). Everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to God for what they have done in this lifetime. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in the kingdom of heaven in a new, perfect Creation freed of sin and death. Those who have refused to accept Jesus and have not trusted and obey him will be condemned to eternal destruction in hell with all evil.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 5 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 6 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 8, 2011;

Podcast: Tuesday 5 Epiphany A

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Our Choice;

Paraphrase:

God has set before us a choice of either life and good, or death and evil. God will bless with life and prosperity in the land he promised to give us, if we obey God’s Word (his commandments, in the Bible, and in the word and example of Jesus Christ, the “living Word,” fulfilled embodied, and exemplified in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 14). Those who refuse to hear and obey God’s Word, and are drawn to worship and serve idols (some modern examples are success, wealth, possessions, pleasure, or self; anything we love as much as or more than God) will perish eternally; instead of living forever in the Promised Land (of heaven) which God has promised to give us, “over the Jordan River” (the “river” of physical death).

Heaven and earth bear witness: God’s prophets (those who declare God’s Word fully and accurately) have made our choice of life or death, blessing or curse, known to us. So let us choose life for ourselves, and our choice will influence our descendants lives, that we may live in obedience and adhere closely to the Lord, because that will mean true and long (eternal) life for us in the land God has promised to our spiritual forefathers.

Commentary:

The history of God’s dealings with Israel were intended to be metaphors for life in this world. The history of Israel’s exodus from Egypt is an illustration. Jesus is the “New Moses, who leads his people out of bondage to sin and death under “Pharaoh” Satan) in the “Egypt” of this present world order, separating us from our spiritual enemies through the “sea” of baptism into Jesus Christ, through the “wilderness” of this lifetime, by the pillar of fire and cloud (the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit), through the “river” of physical death, and into the eternal “Promised Land” of God’s kingdom in Heaven.

God has always intended to produce a kingdom of his people who willingly choose to obey God. This lifetime is our opportunity to choose whether to trust and obey God, and the opportunity to learn from trial and error that God’s way is our best interest. This Creation has been designed to allow for the possibility for sin, so that we would have free choice. But God will not tolerate rebellion forever, or at all in his eternal kingdom, so this Creation and we ourselves have been limited by time.

God has made his Word known to us in the Bible, and in the “living Word,” Jesus Christ, the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived in human flesh, in this world. We have been given a choice, whether to live according to God’s Word, and be “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) in this lifetime by the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16), or to live according to our own will, and receive eternal condemnation and death in Hell with all evil, separated eternally from the Lord, who is the source of life and every good thing.

Faith (obedient trust) in Jesus is the only way to be saved from eternal damnation, the only way to know divine eternal truth, which is unlike what the world falsely considers truth (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:1-8), and the only way to obtain true eternal life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). This lifetime is our only opportunity to learn to trust and obey Jesus and to be spiritually “reborn” to eternal life. At the moment of our physical death, or at the advent of some mental impairment such as stroke or dementia, our eternal destinies will be fixed and unalterable.

“Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” Jesus is the “New Joshua,” who can lead us through the “river” of physical death and into the eternal “Promised Land” without getting our feet “wet” (Joshua 3:7-8, 13-17); without being affected by physical death. People who try to pass over without Jesus, won’t make it, any more than the Egyptian army was able to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:36-41; 15:19).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 5 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 6 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 9, 2011;

Podcast: Wednesday 5 Epiphany A

1 Corinthians 2:6-13 – Spiritual Wisdom;

Paraphrase:

Spiritually mature (“born-again;” John 3:3, 5-8) Christians proclaim spiritual wisdom, which cannot be understood by worldly, “unregenerate” (“un-born-again”) people, but only those who have been spiritually “reborn” by the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit. What the world falsely calls wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25), is doomed to pass away (die eternally), along with worldly leaders, and worldly people. The divine, spiritual wisdom that mature, born-again Christians proclaim is the secret, hidden wisdom of God (the redemption which is only in Jesus), which God designed into Creation from the very beginning, so that we can be glorified. Worldly leaders and people (those under the influence of Satan and demonic powers) didn’t know this or they would not have crucified Jesus, who is Lord (one who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; a governor; a prince; a proprietor) of glory (the place and the attribute). So they were defeated by Jesus’ crucifixion (Colossians 2:14-15).

This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 64:4), of what God has prepared for those who love (believe in -trust and obey- the promises of God’s Word, and wait for them) the Lord, although no human has seen, heard, nor imagined what that fulfillment will be like. These things are revealed to us through (the baptism of) the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit knows everything, even the deepest things of God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God (the Spirit of Christ: Romans 8:9); and who knows God’s thoughts more fully than God’s own Spirit? Believers receive the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which is from God, not a worldly spirit (of Satan; demonic), so that we can understand the gifts of God given through the Spirit. So born-again teachers teach not their own human wisdom but the spiritual wisdom which has been given to them through the indwelling Holy Spirit, interpreting spiritual truth to those who possess the Spirit.

Commentary:

God has designed Creation so that it is impossible to come to know and have fellowship with God through human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21), but only by faith (obedient trust) in God’s Word, in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, the “living Word” (John 1:1-5, 14). To unbelievers, the Word of God seems foolish; it makes no earthly sense to them because they are spiritually blind and are perishing eternally (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

Humans cannot know divine, eternal, spiritual truth except as it is revealed to them by and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God has designed this temporal Creation as a “garden” in which to “grow” obedient, trusting people for his eternal kingdom.

We are all born physically into this world, but are spiritually “un-born.” This temporal lifetime is our only opportunity to be spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to true, eternal life, and this is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is God’s only provision for forgiveness of our sin (disobedience of God’s Word), restoration to fellowship with God which was broken by sin, and for eternal life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Jesus has been designed into Creation from the very beginning (John 1:1-5, 14).

Only Jesus baptizes with the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Those who were of the world tried to destroy Jesus by crucifying him, but if they had known the secret, hidden wisdom of God they would not have crucified Jesus. By crucifying Jesus they actually helped fulfill God’s plan, so crucifying Jesus was against their own self-interest.

No one can see, know or imagine what God has prepared for his obedient, trusting people. This Creation was created to be very good (Genesis 1:31a). But God wanted us to have the freedom to choose whether to trust and obey him or not, so he allowed for the possibility for sin (disobedience of God’s Word).

The bad things that exist in this world are caused by human sin. Creation will be restored to perfect paradise in God’s eternal kingdom in Heaven. People who don’t trust and obey God won’t be allowed in. Heaven will be the perfect paradise that this world could have been if all had chosen to trust and obey God. We believe that, without being able to see, hear, or imagine it.

The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the “first-fruit,” the “down-payment,” the “security-deposit’ from God to us, guaranteeing spiritual, eternal life. We experience, now, a small taste of the love and fellowship we will have with the Lord in eternity.

People who have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and have not experienced the love and fellowship with the Lord, now, in this world, can’t understand spiritual things, because they are only understood by the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit opens the minds of believers to understand the scripture (the Bible; Luke 24:45), teaches us all things (all spiritual truth) and recalls to our minds all that Jesus teaches (John 14:26) He will declare all the things to come (John 16:13; the test of God’s Word is its fulfillment; Deuteronomy 18:21-22; God’s Word is always fulfilled, and is fulfilled over and over as the conditions for its fulfillment are met).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 5 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 6 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 10, 2011;

Podcast: Thursday 5 Epiphany A

Matthew 5:20-37 – Higher Righteousness;

Paraphrase:

Jesus declared that our righteousness (doing what is right, good, and true, according to God’s Word, the Bible, and in the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, the “living Word,” fulfilled, embodied and exemplified: John 1:1-3, 14) must exceed that of the religious leaders of Judaism at the time of Jesus’ physical coming, in order to enter God’s eternal kingdom in heaven.

As examples of higher righteousness, Jesus said that one should not merely avoid actual physical murder; one should not even be angry, insult or curse a “brother” (“neighbor;” any other person) or will be held guilty in the Day of Judgment. So if one wants to give an offering to the Lord, but is estranged from his brother, one should first seek reconciliation with his brother before making an offering to God. If someone is accused and summoned to refute the accusation before a judge, one should try to settle the matter with his accuser before they get to court. Otherwise the accused may be found guilty and will be sent to prison, where he will never get out until he has made full restitution.

Commentary:

Jesus criticized the leaders of Judaism at the time, for keeping the letter of the Law of Moses (the Old Testament books of Moses), but violating the spirit of the Law. The Commandment to not kill another person is fulfilled by not harming the person in any way.

The Law was given to Moses by God, to restrain evil among God’s people until the coming of the Messiah (Christ), and to teach them the standard of righteousness that God requires. The Jews expanded the Ten Commandments into books full of laws to more narrowly define the meanings of the Commandments, so they could appear to fulfill them and excuse exceptions.

One of the purposes of the Law of Moses was to show that, even with man-made exceptions, it was impossible for humans to keep all the Law all of the time. Failure to keep the Law at any point made one guilty of sin (disobedience of God’s Word; see James 2:10). Sacrifices had to be made continually, because God’s people couldn’t keep the Law by their own ability.

Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior designed into Creation from the very beginning (John 1:1-5, 14). We are all sinners, and have fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). Jesus is God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sin, salvation from eternal death (which is the penalty for sin; Romans 6:23), and restoration of fellowship with God our Creator, which was broken by sin (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

With the giving of the Law, God provided a system of blood sacrifice to teach his people that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). When Jesus was crucified, his blood sacrifice on the cross became the one and only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus’ death on the cross makes it possible to be spiritually cleansed by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, so that we can become temples of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only Jesus “baptizes” with the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Jesus came and died to make it possible for us to be spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life now, in this lifetime (John 16:7), so that we can enter God’s eternal kingdom in heaven.

We can fulfill the Law only by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to know and fulfill God’s Word. The Lord gives his indwelling Holy Spirit only to those who are committed to living according to the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9). We are judged “righteous” by faith in Jesus, not by any righteousness of our own (Romans 3:22; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16).

This temporal lifetime is intended by God to allow us the time and opportunity to seek, find and have fellowship with God our Creator (Acts 17:26-27). This is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This lifetime is intended to provide us with time and opportunity to learn by trial and error that God’s will is good, possible, and our best interest (Romans 12:2).

Unfortunately, Christianity today is in the same condition as Judaism at the time of Jesus’ first advent (coming). Religious leaders are defining and teaching, by word and example, God’s Word, in the narrowest possible way. There are two major heresies in the nominal Church today which were present in the Church in the first century, and are refuted in the New Testament. One is “legalism,” which is teaching that one must keep the Law of Moses and do “good deeds” according to the Law, in order to be saved from eternal condemnation. The other is “Cheap Grace,” which is teaching that salvation is by grace (a free gift; unmerited favor; which is true), but without the requirement of obedient trust in Jesus (false; see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home). One can see from this text today that these teachings are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when Christ has promised to return to judge the living (“quickened”) and dead in both physical and spiritual senses (1 Peter 4:5; John 5:28-29). Jesus is the righteous judge and the standard of judgment by whom all will be judged. Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord (one who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; a governor; a prince; a proprietor), and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will have been born-again in this lifetime and will enter eternal life in God’s kingdom in Heaven. Those who have rejected Jesus’ Lordship, and have refused or failed to trust and obey him, will be “un-born-again” (“unregenerate”), and will be condemned to eternal destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 5 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 6 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 11, 2011;

Podcast:Friday 5 Epiphany A

Isaiah 61:10-11 – Mission to Zion;

Background:

This portion of Isaiah was probably written right before the fall of Babylon to Cyrus of Persia (October 29, 539 B. C.) and during the following generation. Chapters 56-66 were probably written between 530-510, around the time of the return of Judah from exile in Babylon (about 517 B.C.)*.

Paraphrase:

Because the Lord has clothed us with the garments of salvation and righteousness, like a bride adorns herself with jewelry and the groom wears a garland, let us rejoice greatly in the Lord and exalt our God.

In the sight of all the nations, the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth, like the earth brings forth new shoots, and as a garden causes seeds to sprout and grow.

Commentary:

The “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the “garment” of salvation and righteousness which all must have to attend the wedding feast of the bride (the Church) and the “Lamb,” (the bridegroom; Jesus) in heaven. That feast is the fulfillment of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion; Eucharist), the “New Passover,” which Jesus instituted on the night of his betrayal and arrest (Matthew 26:26-29), the eve of his crucifixion.

Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross provides us with the garment of salvation and righteousness, which we receive by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. We are all sinners and fall short of God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is (eternal) death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s one and only provision for the forgiveness of our sin, our salvation from eternal death, and restoration to fellowship with God which was broken by sin (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

We can’t earn, buy or take salvation and righteousness by force or deception (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our righteousness is attributed to us by God by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the anointing with the “oil of gladness” (Psalm 45:7). It is only possible to truly praise and rejoice in the Lord by the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 8:15-17).

This temporal Creation has always been intended by God to be a garden for the “sprouting and growing” of his spiritual children. This lifetime is our opportunity to seek and come to fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through faith in Jesus. Christians are by definition disciples of Jesus Christ, who have been “born-again” to spiritual, eternal life, by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the way that a seed is similarly born again to new life as a seedling, and grows to spiritual maturity at the Day of Judgment at Christ’s Second Coming.

Christ’s promised Second Coming will be the spiritual harvest of God’s “garden” (Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43). Jesus will judge the “living” (“quickened”) and “dead” in both physical and spiritual senses (1 Peter 4:5; John 5:28-29). Every one who has ever lived in this Creation will be accountable to the Lord for what we have done individually in this lifetime; those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord (one who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; a governor; a prince; a proprietor), and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will have been spiritually born again to eternal life, now, in this lifetime, and will enter God’s eternal kingdom, paradise restored, in Heaven. Those who have rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord, who have refused or failed to trust and obey Jesus will be condemned to eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Introduction to Isaiah, p. 822, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Saturday 5 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 6 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 12, 2011;

Podcast: Saturday 5 Epiphany A

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 – Face of Christ;
Matthew 11:25-27 – Revealing God

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul (and all “born-again” apostles -messengers of the Gospel) are preaching the Lordship of Jesus Christ, rather than themselves, as servants of Jesus Christ on behalf of their hearers. God, the Creator of heaven and earth, by his Word, commanded light to shine forth in darkness (Genesis 1:3), and has caused the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ, to shine in our hearts.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus upbraided the cities where he had done most of his miracles, because they had seen but had not repented. Then Jesus thanked God the Father that God had, by his gracious will, hidden divine eternal truth for those who consider themselves sophisticated and wise by worldly standards, and had revealed them to those whom the world regarded as intellectually immature. Jesus declared that God had given Jesus all power and wisdom. Nobody knows God the Father except Jesus, and those to whom Jesus chooses to reveal him.

Commentary:

God’s first act of Creation was to call forth light by the creative power of his Word (Genesis 1:3). God created light to enlighten darkness in physical, intellectual and spiritual senses. Light is deliberately intended by God to symbolize righteousness (doing what is right, good, and true according to God’s Word; John 3:19-21), enlightenment, in the intellectual and spiritual senses (John 1:9), and true, eternal life (John 1:1:4; notice how John 1:1-5 follows the structure of Genesis 1:1-5).

Light also seems to be the built-in speed limit of this temporal Universe. According to my 1960’s high school education in physics, time slows down as one approaches the speed of light. Mankind does not seem to be able to go faster than the speed of light; and at the speed of light time apparently stops: the definition of eternity.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God made visible in human flesh. Jesus was fully human, and also fully God (Colossians 2:8-9; John 14:7-10). No one has seen or can see God; Jesus has revealed him (John 1:18). Jesus is the fullest revelation of God to the world.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9; note the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Jesus promises to manifest himself to his obedient, trusting disciples (John 14:21). Only Jesus baptizes (“anoints”) with the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34, only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). By the indwelling Holy Spirit we have a personal, daily relationship with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

We can see the see and know the supernatural glory of God in Jesus’ face, as when the three disciples of Jesus’ inner circle experienced it when Jesus was transformed on the mountaintop (Matthew 17:1-8).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 4 Epiphany A – 01/29 – 02/04/2017

January 28, 2017

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/ (usage)

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

http://shepherdboy-mydailywalk.blogspot.com/

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

.mp3 Podcasts via Linux Festival text-to-speech and Panopreter Basic text-to-speech are available at:

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http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/c_year/wklx_c.html

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Free to distribute; for personal use, Bible Study Groups, and Adult Christian Education. Disk Image and/or .zip file to burn the complete Bible Study to CD are available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/#Burn_Site_to_CD

To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of 4 Epiphany A

Sunday 4 Epiphany A

First Posted January 30, 2011;

Podcast: Sunday 4 Epiphany A

Micah 6:1-8 – What God Requires;
Psalm 1 – The Reward of Righteousness;
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – Boast in the Lord;
Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes;

Micah Paraphrase:

Listen to the Word of the Lord: God has a controversy with his people. Who can judge between God and his people? Plead your case before the mountains, before the foundations of the earth.

What has the Lord done to his people to cause them to be weary of the Lord? Remember how he redeemed them from Egypt and slavery. Remember how God raised up Moses, Aaron and Miriam to lead them. Remember what Balak, king of Moab plotted to do against Israel, and how Balaam answered him. Remember what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, so that God’s people will realize the saving acts of God on their behalf.

What can God’s people bring to come before God and worship him? Will burnt offerings and sacrifices gain his acceptance? Would even thousands of animal sacrifices and ten thousand rivers of oil please the Lord? Would even the sacrifice of our first-born make amends for our sins? God has shown us what is good; what God wants is for us to act justly, be loving and kind, and humbly follow God.

Psalm Paraphrase:

God blesses the person who does not follow the counsel or examples of those who are wicked, who scoff at and disobey God’s Word, but instead who delights in God’s Word and meditates on it constantly. That person will be like a tree planted by a stream; its leaves never wither and it bears its fruit in the proper season. That person will prosper in all that he does.

Conversely, the wicked will be like chaff blown away by the wind. The wicked will not be upheld in the Day of Judgment, and sinners will not be admitted into the congregation of the righteous. The Lord knows who has been righteous and who is wicked; he will reward the righteous, but the wicked will perish.

Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul had made the point that the Gospel seems like foolishness to people who are perishing from sin (disobedience of God’s Word), but to those who believe, it is the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:17-25). As an example, believers should consider their own circumstances. Not many Christian disciples are rich, powerful or noble by worldly standards. God uses those who seem foolish and weak to shame those who consider themselves smart, strong and important. God has chosen what are low and despised, and even spiritual things which seem like nothing to the world, to bring to nothing the material things which seem so real to us now, so that no one will be able to boast in God’s presence. God is the source of true, eternal life in Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness, sanctification (purification and dedication to God’s use), and redemption, so we have no reason to boast except in the Lord.

Matthew Paraphrase:

When crowds gathered around Jesus, he took them up the side of a mountain and had them sit down, and began to teach his disciples. Jesus said that:

 

  • God blesses those who realize they are spiritually poor and needy.
  • Those who mourn now (as sinners in a sinful world) will be comforted, strengthened and restored.
  • The meek will outlast the arrogant and ruthless.
  • Those who realize that righteousness (in God’s judgment) is as spiritually necessary as physical food and drink is to physical life, will have their spiritual hunger satisfied.
  • Those who realize their need for mercy, from God and their fellows, will be merciful to others.
  • Only those who are pure in heart will see God, [and only Jesus can purify our hearts, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17)].
  • Those who work to bring peace will be accepted by God as his children.
  • Those who are willing to accept persecution for righteousness’ sake will enter the kingdom of heaven.
  • Disciples who endure reviling, persecution, slander and evil for the sake of Jesus will be rewarded in heaven. This is the way the world has always responded to the Word of God and his prophets.

Commentary:

This Universe is God’s Creation and from the beginning he has intended to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who trust and obey God. God has revealed himself and his plan in his relationship with Israel, recorded as God’s Word, the Bible. He has revealed himself and his plan in the flesh in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ has always been the one and only plan of God from the beginning of Creation. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment, and example of God’s Word lived out in obedient trust in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). This world has been created to allow us free choice whether or not to trust and obey God’s Word, and to learn by trial and error that God’s will is good and our best interest. But God is not going to tolerate rebellion and disobedience of his Word forever, so he has set a time limit on this Creation, and our individual lifetimes.

God is Lord of Creation whether we acknowledge him as our Lord or not. We are his people whether we accept his Lordship or not, because he is our creator. God has made known his standard of righteousness in the Bible and in Jesus Christ. He has designed Creation so that no one is righteous (doing right according to God’s Word and judgment) on his own merit (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). God’s Word declares that the penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death. God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish eternally (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17), so he gave his only begotten Son Jesus Christ as the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of our sins, salvation from condemnation and eternal destruction, and restoration of peace and fellowship with God (see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

God’s requirements are not too difficult for us. He wants us to treat others with justice, love and kindness, and to trust and obey God’s Word. He has given us an example of what he requires in Jesus Christ, and through obedient trust in Jesus we are cleansed and freed from slavery to sin, and empowered to live according to God’s Word by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Jesus makes possible for us to receive.

If we were to face God’s judgment in our own human ability there would be no mediator between our sinful nature and God’s unlimited power and righteousness. We would be in the situation described by Micah, with only the mountains to hear our plea for mercy and forgiveness. Have you tried hollering at the mountains lately? The only reply is an echo.

But God has given us his only completely righteous and sinless Son, Jesus Christ, to be our mediator, to appeal on our behalf for mercy and forgiveness. Unlike the mountains, Jesus is eternally alive, and he reveals himself to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:21). When we cry to him he hears and answers!

The Bible is the record of what God has done for his people in Jesus Christ, but do we know and remember them? As we see what God did for Israel through Moses to bring them out of slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, we can believe that God will also do that for us in Jesus Christ as he has promised.

Balak was the king of Moab, who tried to hire a seer, Balaam, to curse God’s people, because Balak was afraid of them. Balaam refused to allow his prophecy to be bought with money, and instead accurately prophesied what God revealed to him: that they would be blessed.

Shittim was the encampment of the Israelites in Moab on the east bank of the Jordan River in preparation to enter the Promised Land. There the Israelites sinned by fornicating with the women of Moab, which was against God’s specific commandment, but the Israelites were saved from the resulting plague by the intervention of the priest, Phinehas, grandson of Aaron (Numbers 25:1-8).

Jesus is our high priest who intervenes for us before God to save us from the just punishment of our sins. The Jordan River symbolizes physical death which separates us from the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom in heaven. As the Lord parted the waters of the Jordan River so that the Israelites entered the Promised Land without getting their feet wet, Jesus makes it possible to pass through the river of death from the wilderness of this world and into eternal life in the kingdom of God in heaven.

No amount of animal sacrifices, offerings of material possessions, or religious ritual, can buy God’s favor. Even the sacrifice of our first-born would not buy our forgiveness. Only the sacrifice of God’s own first-born is acceptable to God for our forgiveness and salvation. All that God wants from us is our obedient trust in his Word, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in Jesus Christ.

God blesses those who trust and obey Jesus, and will destroy those who reject and refuse to trust and obey Jesus. God has given us his Word to show us what God blesses and what he will curse and destroy. God’s Word seems like foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, Jesus is the power and wisdom of God, our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 4 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted: January 31, 2011;

Podcast: Monday 4 Epiphany A

Psalm 112 – Rewards of Righteousness;

Paraphrase:

Let us praise the Lord! Happy is the person who fears (has proper respect for the power and authority of) the Lord, who greatly delights in God’s commandments. The descendants of the righteous will be mighty in the land; his posterity will be blessed. His household will prosper and their righteousness will endure for ever. “Light rises in the darkness for the upright; the Lord is gracious, merciful, and righteous” (Psalm 112:4).

The Lord will bless and prosper the righteous who conduct their affairs with generosity and justice. The righteous will be secure, and will be remembered forever. They will not be afraid of bad news, but will trust in the Lord with confidence. They will not waver, or be afraid until they see the just punishment of their adversaries. The righteousness of those who are generous and give to the poor will endure for ever and they will be exalted and honored. The wicked see the righteous prosper and are angry; the wicked will not endure; their desires will not succeed.

People who seek happiness and long life should seek the Lord and his Word. The Bible is God’s Word, the “owners’ manual” for blessing and long life.

Commentary:

The meaning and purpose of life in this world is to seek and come to know the Lord, our Creator (Acts 17:26-27). God wants us to seek him so that he can reveal himself to us. The place to begin is the Bible.

Jesus is the only way to have peace and real, eternal, life in fellowship with God (John 14:6); God has intentionally designed Jesus into Creation. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

This lifetime is our only opportunity to learn to live in fellowship with the Lord, and to be “re-born” to spiritual eternal life. Those who learn Jesus’ teachings and begin to trust and obey him are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34, only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God has given us his Word in the Bible and in the example of Jesus Christ, to show us how to get the most out of life. God has revealed himself in the Bible and in Jesus Christ. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus (Romans 8:9), God the Father and Jesus Christ are revealed to us personally and individually (John 14:21; 23).

As we begin to trust God’s Word he reveals his goodness, love, faithfulness and power to fulfill his promises, and as he does so, our faith is increased and strengthened. We learn and come to know from experience that his commands are not burdensome and that his way is our very best interest. We will learn to delight in God’s Word. We will learn to walk by the spiritual light of Jesus (John 8:12; 12:46) without stumbling, through the spiritual darkness of this present world. The light of Jesus is the light of eternal life (John 1:4-5).

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of true, divine, wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10a, Ps 111:10), distinct from what the world falsely calls wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-8). Until we understand that God is our Creator and that he has created us for his purpose, we cannot begin to learn what God wants to teach us. We must understand that God has ultimate power and authority over us and our eternal destiny before we can begin to learn what is eternally important (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

God’s Word is testimony to God’s existence, goodness, power, authority, faithfulness, and love. Those who have trusted and obeyed God’s Word in the Bible and Jesus Christ affirm that testimony and truth.

Those who trust God’s Word in Jesus Christ have security which the world cannot give. We have come to know that the Lord and his promises are true. The Lord blesses and prospers us daily. There is nothing that can happen to us from which the Lord cannot deliver us, including physical death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 4 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted: February 1, 2011;

Podcast: Tuesday 4 Epiphany A

Isaiah 58:5-9a

Does the Lord delight in human fasting where a man humbles himself and bows down in sackcloth and ashes? Will we call that a fasting acceptable to the Lord? Rather, doesn’t the Lord prefer that we loosen the bonds of wickedness and yoke of oppression?

The Lord wants us to share our food with the hungry, our homes with the homeless, and our clothing with the naked, and not ignore the needs of our fellow humans. When we learn to do so, we will be a light in the world like the breaking of dawn and we will be quickly healed. Our righteousness will be obvious and the glory of the Lord will accompany us. Then the Lord will hear and answer when we call on him.

Commentary:

The Lord is not pleased with religious ritual. Religious ritual has the appearance of devotion, but real devotion to the Lord means trusting and obeying God’s Word (John 14:15-17, 21). Religious ritual does nothing to heal us or our society of our spiritual illness. Obedience is the act of self-denial that the Lord desires, which will heal us.

If (as the Lord has commanded, we truly love one another as we love ourselves, then we will work to break the bonds of wickedness and oppression. We will work to change the conditions in society which cause poverty and homelessness.

Don’t blame poverty on the poor! Poverty happens because there is an unfair distribution of the resources God intended for us to share. The gap between rich and poor in America today is greater than it has ever been.

Tax breaks for the rich? “Outsourcing” jobs? Failed retirement programs? Illegal immigration? Gang violence? The symptoms of spiritual illness are all around us.

The Church needs to be the conscience of society and the advocate for the poor, but it is not solely the Church’s responsibility to solve the problems of society. We need to work with the Church to hold government and business accountable and responsive to the needs of all our people.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 4 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted February 4, 2011;

Podcast: Wednesday 4 Epiphany A

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 — Not by Worldly Wisdom;

Paul did not try to embellish the Gospel or make it more convincing by lofty rhetoric. Paul didn’t claim any worldly wisdom or human insight into the mystery of God’s plan. Instead he acknowledged and accepted his human limitations and merely proclaimed the truth of Jesus, the Messiah, crucified. So the faith of the Corinthians was the work of the Holy Spirit working through Paul and in the Corinthians, and not based on human wisdom or worldly oratory.

Commentary:

God, in wisdom, designed Creation so that mankind cannot come to know God through what the world falsely calls wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21; 1:17-25). So mankind can never figure out how to possess eternal life through human wisdom. Instead, the only way to come to know God and have fellowship and eternal life in God’s kingdom is through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was the prototype and example of a “modern,” “post-resurrection,” “born-again,” disciple and apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) of Jesus Christ, like we can be. He was “discipled” by a “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10), until Paul was “born-again” (Acts 9:17-18). Paul was making “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ, as the examples of the Corinthians and Paul’s protégé Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6-7) illustrate, in fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to his (born-again; Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, &8) disciples.

Paul was determined to claim no special knowledge except Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t just know “about” Jesus; he knew Jesus personally through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), and Paul knew personally that Jesus had risen from the dead to eternal life.

The mission of Christ to bring forgiveness and salvation from eternal destruction to a lost and dying world cannot be accomplished in human strength, but only by the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Note also that one cannot testify about what one has not personally experienced.

Paul taught Timothy to repeat the process of born-again disciples making born-again disciples (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul warned Timothy that the time was coming when people would not accept sound teaching but would seek teachers who would teach what they wanted to hear; to “tickle their ears” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Paul warned that there were many who were [merely] “peddlers” of God’s Word (a way of earning a living; 2 Corinthians 2:17). Paul refused to tamper with God’s Word to make it “popular” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

Sound teaching is Biblical (recorded in the Bible) and Apostolic (as taught by the Apostles, including Paul). The Bible is the standard by which to discern true and false doctrines. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:15-17) who will teach the “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ all things, remind them of all Jesus’ teachings (John 14:26), and will guide them into all truth (John 16:13).

Only Jesus “baptizes” with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 4 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 3, 2011;

Podcast:Thursday 4 Epiphany A

Matthew 5:13-20 – Jesus and Law;

The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-7:27, is representative of Jesus’ teachings.

Paraphrase:

Jesus taught that his disciples are to be the salt (a spice, a purifier and preservative) of the earth; but if salt loses its distinctive qualities, how would one restore them, and what would salt be good for without them? Savorless salt would be worthless.

His disciples are to be the light of the world; the light of righteousness, divine insight, and life in the spiritual darkness of this world. The light of disciples who are following Jesus’ example and teaching cannot be hidden any more than a city set on a hill. No one lights a lamp and tries to keep the light hidden under a basket or under a bed. Instead one places it on a stand where it will give light to everything around it. So let us shine, that people will see our good works and praise God our Father in heaven.

Jesus came, not to abolish the Law of Moses and the prophets (the Old Testament Scriptures), but to fulfill them. This Creation will pass away but God’s Word will continue forever. Whoever relaxes the least of God’s commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in God’s eternal kingdom, but those who keep them and teach others to do so will be called great in God’s kingdom. Jesus warned that unless one’s righteousness is greater than the scribes (teachers of God’s Law; scripture) and Pharisees (strict legalistic faction of Judaism), one will never enter God’s eternal heavenly kingdom.

Commentary:

All Christians are to be Jesus’ disciples (Acts 11:26c). Jesus’ disciples are to be distinct from worldly people, by living according to Jesus’ teaching and example, so that we will influence those we come into contact with in our daily lives, like salt seasons, purifies and preserves what it is put into. People who call themselves “Christians” but who are not “disciples,” who are indistinguishable from worldly people, and are not interacting with the world to change those they come in contact with are worthless and near to being discarded.

Christians are to be the “light” of righteousness, divine wisdom and life in a spiritually dark and dying world. If we have seen the light of Jesus Christ we are to reflect and spread that light. We are to live so that those who are in darkness may see by our good works that we have the light of righteousness, spiritual wisdom and eternal life, so that God will be glorified through us.

Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment, and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus came into the world to give the light of God’s righteousness (John 3:19-21; 8:12), spiritual enlightenment (John 1:9), and eternal life (John 1:4-5) to all who are willing to receive it.

We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death. Jesus came into the world to become the only blood sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of our sins (disobedience of God’s Word), to save from our eternal condemnation by God, and to restore us to fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right).

Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, we receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). We are spiritually re-born (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life and personal fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:21, 23). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The Law was given to teach God’s people what God requires, and to show that we are unable to meet the requirements except by God’s grace through faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:16). It is only by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are able to meet the demands of the Law

Those who are reborn fulfill the requirements of the Law by grace (God’s unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), provided that we walk in obedient trust in the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-10). Through rebirth, we are able to trust and obey God through love instead of through fear of condemnation and punishment.

Jesus warned us not to think that because of God’s grace we don’t need to trust and obey God’s Word or do “good works” (compare Ephesians 2:8-10), but not to think that we are righteous by “keeping” the Law, as the scribes and Pharisees taught, either (Galatians 2:16). These were two false interpretations of God’s Word prevalent in the time of Jesus’ physical ministry and in the first century Church, recorded and refuted in the New Testament, and they continue to be a problem in the Church today (see false teachings, sidebar, top right, home).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 4 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 4, 2011;

Podcast: Friday 4 Epiphany A

Jeremiah 17:5-10 – Trust in the Lord;

Paraphrase:

The Lord says that the person who trusts in another human or in human ability will be cursed; he will be like a shrub in the desert; he will dwell in desolation, and experience no good. Blessed is the one who puts his trust in the Lord. He is like a tree which grows beside a stream. He will not worry about heat or drought. When drought comes, his leaves will remain green and he will continue to bear fruit.

The human heart is deceitful and corrupt beyond understanding. The Lord searches the mind and tests the heart of every person, and will repay each person according to the results of what he has done.

Commentary:

Trust in any thing or person other than the Lord will ultimately disappoint and destroy us. It is hard to begin to trust the Lord. We believe material and human resources are what we need and the solution to our problems. We have to let go of those physical resources and trust in spiritual resources which seem less substantial and real to us. It is hard to trust in the Lord until we come to the end of our own resources and realize that we need him and the help that only he can provide.

This lifetime has been designed so that we can have the opportunity to learn to trust in the Lord. If we will begin to trust the Lord he will show us that we can believe and count on him. As we learn to trust him he will cause our trust in him to grow.

When I began to seek the Lord in daily devotional Bible reading, meditation and prayer, he began leading me one day at a time. That in itself is hard for us, because we have all sorts of future plans for ourselves, and we plan well in advance.

As we begin to seek his guidance, he will show us things in his Word, and as we begin to act on those things he will cause our faith to grow. The Lord gave me a series of experiences which increased my trust in him (see particularly “Discipleship,” and “Spiritual Growth,” Personal Testimonies, sidebar, top right). The Lord showed me that unlike human and material resources, he is never unavailable and there is no problem too difficult for him to solve.

I didn’t turn to the Lord until mid-life and a career crisis. Since then I’ve been letting the Lord lead me. I haven’t accomplished anything great by worldly standards, but he has given me many great opportunities for ministry of the Gospel. I realize now that the things I did in my secular career were not important or useful eternally. Only what I have done by the guidance and empowerment of the Lord has been worthwhile.

We can’t trust our own hearts, because our flesh causes us to desire what is not good for us. Following our own hearts will lead to disaster. Only when we give our hearts to the Lord and allow him to cleanse and fill them with his Holy Spirit can we seek and do what is truly good and worthwhile.

Don’t come to the end of your life to discover that everything you did is going to burn up in the Day of Judgment (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), and that you failed to do what is truly and eternally important. Be planted by the river of living water, the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34) only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17), and then you will bear fruit that will endure for eternal life.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 4 Epiphany A

To Be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted February 5, 2011;

Podcast: Saturday 4 Epiphany A

1 Corinthians 3:3-23 – Spiritual Growth;
Matthew 13:44-52 – Parables of the Kingdom;

Corinthians Paraphrase:

The Corinthian Church was divided by factions over loyalty to Apollos, a leader of the congregation, or Paul, who had brought the Gospel to them. Paul told them that jealousy and strife among them indicated that they were living according to their flesh instead of the Holy Spirit, and were no different than worldly people.

Church leaders are servants of the congregation (not rulers of an “empire” as are worldly leaders). In an analogy to farming, Paul had planted, and Apollos had watered, but it was God who produced the growth. Paul and Apollos are merely laborers, and the congregation is God’s field; God is the one over all, to whom all are accountable.

In an analogy to building, Paul laid the foundation like a skilled master builder. Now others were building upon that foundation. Each person who builds upon the foundation must be careful to use good materials and workmanship. The foundation is Jesus Christ; without that any other labor and materials would be wasted. But upon that sound foundation, the workmanship and materials of the builders will be tested, as with fire, on the Day of Judgment. Shoddy materials and workmanship will be destroyed by fire, but good materials and workmanship will be evident and will survive. If a laborer’s work survives, he will receive a reward. If a laborer’s work is destroyed, he will suffer loss, although he himself will survive.

Each “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) believer is a temple of God’s Spirit dwelling within them. As a temple each one is holy. If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.

Don’t deceive yourself. Worldly wisdom is folly compared to God’s (divine) wisdom which the world considers foolish. In order to become truly wise one must become a fool according to worldly standards (see 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-8). God’s Word warns that the wise are snared in their own cunning (Job 5:13), and the plans of the wise are futile (Psalm 94:11). So we should not boast of humans. We don’t belong to any mortal, but to God in Christ, and church leaders belong to us; not we to them.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus used three parables to describe the kingdom of heaven. It is like treasure buried in a field. If one finds the treasure, he will gladly sell everything he has to buy the field so that he can possess the treasure.

The kingdom of God is like a pearl of great value. A merchant looking for fine pearls sells all he has so that he can possess it.

The kingdom of heaven is also compared to a fishing net. When thrown into the sea it collects every fish in its path. When full, it is drawn in and fishermen sort through the fish, keeping the good, and throwing back the bad. The net represents the close of this age, when the angels will separate the evil from the righteous. The evil will be thrown into the fires of hell, where people will spend eternity in sorrow and anguish.

Jesus asked his hearers if they had understood what he was saying, and then said that a scribe (a teacher of the Law of Moses) who is trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a homeowner who selects from his possessions both what is new and what is old.

Commentary:

The Church is intended to be a disciple-making organization, as Jesus demonstrated, during his earthly ministry. Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is the prototype and example of a modern, “post-resurrection,” “born-again” disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-22), carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) which Jesus gave to his disciples to carry out after they had been “born-again” (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-13).

Paul had laid the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Corinth, and was “building” disciples on that foundation. Christian discipleship is a process of spiritual growing to maturity. The Corinthians were immature Christians. They were still living according to worldly ways and standards. They thought that their new knowledge of the Gospel, and which leader they were following, made them superior to others. The fact that there were divisions among them demonstrated that they were spiritually immature.

The foundation of the Church is the biblical apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Gospel recorded in the Bible and taught by the Apostles including Paul. Congregational leaders build upon that foundation, but each believer is also a builder of his own temple within him on that Gospel foundation. Each builder’s work will be tested at the Day of Judgment.

Instead of developing a personal relationship with Jesus and learning to know, trust and obey his teaching, nominal “Christians” are not building and not growing spiritually. Instead they select a leader to “belong to.” Instead of building on the biblical apostolic Gospel, they emphasize the distinctives of their particular leader, to the effect of division within the Church. In too many instances Churches are settling for making members and building church buildings, and promoting to leadership people who have not been “born-again.”

Discipleship and “re-birth” are not optional but essential. Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26c) who have been “born-again” by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. They are to be guided and empowered by indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Christ within them (Romans 8:9)

In order to make “born-again” disciples one must be a “born-again” disciple, as Paul’s example illustrates (Acts 9:10, 17). In order to be a witness testifying to the Gospel, one must have personally experienced Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself if one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

If we have understood and believed the Gospel we will be willing to give whatever it takes to acquire the buried treasure, the pearl of great price. The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, the Spirit of Jesus within us, without whom we cannot be a builder or laborer in God’s kingdom.

Jesus warns that there is a Day of Judgment coming, when everyone who has ever lived in this world will be accountable to the Lord for what they have done in this life. Those who have not been spiritually reborn will spend eternity in the fires of Hell in great sorrow and anguish. Only those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus, who have been reborn to spiritual, eternal life, will spend eternity in the kingdom of God in heaven.

Jesus said that those who had been trained in Judaism did not need to discard everything and start over, but to reinterpret the Old Testament scriptures in the light of the New Testament. It also applies to us. All scripture (the Bible) is inspired by God and useful to know and apply in our lives (2 Timothy 3:16), but the Old Testament must be understood in the light of the New Testament Gospel.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 3 Epiphany A – 01/22-02/28/2016

January 21, 2017

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/usage.html

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/  (Please bookmark this link).

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

http://shepherdboy-mydailywalk.blogspot.com/ 

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

.mp3 Podcasts via Linux Festival text-to-speech and Panopreter Basic text-to-speech are available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/a_year/Wklx_a.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/c_year/wklx_c.html

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of 3 Epiphany A

Sunday 3 Epiphany A

First Posted January 23, 2011;

Podcast: Sunday 3 Epiphany A

Isaiah 9:1b-4 – Light in Darkness;
Psalm 27:1-9 – Light and Salvation;
or Amos 3:1-8 – Judgment;
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – Unity;
Matthew 4:12-23 – Prophetic Fulfillment;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

In the past the Lord had brought contempt to Zebulun and Naphtali (constituent territories of Galilee), but the prophet declares that in the future the Lord will glorify (by the coming of the Messiah) “the way of the sea” (the highway from Damascus to the Mediterranean), the “land beyond the Jordan” (the Persian Province, “Beyond the River;” of the time of Isaiah), “Galilee of the nations” (of the Gentiles; a Roman province).

The people have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness (“shadow of death;” KJV), on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). The Lord has increased the nation and its joy (of its salvation) as at harvest, or as when an army divides the plunder. The Lord has broken the yoke and burden of oppression and has broken the oppressor’s power, as in the day of Midian.

Psalm Paraphrase:

Those who accept the Lord as their (spiritual) light and salvation and take refuge in him won’t fear anyone or thing. The enemies of the Lord’s people will not prevail in their opposition. Though the enemy greatly outnumbers them and attacks them, God’s people will not fear or lose confidence.

Those who seek, trust and obey the Lord desire one thing above all others; to dwell in the Lord’s house all their days, to see the beauty of the Lord and to learn from him. The Lord will conceal and shelter his people in his tent in the day of trouble, and set them upon a high rock (Jesus), so that they will be above their enemies and they will offer sacrifices with joy and sing and praise the Lord.

God’s Word tells us to seek God’s face. To those who desire in their hearts to see God’s face, God will not hide from them, and will answer them when they cry to him. God will not turn away from his servants in anger. He will not cast off or forsake those who have trusted in him for their salvation. Those whom God has helped in the past can be assured that God will continue to help those who trust and obey him.

Amos Paraphrase:

Through Amos the Lord declared a Word of judgment against his people, the whole family of descendants of Israel whom he had delivered from Egypt. Because God has had a personal covenant relationship with Israel alone, of all the people of earth, God will punish them for their iniquities (disobedience, immorality, idolatry, injustice, and superficial religion).

The prophet uses proverbial wisdom to show that there are consequences to their actions. Two people do not walk together without prior arrangement. Lions don’t roar when they are hungry (or they’d never catch any prey). Birds cannot be caught without setting a snare, and snares do not trip without something tripping it. The watchman doesn’t blow his trumpet unless there’s a reason for warning. Evil does not befall a city unless the Lord allows it.

The Lord makes known to his prophets what he is doing. “The Lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy” (Amos 3:8)?

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

The Corinthian Church had been founded by Paul’s ministry and Paul was continuing to “disciple” its members by letter. Paul had heard that there was dissension among the members. Some members favored the preaching of Apollos, and others favored Peter. Paul told them that whom they had been converted by or baptized by was not important; the importance was Jesus’ crucifixion, and the Gospel of Jesus, which should unite all believers.

Paul emphasized that he had not baptized many at Corinth, for which he was glad, so that his baptizing would not be a point of division among the members; and Paul hadn’t preached the Gospel with eloquence, either. The power of the Gospel does not depend upon human eloquence or wisdom, but on the power and wisdom of God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

After being baptized by John and being tested in the wilderness, Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum in Galilee (the people in Nazareth had not welcomed his ministry and virtually threw Jesus out; Luke 4:16-31). After John had been imprisoned, Jesus began traveling throughout the villages of Galilee calling people to repent (turn from disobedience to faith and obedience to God), saying that the kingdom of God was imminent.

This was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. Galilee, including the tribal lands of Zebulun and Naphtali was, at the time of Jesus, the Galilee of the nations (Gentiles; i.e., the Roman province of that name). Isaiah had prophesied that the people who had been in spiritual darkness would see the spiritual light of righteousness, and divine revelation, and those living in the shadow of death would see the light of eternal life, which was fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

As Jesus walked on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he encountered two brothers, Peter and Andrew, fishing with a casting net. Jesus invited them to follow him and become fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and came along with Jesus. Further on Jesus encountered two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, in a boat with their father, mending nets. Jesus called them and they immediately left their father and the boat and followed Jesus.

Jesus began going throughout Galilee teaching and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and healing all sorts of diseases and disabilities.

Commentary:

God’s Word is eternal, absolutely true, and trustworthy. What God says, will be fulfilled, over and over, as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. God has always intended from the beginning of Creation, to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who would willingly choose to trust and obey God. This lifetime is our only opportunity to seek and learn to know trust and obey God (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s one and only plan of salvation (from sin, i.e. disobedience of God’s Word; and eternal destruction, which is the penalty for sin; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 John 1:8-10; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah, God’s “anointed” eternal savior and king, from “Galilee of the Gentiles” during the Roman occupation and Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy. God’s Word through Isaiah promised that the Messiah would be the light of righteousness, divine wisdom, and eternal life, and Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Those who accept Jesus as the light of enlightenment, righteousness and true eternal life will have nothing to fear. They can be certain that the enemies of light will not prevail.

God’s Word promises that, to those who earnestly and sincerely seek to find and know God, God will reveal himself. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word, lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus is the fullest revelation of God’s character and person in this world (John 14:8-10). The gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17), is the fullest revelation of God the Father and Jesus Christ to us individually and personally. Jesus promised that he would manifest himself, and God the Father, to his disciples who keep Jesus’ commandments (John 14:21, 23).

At the Cross, Jesus won the victory over our spiritual enemy Satan and our slavery to sin and death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus is the high rock which elevates us above our enemy and gives us sure footing.

Through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit we have God’s guidance, protection, and teaching; we have daily fellowship with the Lord and the assurance of eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God’s Word contains great promises but also ominous warnings. God has given us forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ as a free gift to be received by faith (obedient trust; Ephesians 2:8-9). But for those who refuse God’s gracious gift there will be eternal condemnation and punishment.

Amos was a shepherd who was called by God to proclaim God’s warning of Judgment to the Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes of the divided monarchy. The Northern Kingdom was at the height of its prosperity and power, and the people considered themselves God’s chosen and favored people. But Amos denounced them for their disobedience of God’s Word, reliance on their own human ability and resources instead of on God, and of idolatry, immorality, social injustice, and superficial religion.

Amos called them to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord, but they refused to heed the prophetic warnings. The religious leaders of the Northern Kingdom forbade Amos to prophesy and sent him away. The Assyrians came by “the way of the sea” in 733-732 B.C.* (Isaiah 9:1), and the Northern Kingdom was completely destroyed and ceased to exist in 721 B.C. .

The Church at Corinth had been established by Paul’s ministry and he continued to “disciple” the members by letter. The Corinthian Church was suffering division, because the members were relying on human strength and resources, and relying too much on their “chosen-ness” and God’s grace (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right) without the commitment of discipleship and obedient trust in God’s Word.

The Lord had brought contempt and condemnation upon the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, but Judah, the remnant of Israel did not learn the lesson of the Northern Kingdom’s punishment. As a result, Judah went into a seventy-year exile in Babylon (from 587-517 B.C.**) and then was restored. But the remnant again forgot the lessons of the Northern Kingdom, and of their own Babylonian Exile, and were unprepared for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

When the Lord brought blessing to Israel through Zebulun and Naphtali by the coming of the promised Messiah, Judah rejected Jesus, as Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, had. They missed the spiritual healing, nurture and restoration that only Jesus can give. The result was that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D.*** Israel ceased to exist as a nation, and the Jews were scattered throughout the world, until the nation was reestablished following World War II. The temple has never been rebuilt.

America and the Church, at least in America, are each, in a sense the New Israel, the “chosen” people of God in the national and spiritual senses. We’re in the same position as Israel at the time of Jesus. In many ways our religious and political leaders regard their office as their private empire for their benefit, rather than as stewardship on behalf of God’s people. We need to hear the prophetic Word of God’s judgment as much today as Israel did in the time of Jesus or of Amos.

Haven’t many Americans and Christians turned away from obedient trust in God’s Word? Haven’t many become immoral and idolatrous? Aren’t there great social injustices in our land? Hasn’t religion become a meaningless ritual for many?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


* The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Isaiah 9:1n, p. 833, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.

** Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “Exile,” digital edition, bibledatabase.org – http://bibledatabase.org/eastons.html

*** ibid, Temple, Herod’s


 

Monday 3 Epiphany A (Variable)

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted January 24, 2011;

Podcast: Monday 3 Epiphany A

Psalm 1 – Rewards of Righteousness;

Paraphrase:

Happy is the person who does not follow the counsel of the wicked, who does not follow the example of sinners or scoffers. Instead, he delights in the law of the Lord and he meditates on God’s Word day and night. He will thrive like a tree planted near a stream, where it will bear fruit in season and its leaves won’t wither. He will prosper in all that he does.

The wicked are not like the righteous; they are like chaff which will be blown away by the wind. They will not stand in God’s judgment, nor will they have fellowship with the righteous. The Lord knows who the righteous are, but the wicked will perish.

Commentary:

Sometimes it seems that the wicked flourish, but their reward is perishable, and will not survive the Day of Judgment. Sometimes worldly people equate worldly success with God’s approval. What God wants is obedient trust in his Word. God wants economic, moral, and social justice, mercy, and humble obedience to his Word (Micah 6:8).

Jesus taught that we should not lay up temporal worldly treasures, but instead seek eternal spiritual treasures (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus taught his disciples to seek God’s eternal kingdom and his righteousness before even the physical necessities of life (Matthew 6:25-33), because God will provide those physical necessities as well. But if we focus on physical needs we’ll never get around to the spiritual necessities which are eternal.

The meaning and purpose of life in this world is not to accumulate material things, worldly honor and recognition, or to seek physical pleasure. The meaning and purpose of life is to seek and find God (Acts 17:26-27) and be spiritually reborn to eternal life (John 3:3, 5-8).

Jesus is God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sin (disobedience of God’s Word), restoration of fellowship with God which was broken by sin, and eternal life in God’s kingdom in heaven (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right). Jesus has been designed into the very structure of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14).

Jesus has promised to manifest himself and God the Father to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:21, 23). Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The gift of the Holy Spirit is the only way we can have a personal fellowship with the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The Holy Spirit is not just a stream, but a river of living water (John 7:38-39) which enables us to thrive spiritually and produce spiritual fruit for eternity. Have you read God’s Word? Do you meditate on it daily? Are you seeking the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit in the river of eternal life?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 3 Epiphany A (Variable)

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First Posted January 25, 2011;

Podcast: Tuesday 3 Epiphany A

Micah 6:1-8 – What the Lord Requires;

Paraphrase:

The Lord has a controversy with his people because they have forgotten his saving acts on their behalf. To what court can they appeal? Let them make their case before the mountains and the very foundations of the earth.

What has the Lord done to weary his people? The Lord brought them out of slavery in Egypt and raised up Moses, Aaron and Miriam to lead them. Remember how, when Balak, king of Moab, tried to have Balaam, the seer, curse God’s people, Balaam refused and blessed them instead (Numbers 22:1-6; 36-38).

Shittim was the camp east of the Jordan across from Jericho. From there they crossed the Jordan on dry ground, since the Lord stopped the flow of the river while they crossed. They took up stones from the riverbed and made a cairn (a memorial of piled rocks) at Gilgal where they first camped in the Promised Land, to commemorate God’s saving acts.

What can God’s people bring to God as a worthy offering? Would even a thousand rams and ten thousand rivers of oil be enough to please God? Could sacrificing one’s first-born atone for one’s sin; the fruit of the flesh for the sin of the soul? “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Commentary:

In one sense we are all God’s people because he has created us. In another sense God’s people are those who acknowledge God and what he has done for us, and trust and obey him. Have we heard and believed what God has done for us in Jesus Christ?

God does not need burnt offerings and sacrifices. No amount of sacrifices and offerings, or religious “rituals,” can atone for our sin (disobedience of God’s Word), or “earn” our forgiveness. Even the sacrifice of our first-born is not sufficient. But God has done that for us; he gave his first-born, Jesus Christ, as the one and only sacrifice for all time and all people for the complete forgiveness of all our sin, to be received by faith (obedient trust; Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

God has done nothing to bore or weary us; it is we who weary him. God has shown great patience and forbearance toward us. God has revealed his Salvation for all to see. Salvation is a free gift to all who are willing to receive it by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). How will God feel if we reject his gift of forgiveness which he has provided at the cost of his Son?

Who will be our arbitrator on our behalf before God? Only Jesus Christ! Jesus is our “Moses” and our High Priest. The blood of his sacrifice on the Cross cleanses us of sin.

In a sense the Jordan River represents physical death. God’s people will pass through the “river” of physical death without getting “wet,” by obedient trust in Jesus Christ, our “Joshua,” who will lead us from the “Shittim” of this world into the “Gilgal” in the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom in heaven.

God does not require of us more than we can give. The only thing we can really give God is our obedient trust. We can choose to be just or unjust with others. We can choose whether to be kind and loving to others. We can choose to humbly trust and obey God’s Word, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 14).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 3 Epiphany A (Variable)

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted January 26, 2011;

Podcast: Wednesday 3 Epiphany A

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – Spiritual Maturity;

The Corinthian Church had been founded through Paul’s ministry. Paul was continuing to disciple the members. There was division in the Church by some who thought they were spiritually wise and mature.

Paraphrase:

Paul had taught that divine wisdom is unlike what the world falsely calls wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17-25). He asked the Corinthians to consider their call to faith. They were not wise, powerful or socially elite by worldly standards. God chooses what is week and foolish according to worldly standards, even spiritual things which the world thinks are nothing compared to the apparent solidity of physical things, to show that the worldly standards are wrong. No one will be able to boast in God’s presence. God is the source of (eternal) life through Jesus Christ who is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification (purification and dedication to God’s service), and redemption (ransom from the penalty for sin). Paul quoted Jeremiah 9:23-24, to suggest that one can boast only of the Lord.

Commentary:

A Christian is a “born-again (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26b). Paul is the prototype of the ‘modern,” “post-resurrection” “born-again” disciple and apostle that all believers are called to be. As Saul of Tarsus, he was confronted by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-7); he repented and became obedient to Jesus (Acts 9:5, 8-9). He was “discipled” by a “born-again” disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10-17) until Paul was “born-again” by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and then Paul began proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:18-20).

Paul’s conversion was exceptional for its speed. The original Twelve disciples, spent day and night, seven days a week, for two and a half years with Jesus, yet were unable to carry out his Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) until they had received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; Acts 2:1-13). But Paul was already formally educated in Judaism, and zealous for God; he just needed to be pointed to Jesus, the Messiah, confess his sin and receive the Holy Spirit.

Paul discipled Timothy that way and taught him to repeat it with others (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul was continuing the discipling process with the Corinthian Christians. This is what the Church should be doing, but in too many cases isn’t.

The Corinthian Christians were like a lot of new Christians, who have been converted but who want the instant benefit and recognition of spiritual maturity without experiencing the effort and discipline of spiritual growth. The Corinthian Church was divided between factions boasting that their baptism was better because of the church leader who baptized them (1 Corinthians 1:11-17). They were not ready for spiritual “meat;” they were still on a diet of spiritual “baby-food” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

The Corinthian Christians considered themselves spiritually wise and sophisticated, while tolerating immorality within the congregation (1 Corinthians 5:1-2; 9-13; 6:1-20). Some also thought that it was OK to eat food sacrificed to idols because they knew that idols are inanimate objects and they suggested that the ones who had concerns were less spiritually wise and sophisticated (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). Paul showed them that they were not as wise and sophisticated as they thought, because there are demons behind idols, and their attitude toward their fellow believers was not loving (1 Corinthians 10:18-33).

The same problems and attitudes are present within the Church today. Members tend to think that they are spiritually mature when they become members of the Church. Many think that discipleship is optional, and only for “super-Christians.” Just reading the entire Bible through once does not make one spiritually mature. We need to read the Bible daily, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and learn to apply God’s Word in our personal lives daily.

There are two major heresies being taught in the (nominal) “Church” today which existed in the first century Church and are refuted in the New Testament. One is “legalism:” salvation by doing “good works;” the “circumcision party,” who insisted that Gentile converts must keep Jewish law, including circumcision and dietary laws, dealt with here (see also Galatians 2:12, 16, 21-3:14; 5:1-5, Ephesians 2:8-10). The other is “Cheap Grace:” salvation by grace (unmerited favor; a free gift), without the obligation of discipleship and obedient trust; “Libertinism;” “Nicolaitanism;” false freedom from self-discipline; i.e., licentiousness; (see Ephesians 4:17-24; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 6:9-20), which is also dealt with here. Each is a deviation, in opposite directions, from the central apostolic doctrine of the New Testament (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6


Thursday 3 Epiphany A (Variable)

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted January 27, 2011;

Podcast:  Thursday 3 Epiphany A

Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes;

This is the beginning of what is called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27), which is representative of Jesus’ teachings.

Paraphrase:

Crowds came to Jesus and he went up on the side of a mountain and sat down and began to teach his disciples.

· God blesses those who realize their spiritual poverty and need, for they will enter God’s kingdom.

· Blessed also are those who mourn, for they will be comforted and strengthened.

· Those who are meek will inherit the earth.

· Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.

· Those who are merciful will receive mercy.

· Those who are pure in heart will see God

· Those who work for peace will be called God’s children.

· Those who are persecuted for righteousness will enter God’s kingdom.

· When Jesus’ disciples are reviled, persecuted and slandered they can rejoice, because they will be rewarded in heaven. The world has always responded with evil toward God’s servants and prophets.

Commentary:

The Lord will bless those who seek to live in his kingdom under his reign. If we realize our spiritual need we can ask and he will satisfy us with spiritual healing and nurture. Jesus’ miracles of physical healing and feeding were intended to reveal that he is the Son of God, with the power and authority of God’s Word, and that he alone can provide the spiritual healing and feeding that we must have to live eternally in God’s kingdom in heaven.

Those who mourn for their sin (disobedience of God’s Word) and for the “lost-ness” of this world will be comforted, encouraged, and restored.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace (unmerited favor) to the humble” (James 4:6b; compare 1 Peter 5:5b RSV). Worldly people are successful by being arrogant and ruthless, but those ways do not work with God. Eternal life and citizenship in God’s kingdom cannot be bought or earned, or taken by force or deception.

Those who desire righteousness, according to God’s Word, and understand that it is as necessary for spiritual life and health, as physical food is to physical life, will receive the righteousness they desire and be spiritually satisfied.

We all need God’s mercy, because we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). If we hope to receive and recognize that we have received God’s mercy, we will show mercy to others who need our mercy.

Jesus is the only one who can purify our hearts. Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). If we accept Jesus as our Lord and begin to trust and obey him, he will purify our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is only by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal fellowship with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is only through Jesus Christ that we can have peace with God. Jesus came to bring reconciliation and peace with God to the world, and if we have experienced that peace which only Jesus can give, we will carry on his mission to bring God’s peace to others.

God raised up many prophets among the people to proclaim God’s righteousness, and the people hated, persecuted and killed the prophets of God. Jesus was the only perfect, righteous, sinless Son of God, but the people of the world responded with hate and persecution and crucified him. The message of the Gospel is no more popular in the world today than it ever was.

If they did those things to Jesus, his disciples cannot expect better treatment. Being a disciple requires faithfulness in proclaiming the Gospel fully and accurately; not just the parts that are popular and make us feel good.

The Beatitudes describe what God blesses; but there are corresponding woes to those who choose the alternatives (see Luke 6:20-26).

· Woe to those who don’t recognize their spiritual neediness.

· Woe to those who don’t mourn their own sinfulness and the lost condition of this present world.

· Woe to those who are prideful and arrogant.

· Woe to those who are satisfied with their assessment of their own righteousness.

· Woe to those who are ruthless and merciless.

· Woe to those who don’t recognize the impurity and sinfulness of their own hearts.

· Woe to those who don’t seek peace with God and others.

· Woe to those who are popular and highly regarded according to worldly standards.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (in both physical and spiritual senses; 1 Peter 4:5). Every one who has ever lived will be accountable to the Lord for what we have done in this lifetime. Those who have accepted, trusted and obeyed Jesus as their Lord will receive eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom. Those who have rejected Jesus, and have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal condemnation and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 3 Epiphany A (Variable)

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted January 28, 2011;

Podcast: Friday 3 Epiphany A

Isaiah 43:1-3 – Israel’s Redemption;

Paraphrase:

God had punished the remnant of Israel with Babylonian exile for Israel’s disobedience and idolatry. But the Lord promised to redeem Israel. The Lord was the creator of Jacob (the inheritor of the birthright); the Lord had formed Israel. The Lord had named Israel, marking them as his people (Genesis 32:28).

The Lord promised that he would be with his people through all dangers; through flood and through fire, and would protect and preserve them. “When you pass through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2; compare Daniel 3:13-28).

The Lord God is the Holy One of Israel, her Savior. The Lord was going to give Egypt and Ethiopia (nations of Africa) and Seba (Arabia)* as a ransom for his people.

Commentary:

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was the remnant of Israel, after the Northern Kingdom of the divided monarchy was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.** Judah had not heeded the warnings of the prophets and the example of the fall of the Northern Kingdom, so God withdrew his favor and protection and allowed the Chaldean army of Nebuchadnezzar to carry Judah into exile in Babylon.

God told Judah beforehand what was going to happen, and promised that he would bring them back to the Promised Land after seventy years (Jeremiah 25:12). Judah could have repented and avoided the exile at any time, up to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 587 B.C.**

God’s Word was fulfilled. Judah went into Babylonian exile for seventy years. Then God used Cyrus of Persia to conquer the Chaldeans and release Judah to return to the Promised Land. The seventy years ended in 517 B.C.** with the dedication of the second temple.

God’s Word was fulfilled. The remnant of Israel had passed through the flood and fire and had not been consumed. God brought a renewed Israel back from Babylonian exile.

God’s Word was fulfilled. God gave Egypt, Ethiopia, and Arabia into the hands of Cyrus as a ransom for God’s people.

Egypt was attacked and made a province of the Persian Empire in 525 B.C. for about thirty years.*** Ethiopia had succumbed to the Assyrians and was briefly a province of the Persian Empire (Esther 1:1, 8:9).**** Seba was probably also a province of the Persian Empire under Cyrus.*

Jacob was the grandson of Abraham (Abram) who inherited the “birthright” (Gen. 25:29-34; 27:1-45), the promise of God to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) through Isaac, the son of the promise (Genesis 15:1-5), through whom God would make a great nation and give them the Promised Land.

God “named” Israel. God re-named Jacob “Israel” after he had wrestled with God (Genesis 32:28) as Jacob was returning to the Promised Land from Haran, the homeland of Abraham, later part of the Assyrian and Babylonian (Chaldean) Empires.

Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians, and God parted the waters so they passed through on dry ground, while the Egyptian pursuers were drowned by the returning waters (Ex. 14:22-31). God brought Israel into the Promised Land through the Jordan River, stopping its flow so that they could pass through on dry ground without getting their feet wet (Josh. 3:14-17).

The Red Sea is a metaphor for baptism into Jesus Christ, and the Jordan River is a metaphor for physical death. Jesus delivers us from slavery to Satan and sin in the Egypt of this world, through the waters of baptism. Jesus is our “Moses” who leads us through the wilderness of life; our “Joshua” who leads us across the Jordan River of physical death and into the Promised Land of eternal life in God’s kingdom in heaven. Christians are the “namesake” and heirs of the promise and birthright of Israel through Jesus Christ.

God condemned and destroyed the world once by flood (Genesis 6:11-8:19). God promised never to destroy the world again by flood (Genesis 9:8-17). The next time God Judges the earth, he will destroy the wicked by fire, (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10), as was Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:16-21; 19:1-29).

Jesus is the “Son of God” who delivers believers, who trust and obey him, from destruction by fire in Hell, as Daniel was delivered from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:24-25; 28) in Babylon.

Jesus has promised to return, on the Day of Judgment at the end of the (temporal) age, to judge all who have ever lived on earth. Everyone will be accountable to him for what they have done in this lifetime. Those who have accepted Jesus and have trusted and obeyed him will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in heaven. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal condemnation and destruction in fiery Hell (John 5:28-29, Matthew 25:31-46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


* The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Isaiah 43.3c-7n, p. 875, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.

** Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “Exile, Captivity” digital edition, bibledatabase.org – http://bibledatabase.org/eastons.html

*** Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, “Egypt; Saite-Persian Period, p. 380,” David Noel Freedman, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids Michigan, 2000, ISBN 0-8020-2400-5

**** ibid. “Ethiopia,” p. 432.


Saturday 3 Epiphany A (Variable)

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.

First Posted January 29, 2011;

Podcast: Saturday 3 Epiphany A

Romans 4:16-25 – Justified by Faith;
Matthew 14:22-33 – Faith and Doubt;

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul taught that God’s plan of Salvation (see sidebar) is based on faith (obedient trust), so that the promise is through God’s grace (unmerited favor; a free gift) and guaranteed to all the (spiritual) descendants of Abraham who share Abraham’s faith (which came before the Covenant of Law; Romans 4:10-12). Abraham is the spiritual father of us all, in fulfillment of Genesis 17.5: “I have made you a father of many nations.” The promise is guaranteed by God, in whom Abraham believed, who gives life to the dead and existence to things that do not exist.

Abraham believed God’s promise, even when it seemed hopeless, that he would be the father of many nations. His faith didn’t weaken when he considered that his body was at the end of his life, because he was about a hundred years old, or that Sarah was barren. “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave God glory, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). For that reason his faith was accounted as righteousness, and his experience is recorded in the Bible for our benefit, so that we also will be accounted righteous who believe in God who raised, from the dead, Jesus, who died for our sins, and was raised from death for our justification (acquittal; imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to us through faith in Jesus).

Matthew Paraphrase:

After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples back to Capernaum by boat while Jesus dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus went into the surrounding hills by himself to pray. When night came, Jesus was alone, and the boat with the disciples was far from land and not making much progress because the wind and waves were against them.

Just before dawn Jesus came to them walking on the surface of the sea. When the disciples saw him they were terrified, thinking that he was a ghost. But Jesus identified himself and told them not to be afraid.

Peter replied that if it was indeed Jesus, he should tell Peter to come to Jesus on the water. Jesus did so, and Peter got out of the boat and came toward Jesus. But when Peter experienced the wind he became afraid and started to sink. Jesus reached out and caught him by the hand and asked Peter why he had so little faith and had doubted. When they got into the boat the wind stopped, and the others in the boat were convinced that Jesus was truly the Son of God.

Commentary:

God’s Word is absolutely true and trustworthy. God has given us his Word so that we will learn to trust and obey him. Our salvation from eternal condemnation and destruction depends on our trusting and obeying Jesus. Jesus is God’s Word, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision by whom we can and must be saved (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23) and the penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death. Salvation from God’s eternal judgment and condemnation is by grace as a free gift to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation cannot be bought or earned, or taken by force or deception.

Paul was making disciples of Jesus Christ in accordance with Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Abraham is an example of faith in God’s Word. Abraham heard God’s call and trusted and obeyed. As he went forward in obedient trust in God’s Word he grew strong in faith, and because he trusted and obeyed God’s Word, he was accounted righteous in God’s judgment. This is the pattern of spiritual growth that takes place when we say “yes” to God’s Word.

Abraham believed that God can raise the dead, and God demonstrated that truth in raising Jesus from the dead. The witnesses in the New Testament, and every “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian since, testifies to the truth that Jesus has been raised to eternal life. Those who trust and obey Jesus will receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17), which only Jesus can give (John 1:31-34). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The miracle of Jesus’ walking on the water is also a lesson in faith. They set out on their own, at Jesus’ command, but spent nearly all night getting far from land but not reaching their destination because wind and wave were against them. Jesus came to them and at first they were frightened, thinking he was a ghost. Jesus identified himself and calmed their fears.

Peter was eager to trust and obey Jesus, but he let doubt arise within him because of the forces seemingly against him. But Jesus was there to reach out his hand and steady Peter when he started to sink. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind and waves ceased (and in John’s Gospel, they immediately reached their destination; John 6:21).

The disciples were following Jesus’ word, but they didn’t have Jesus with them. They’re like believers who have the word of Jesus in the Bible, but haven’t yet been “born-again.” Supernatural forces are against them and they cannot make headway in their own human strength. The mission of Jesus Christ must be carried on by “born-again” disciples in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6c; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Only when Jesus is in our “boat” with us can we accomplish his command and reach the destination.

Peter was eager to act in faith, but he allowed doubt to cause him to waver. But Jesus was nearby and was able to help Peter by touching him and strengthening his faith. That’s what the Lord can do for those who are born-again. But if Peter had gotten out of the boat in the middle of the sea in the middle of the night without Jesus, he would have sunk. Jesus is able through his Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith and cause us to grow spiritually when we have trusted and obeyed him and have been born-again.

God’s Word warns us not to believe every spirit (1 John 4:1-3). The disciples were frightened that Jesus might be a ghost (demonic), but Jesus identified himself to them and they recognized him. Likewise Jesus will identify himself to us so that we will recognize him, and we must recognize him, instead of receiving false and lying spirits. False spirits may claim to be “god,” but the true Spirit of God will never tell us to do what is contrary to God’s Word, or anything that will harm ourselves or others.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 2 Epiphany A – 02/04 – 10/2016

January 14, 2017

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/usage.html

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/  (Please bookmark this link).

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

http://shepherdboy-mydailywalk.blogspot.com/ 

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

.mp3 Podcasts via Linux Festival text-to-speech and Panopreter Basic text-to-speech are available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/a_year/Wklx_a.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/c_year/wklx_c.html

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of 2 Epiphany A

Sunday 2 Epiphany A

First Posted January 16, 2011;

Podcast: 2 Epiphany Sunday A

Isaiah 49:1-6 – The Lord’s Servant;
Psalm 40:1-12 – The Lord’s Deliverance;
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 – Thanksgiving;
John 1:29-41 – John’s Testimony;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord’s Servant calls the coastlands (of the Mediterranean Sea; neighboring countries) and the people from far off. God called his servant from his mother’s womb and named him before he was born (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38). God put God’s Word, the sharp two-edged sword of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12), in his mouth and protected him in the shadow of God’s hand; God made him a polished arrow and hid him in God’s quiver. God declared him his servant, Israel, who would glorify God. The servant seemed to have labored in vain to exhaustion, but trusted in God to bring forth results.

The Lord created him in his mother’s womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob (renamed Israel by God; the inheritor of the birthright; father of the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel) back to God, and gather Israel to him. God has honored the servant and has become his strength.

God declares that the salvation of Israel alone is too small a thing (compared to the sacrifice of God’s Son); his sacrifice must be a light to the nations (Gentiles), “that his salvation may reach to the end of the world” (Isaiah 49:6c).

The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, declares “to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you” (Isaiah 49:7).

Psalm Paraphrase:

Those who have trusted, obeyed, and waited patiently for the Lord, including the psalmist and myself, testify that the Lord hears and answers our cries. He draws us up from the pit of trouble, the quagmire of evil, and even the grave of physical death. He sets our feet upon the rock (of salvation; Jesus Christ) and guides and protects our daily path. He gives us a new song of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done for us and will fear (have appropriate respect for the power and authority of) God and put their trust in the Lord.

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods” (Psalm 40:4)! The Lord has blessed us with goodness far beyond our awareness and ability to recall (compare John 21:25).

God doesn’t want sacrifice, offering, or religious ritual; he wants us to use our spiritual ears to hear, trust and obey him. He wants us to come to him, to store up his Word in our hearts, and have delight in doing his will, as the Scripture (the Bible) has said.

When we have experienced his deliverance, we are intended to and should want to testify and share the good news in the congregation of believers, and among our neighbors in the world. Let us not restrain our testimony or hide God’s saving help within our hearts. Let’s not keep to ourselves the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness, and his power to deliver and save.

If we trust and obey him, the Lord will not withhold his mercy, steadfast love and faithfulness from us when we are beset with trouble; he will preserve us forever. When evil and sin overtake and threaten to overwhelm us, and we see no way of escape, the Lord will deliver us without delay.

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was called by God to be an apostle (a messenger; of the Gospel; Acts 9:1-21; NB v. 15) of Jesus Christ. He was writing to the Church at Corinth which had been established through Paul’s ministry; to those who had been sanctified (purified and consecrated) in Jesus Christ, called to be saints (“sanctified” Christian believers; i.e., “born-again” Christian disciples) together with all Christians everywhere who accept and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Grace (unmerited favor) and peace (with God and mankind) are only from God through Jesus Christ.

Paul was thankful to God for the grace the Corinthian Christians had received through Jesus Christ, through whom they received every spiritual blessing, by which their testimony to Christ was confirmed. Paul was confident that the Lord Jesus Christ would preserve and sustain them without guilt as they waited for Christ to be revealed at his Second Coming on the Day of Judgment, because God, who had called them into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, is faithful.

John Paraphrase:

John the Baptizer was preaching and baptizing in the wilderness, and saw Jesus passing by, after Jesus had been baptized by John. John told the people to look and see the “Lamb of God (the sacrificial lamb of Passover), who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). John had said that this man was coming after John, in chronological appearance, but was before John in importance and existence (John 1:1:26-27; John 1:1-3, 14).

John had been sent by God (Luke 3:1-3), to preach water baptism for repentance, to prepare the people for the revealing of the Messiah. John himself did not know who the Messiah was, but God had given him a sign: the one on whom the Holy Spirit descended from heaven as a dove and remained was the Messiah. God had told John that the one on whom the Spirit had descended would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John saw the sign, and testified that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

The next day John was talking to two of his disciples when Jesus again walked by, and John told his disciples to look and see the Lamb of God. The two heard what John said and followed after Jesus. Jesus turned and asked them what they were seeking, and they asked Jesus where he was staying. Jesus invited them to come and see, and they stayed with Jesus that day because it was already 4:00 PM. One of the disciples was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Andrew went and found Simon and told him that they had found the Messiah.

Commentary:

Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the prophecy by Isaiah of the Lord’s servant. God called him forth from the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38) and named him before he was born (Matthew 1:18-25). Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to raise up a prophet who would declare God’s Word; Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14).

Jesus came to his own people, Israel, and his own hometown, Nazareth, but they did not welcome (Luke 4:16-29), trust and obey him. Instead they crucified him. It seemed that the Lord’s servant had labored to exhaustion and physical death in vain, but he trusted in God the Father to bring forth results. Jesus rose from physical death to eternal life, demonstrating existence beyond physical death, and victory over sin and evil. God has honored Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11) and has become his strength.

Jesus was and is despised and abhorred by nations including Israel, but God’s Word of prophecy, that kings would see, arise and prostrate themselves before him, began to be fulfilled at his birth, in the visit of the Magi (“Wise Men;” the “Three Kings;” Matthew 2:1-11). It will be fulfilled ultimately at his Second Coming on the Day of Judgment, when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy of God’s servant, but Israel was intended to follow that example. Instead, Israel turned aside from that call. The Church and each believer is the New Israel, the heir to God’s call to servanthood, to carry on the mission of Christ to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to a spiritually lost and dying world.

This lifetime is our only opportunity to seek and come to know, trust and obey God (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through Jesus Christ, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Bible is the record of God’s dealing with his people. God’s Word is faithful and eternally true. As we trust and act on his Word, we experience God’s faithful mercy, love and deliverance for ourselves, and our faith grows. If we want his deliverance we must be willing to trust and obey his Word.

If we have experienced for ourselves the truth of God’s Word and his deliverance from trouble we will want to share our testimony with others. We must follow the example of Jesus and carry on his call to proclaim his Gospel of salvation to the end of the world. The Lord will provide his strength (and guidance) and make our efforts productive through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul is intended to be our example of a “modern,” “post-resurrection,” “born-again” disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ. God called him to be the Lord’s servant, to learn from Jesus and then to testify to the Lord’s deliverance and salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right) to the end of the world. Paul demonstrates “discipling” ministry and personal testimony.

John the Baptizer was the last Old Testament prophet and the first New Testament prophet, and yet his role was less than the least of all “born-again” disciples (Matthew 11:11). John trusted and obeyed God’s Word and Spirit, experienced the fulfillment of God’s promised sign, and testified to his experience.

Andrew is intended to be an example to us of a disciple and apostle. Andrew heard and acted upon the testimony of John, he came to personally experience Jesus, and immediately went, found his brother, Peter, and testified to his experience. All he needed to do was say, ‘Come, and see for yourself.’

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 2 Epiphany A

First Posted 01/16/05;

Podcast: Monday 2 Epiphany A

Psalm 27:1-9 – My Light and Salvation;

Paraphrase:

Those who make the Lord their light (understanding; standard of righteousness) and their salvation (from evil; sin; death) need not fear any person or thing. When evildoers attack and slander the Lord’s people they will not prevail. Even though the enemy seems to greatly outnumber God’s people they can be confident.

The one important thing to pray for and seek is to spend all the days of our life in the house of the Lord, to experience his beauty and learn his teachings. In the day of trouble the Lord will conceal and shelter his people, and set them high “upon a rock” above their enemies. Then his people will bring offerings and rejoice and sing to the Lord.

The Lord will hear and answer those who call upon him in faith (obedient trust; Hebrews 11:6). God wants us to seek his presence (Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 16:10-11), and when we seek him with our hearts he will not hide from us.

Commentary:

What is the meaning and purpose of life? For most people it seems to be to maximize pleasure and avoid troubles for as long as possible. All effort is directed at achieving “security” by our own resources. But security is never achievable by worldly resources; it always seems to take just a little more than we have.

I believe that the meaning and purpose of life is to seek and come to personal knowledge and experience of God (Acts 17:26-27), who is the only true source of security; and the security he provides is eternal. This lifetime is our only opportunity to be “re-born” (John 3:3, 5-8) to spiritual, eternal life. Our personal relationship with God and spiritual “rebirth” is only possible through Jesus Christ, God’s one and only provision to accomplish that purpose (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34) only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible to know with certainty for oneself whether or not one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Jesus taught his disciples to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, ahead of even daily necessities like food and clothing (Matthew 6:25-33). If we put God first in our lives he will provide all those other things as well, and we will have security in the assurance that we have eternal life in paradise restored in heaven. Nothing can happen to us in this world that the Lord cannot deliver us from.

True wisdom and understanding come from God, not what the world falsely calls wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-8). The standard of righteousness by which everyone is judged is Jesus Christ, not the worldly standard of goodness.

The one important thing to seek in this lifetime is the presence of the Lord, to experience his goodness, faithfulness and love, and to learn his teachings; to learn to trust and obey his Word, fulfilled, embodied, and exemplified in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 14). The Lord wants us to seek him. When we begin to trust and obey him he reveals himself to us (John 14:21, 23).

The Lord does not ask what is impossible for us. The place to begin to seek God is in his Word, the Bible. The way to put God first in our lives is to set aside time each day to read his Word, meditate on it, pray seeking his will and guidance for us for that day and then remember and apply it.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 2 Epiphany A

First Posted 01/17/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 2 Epiphany A

Isaiah 9:1b-4 – The Light of Life;

Background:

Zebulun and Naphtali were part of what became the Roman province of Galilee, beyond the Jordan (on the west bank). The way of the sea was the highway from Damascus, probably by which the Assyrians had invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel.*

In former times the Lord brought that region into contempt, but later glorified it (by bringing forth the Messiah from it).

Paraphrase:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness (or “shadow of death;” KJV), on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). The Lord has multiplied the nation of Israel and increased its joy; they rejoice before the Lord as at a great harvest, or as at a great military victory they divide the plunder.

The Lord has broken Israel’s yoke and burden and the rod of its oppressor as in the day of Midian (Judges 7:15-25).

Commentary:

The Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes was invaded by the Assyrians in 733-732 B.C.* because the leaders and people disobeyed God’s Word, practiced idolatry, and refused to heed the Lord’s prophets. In the time of Jesus, Galilee was a Roman province, “Galilee of the nations (i.e. Gentiles). It was generally regarded with contempt. Nathanael, who became one of Jesus’ Twelve disciples, asked if anything good could come from Nazareth (in Galilee; John 1:43-46). The religious leaders of Israel rebuked Nicodemus over whether the Messiah could arise from Galilee (John 7:45-52).

Jesus was given as a light to the “nations” (not just to the Jews; Luke 2:32; Isaiah 49:6). Jesus has and gives the light of (true, eternal) life (John 1:4-5, 9; John 8:12).

We are all in the spiritual darkness of sin (disobedience of God’s Word) and ignorance of divine wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:17-27, 2:1-8). Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus is the revelation of God and the revealer of divine enlightenment (John 1:9, 14:8-9; 16:13).

Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). It is the Holy Spirit within us who cleanses us, makes it possible for us to know the Lord personally, and makes it possible for us to know, remember and do God’s will. It is by the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3. 5-8). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The true Church of all “born-again” disciples is the “New Israel.” It is by the Holy Spirit that we experience and express the joy of salvation and eternal life, beginning now in this world. The Holy Spirit is the “first-fruit” of the harvest of eternal life in the presence of the Lord.

Jesus is our Savior who has broken the yoke and burden of sin, and the rod of Satan, which is death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The day of Midian was the great victory of Gideon and three hundred men over the vastly larger army of Midian, by faith (obedient trust) in the Word of God (by prophetic dream; Judges 7:15-25) and the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6; Judges 6:11-21).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Isaiah 9:1n, p. 833, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Wednesday 2 Epiphany A

First Posted 01/18/05;

Podcast: Wednesday 2 Epiphany A

Isaiah 9:1b-4 – The Light of Life;

Background:

Zebulun and Naphtali were part of what became the Roman province of Galilee, beyond the Jordan (on the west bank). The way of the sea was the highway from Damascus, probably by which the Assyrians had invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel.*

In former times the Lord brought that region into contempt, but later glorified it (by bringing forth the Messiah from it).

Paraphrase:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness (or “shadow of death;” KJV), on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). The Lord has multiplied the nation of Israel and increased its joy; they rejoice before the Lord as at a great harvest, or as at a great military victory they divide the plunder.

The Lord has broken Israel’s yoke and burden and the rod of its oppressor as in the day of Midian (Judges 7:15-25).

Commentary:

The Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes was invaded by the Assyrians in 733-732 B.C.* because the leaders and people disobeyed God’s Word, practiced idolatry, and refused to heed the Lord’s prophets. In the time of Jesus, Galilee was a Roman province, “Galilee of the nations (i.e. Gentiles). It was generally regarded with contempt. Nathanael, who became one of Jesus’ Twelve disciples, asked if anything good could come from Nazareth (in Galilee; John 1:43-46). The religious leaders of Israel rebuked Nicodemus over whether the Messiah could arise from Galilee (John 7:45-52).

Jesus was given as a light to the “nations” (not just to the Jews; Luke 2:32; Isaiah 49:6). Jesus has and gives the light of (true, eternal) life (John 1:4-5, 9; John 8:12).

We are all in the spiritual darkness of sin (disobedience of God’s Word) and ignorance of divine wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:17-27, 2:1-8). Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus is the revelation of God and the revealer of divine enlightenment (John 1:9, 14:8-9; 16:13).

Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). It is the Holy Spirit within us who cleanses us, makes it possible for us to know the Lord personally, and makes it possible for us to know, remember and do God’s will. It is by the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3. 5-8). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The true Church of all “born-again” disciples is the “New Israel.” It is by the Holy Spirit that we experience and express the joy of salvation and eternal life, beginning now in this world. The Holy Spirit is the “first-fruit” of the harvest of eternal life in the presence of the Lord.

Jesus is our Savior who has broken the yoke and burden of sin, and the rod of Satan, which is death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The day of Midian was the great victory of Gideon and three hundred men over the vastly larger army of Midian, by faith (obedient trust) in the Word of God (by prophetic dream; Judges 7:15-25) and the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6; Judges 6:11-21).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Isaiah 9:1n, p. 833, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Thursday 2 Epiphany A

First Posted 01/19/05;

Podcast: Thursday 2 Epiphany A

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – Church Unity;

Paraphrase:

The Church at Corinth had been founded by Paul’s ministry and Paul continued to “disciple” the members, by letter. One of the families had reported to Paul that there was dissension among the members, and Paul urged them to reconcile and be unified in mind and judgment. The members had been divided by loyalty to various leaders. One group identified with Apollos, another identified with Peter, and some with Paul. Each group thought they were superior to the others.

By whom one is baptized is not important; the name of Christ in whom they were baptized is what is important. Christ is the one who was crucified for them, not Paul, or Apollos or Peter. Paul made his point by saying that he was glad that he had baptized only a few individuals there, so that being baptized by Paul wouldn’t be a source of division. Paul said that his role in the Congregation had not been to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, and not with eloquence or human wisdom, so that their faith would not depend upon human ability but on the power of the cross.

Commentary:

Problems in the first century church recorded in the New Testament are still within the Church today, and the New Testament should be our guide in identifying and correcting them. Isn’t there much disunity within the Church today over the same issues? Members still seem to divide over loyalties to particular leaders, which has led to the splintering of the Protestant Church into various denominations.

Instead of focusing on our common Apostolic doctrine recorded in the New Testament, denominations emphasize distinctions in interpretation (see 2 Peter 1:20). Instead of making “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ, Churches have made “members,” and “disciples” of a particular denomination or pastor. Many members are biblically illiterate, and prefer to adopt a list of denominational distinctions rather than to read and learn the Apostolic doctrines recorded in the New Testament.

Instead of reading the Bible and being led by “born-again” disciples to spiritual rebirth and a personal relationship with the Lord through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, people seek a personal relationship with the pastor or leader and seek guidance through him (or her). People choose eloquent oratory over sound Biblical teaching, because they don’t know the Bible. In many instances the Church has become a “consumer” religion instead of a “disciple-making” ministry.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 2 Epiphany A

First posted January 21, 2011;

Podcast: Friday 2 Epiphany A

Matthew 4:12-23 – Jesus’ Ministry Begins;

Paraphrase:

Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptizer and had been tested in the wilderness for forty days. Then, after John had been arrested (by Herod Antipas; Luke 3:19), Jesus left Nazareth and dwelt in Capernaum, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, in Galilee, the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region of the shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time, Jesus began to preach, calling the people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was imminent.

As Jesus walked on the shore of the Sea, he saw Simon Peter and Andrew fishing with a net on the shore and invited them to follow him and become “fishers of men.” They immediately left their net and followed Jesus. Further on, Jesus saw James and John the sons of Zebedee, with their father, mending their nets. Jesus called them and they immediately left their father, the boat and the nets, and followed Jesus

Jesus began traveling throughout Galilee and teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Gospel of God’s kingdom, and healing every disease and disability.

Commentary:

According to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was not well-received in his hometown, Nazareth (Luke 4:16-31), and was literally thrown out, so he moved to Capernaum. In Capernaum he called Peter, Andrew, James and John, commercial fishermen. They were making a living fishing, but at Jesus’ invitation, they left their jobs and the tools of their trade and followed Jesus, learning to become “fishers of men.”

John the Baptizer had preached repentance (returning from disobedience to faith in God) in order to prepare for the coming Messiah (Christ; both words mean “anointed in Hebrew and Greek; i.e. God’s “anointed” eternal savior and king). When Jesus began his ministry, John’s role was completed. John was imprisoned and later beheaded (Matthew 14:3-12).

Jesus continued John’s call to repentance, announcing that God’s kingdom was coming (in Jesus). Jesus preached the Gospel of God’s plan of salvation [from sin (disobedience of God’s Word) and eternal condemnation which is the consequence of sin; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 John 1:8-10; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right]. Jesus’ healing miracles were to reveal who Jesus was, and to demonstrate that Jesus can also heal spiritually. Jesus’ resurrection from physical death to eternal life demonstrates the reality of existence beyond physical death, and the promise of eternal life in him.

Jesus is the light of God’s righteousness in a world of spiritual darkness (John 3:16-21). Jesus is the light of divine wisdom and knowledge in a world of spiritual ignorance and foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-8; John 1:9). Jesus is the light of eternal life (John 1:4-5, 9; 8:12) in a spiritually dying world.

Jesus used the imagery of fishing with a net to illustrate the fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:47-50) at the end of this age. At that time, the angels of God will gather all who have ever lived, and they will be accountable to the Lord for what they have done in this life (Matthew 25:31-46), like net fishermen fill their nets and then toss out what is bad and keep the good.

Until then, fishing for men is more like fishing with baited hook. The Gospel is the bait, and it must be presented fully and honestly, but attractively, to be received so that people will come to it and want to stay.

When we answer the call of the Gospel in Jesus Christ we must leave the worldly life we had in order to follow Jesus, but when we do, he will show us and teach us a better life. We’re called to be his disciples, to learn the Gospel by first-hand personal experience with Jesus, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Then we’re to carry on Jesus’ ministry to preach repentance and healing to the sinful and spiritually dying world.

At the end of the age (or the end of our lives), repentance and restoration will no longer be an option. In that day, our eternal destinies will be forever fixed.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 2 Epiphany A

First Posted 01/21/05;

Podcast: Saturday 2 Epiphany A

Jeremiah 33:6-9 – Promise of Restoration;
Hebrews 11:1-16 – Examples of Faith;
Luke 17:5-10 – The Mustard Seed;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Judah was about to go into exile in Babylon because of their disobedience of God’s Word, and their idolatry. But the Lord promised that he would heal them and restore them to health, security and prosperity, and rebuild them (Jerusalem and the temple) as they were before. The Lord promised to cleanse them and forgive them of all their sin and guilt, and their rebellion against the Lord. Jerusalem’s name will become a joy, a praise and a glory to God among the nations of the world, and they will tremble with fear before God because of all the good and prosperity the Lord will give Jerusalem.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Faith means being certain of receiving what has been promised, and believing in what is not seen. Throughout Israel’s history, people who had faith in God received his approval.

By faith, Abel’s offering was more acceptable to God than Cain’s and received God’s approval, attested to by God’s acceptance of the sacrifice. Although Abel died, his example testifies to his faith. Enoch was taken up to heaven because he had faith and had pleased God. “And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 MKJV; emphasis mine). Noah believed God’s warning and acted in faith without having seen the events God had foretold. He built the ark and saved his family. By his faith the world was condemned “and he became the heir of the righteousness which comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7b).

Abraham obeyed God’s call by faith, when God told him to go to a place he had never seen, and didn’t know where it was, which he was to receive as an inheritance. Abraham, and his descendants, Isaac, and Jacob, who shared the promise, lived in tents in the Promised Land as visitors without ownership or citizenship in the land, because they looked forward to the eternal city of God where they would have permanent homes (instead of tents). By faith in God’s promise Sarah conceived when she and Abraham were beyond the age for conception. So from one man who was at the end of his life, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these people died believing but not having received the fulfillment of God’s promise, although having seen it coming as from far away. They all recognized and acknowledged that they were aliens and visitors on this earth seeking an (eternal) homeland. They could have returned to the land of their birth, but instead they desired a better, heavenly country. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus replied that faith as small as a tiny mustard seed is sufficient to accomplish the most seemingly impossible things.

A servant’s duty to his master doesn’t end at the end of the day’s work. He still has the duty to attend to his master’ needs first, before receiving his compensation. The master doesn’t thank the servant for the performance of his duties; so we also should not expect special commendation for doing our duty to God and fulfilling his commands.

Commentary:

God’s Word is absolutely true and trustworthy. The hallmark of God’s Word and the test of prophesy is its fulfillment (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). God warned Judah, the remnant of Israel, through the example of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of the divided monarchy, and through his prophets, to repent and return to obedient trust in God’s Word or suffer the consequences, but Judah refused to listen and obey.

Through Jeremiah, God promised Judah, before it happened, that Babylon was going to attack and carry them off to exile for seventy years. Even then, they could have repented and avoided exile up until the moment Jerusalem fell to the enemy, but Judah refused to repent and return to the Lord. So God withdrew his favor and protection and allowed Judah to be carried off to Babylon by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar in 588/587 B.C.*

God promised to bring Judah back from exile after seventy years and restore them to what they had before, and God fulfilled his promise. In 517 B.C.,* after the seventy years of exile, Judah dedicated the Second Temple replacing the one destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

Seventy years of exile was a virtual life sentence for those who were adults at the time of the exile. The Israelites who went into exile in Babylon because of disobedience and unbelief died in Babylon. But those in exile who believed God’s promise of healing and restoration returned to the Promised Land a healed and restored people.

The Old Testament of the Bible is the history of God’s relationship with Israel, but it is also intended to be a parable and metaphor for life in this world. If we know and believe God’s Word we can learn to avoid the same mistakes Israel made.

In one sense Babylon is a metaphor for Hell. Those who refuse to trust and obey God’s Word will be condemned to eternal death in the “Babylon” of Hell.

In another sense, Babylon symbolizes our life in this world. We are all born into exile in “Babylon,” and the only way out and to the Promised Land of God’s kingdom in heaven is by knowing, trusting and obeying God’s promise in God’s Word.

Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus is the (only) way to God and eternal life in God’s kingdom in heaven; the (only divine, eternal) truth, and the only way to (true, eternal) life (John 14:6). Jesus is God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sin (disobedience of God’s Word), salvation from eternal condemnation and destruction in Hell, restoration to fellowship with God which was broken by sin, and eternal life which begins now in this lifetime (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

The Bible contains great promises and also ominous warnings. We will either believe the promises or we will experience the grave misfortunes that the warnings are intended to help us avoid. In order to receive the promises we have to know what they are so that we can claim them by faith.

Faith is obedient trust. People in this world believe in all sorts of things, but faith in God and God’s Word is the only faith which will not ultimately prove untrue and disappoint us. Lots of people think faith is getting whatever they believe if they believe “hard enough.” Faith is not wishing something is true. One cannot truly believe something without acting accordingly.

“Religion” is mankind’s attempt to get God to do their will and favor them. The true relationship with God is faith, seeking to know and do God’s will. If we want God’s approval, we must trust and obey him.

God is our master and we are his servants. Do we expect God to wait on us and serve us? Do we expect God to give us special recognition and reward for doing God’s will and his commandments? Do we expect God to give us what we want without first doing what he wants?

Abraham’s life is intended to be an example. Each one of us is called by God to leave where we are, where we feel comfortable at home, and go to a place we’ve never known, can’t see, and don’t know how to reach, except by trusting and obeying God’s Word and guidance. The journey is for our lifetime, beginning with the first step in faith, and continuing one day at a time. We will be aliens and travelers heading for a place we will never reach in our lifetime. But as we walk in faith we will see the goal from afar, as we experience God’s faithfulness and love daily and see the fulfillment of God’s promises along the way.

Faith is like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, indivisible, the least amount possible. If we have any faith in God’s Word at all, if we “plant” it by acting upon it in obedient trust, God will cause it to grow to maturity and to a size that is supernatural beyond our earthly expectations.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


* Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “Exile,” digital edition, bibledatabase.org – http://bibledatabase.org/eastons.html


Week of 1 Epiphany – A – 01/08 – 14/2017

January 7, 2017

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/usage.html

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).

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http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast: Week of 1 Epiphany C

1 Epiphany – Sunday C

First posted January 10, 2010

Podcast: 1 Epiphany Sunday C

Isaiah 42:1-7 – The Lord’s Servant;
Psalm 45:7-9 – The King’s Wedding;
Acts 10:34-38 – The Gospel to the Gentiles;
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Jesus’ Baptism;

Isaiah:

The Lord upholds his servant whom he has chosen and in whom he delights. The Lord has given him God’s Spirit. God’s servant will establish justice for all nations. “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench” Isaiah 42:2-3). He will faithfully enact justice. He will not fail or become discouraged until justice has been accomplished in the world, and distant lands await his law. The Lord God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in them. He “gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it. He is the Lord and in righteousness he has called his servant; he has guided and protected his servant. God has given his servant to the people of the world as a covenant, and a light to the nations, to heal the blind, to release the prisoners from the dungeon and darkness.

Psalm:

The Psalmist says of the king on his wedding day that because the King loves righteousness and hates wickedness God has anointed the king with the oil of gladness above his subjects. The king is dressed for his wedding in robes perfumed with myrrh, aloes and cassia. The music of stringed instruments comes forth from ivory palaces in celebration. The ladies of honor in the wedding party are daughters of kings, and the queen is adorned with jewelry of Gold from Ophir (possibly India; a region famous for gold jewelry).

Acts:

The Lord had led Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile Roman Centurion, to send for the Apostle Peter to tell Cornelius and his household the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:1-8). Meanwhile God also prepared Peter to proclaim the Gospel to Gentiles by giving him a vision and declaring that the Jewish dietary laws no longer applied (Acts 10:9-16).

When Peter arrived at Cornelius’ home, he began his message by saying that he had learned that God does not show partiality to anyone. Instead, in any nation, anyone who does what is right is acceptable to God. Peter summed up the Gospel by saying that after his water baptism which John the Baptizer preached, Jesus began to go throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, preaching the “Good News” (the definition of “Gospel”) of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Jesus had been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and supernatural power. Jesus had traveled throughout Galilee and Judea doing good and healing all who were in bondage to Satan by the presence of God with Jesus.

Luke:

The people of Israel were expecting the coming of the Messiah (Christ; both words mean “anointed”), and they wondered if John the Baptizer was the Christ. John answered them by saying that John baptized with water (for repentance and spiritual cleansing, to prepare the people to receive the Messiah). John told them that the Messiah was coming. The Messiah is so much greater than John, that John was unworthy to be the Messiah’s most menial servant. The Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The Messiah’s coming will be like threshing grain at the harvest. He will separate the grain from the chaff, and will gather the grain into his granary, but will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.

After Jesus was baptized he was praying, when heaven was opened and the the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven declared that Jesus was God’s beloved Son, with whom God was well pleased.

Commentary:

God’s Word is eternal and is fulfilled over and over as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. Israel was called to be the Lord’s servant but they turned away from that call, by rejecting Jesus as the promised Messiah. At his crucifixion, Jesus was the last faithful person in Israel. Even his disciples had fled from Jesus (Matthew 26:31). Beginning on Easter morning, with Jesus’ resurrection, the Church became the New Israel, the New people of God. The Church is the heir to the call of God to be the Lord’s servant. The ultimate fulfillment of the Lord’s servant is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the example of the Lord’s servant that we are to follow.

God has designed this Creation to accomplish his ultimate purpose of establishing an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly trust and obey him and thus become his servants. We are all called to be the Lord’s servant. There is no greater thing we can do in this lifetime than serving the Lord.

We are born into this world physically alive but spiritually “unborn.” This lifetime is our opportunity to seek, find, and come to know and have fellowship with God our Creator (Acts 17:26-27) and this is only possible through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), through whom we have personal fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father. This lifetime is our opportunity to be spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life, which is only by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Notice in the text from Isaiah, that the Lord gives the breath (of physical life) to those who live on this earth, and Spirit to those who walk in obedient trust in the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-14). (The Hebrew word means breath or wind, thus: the breath of spiritual life; Notice in John 3:3, 5-8, the same play on words for wind and spirit in Greek).

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, God visibly “anointed” Jesus with the Holy Spirit. It was the “sign” God had given John the Baptizer to reveal the Messiah to him and to Israel (John 1:31-34). Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit so that he could “baptize” his disciples with the Holy Spirit. Only Jesus “baptizes” with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Jesus didn’t baptize anyone with water; only his disciples did (John 4:2).

The “baptism” of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible ongoing event; if one is not certain, one hasn’t been (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God taught the people of Israel that priests, prophets and kings were to be anointed with oil to consecrate them to God’s service. They were thus known as “the Lord’s anointed.” Anointing the king was the equivalent of crowning him. The titles of Messiah and Christ each mean (God’s) “anointed,” in Hebrew and Greek respectively. The Messiah (Christ) is the Lord’s anointed Savior and eternal King.

The Lord’s anointing also refers to the gift (“baptism;” “anointing”) of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Isaiah 61:1). The “anointing” of the Holy Spirit is also figuratively described as “the oil of gladness” (Psalm 45:7, which is quoted in Hebrews 1:9).

Peter testified to Cornelius, in the first presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, that Jesus was the one anointed by God with the Holy Spirit to heal spiritually. Jesus’ physical healings, feedings and resurrections were intended to show that Jesus could also and more importantly heal, feed, and resurrect spiritually.

Jesus is the New Moses, the mediator of the New Covenant (Testament) of grace, to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Jesus initiated the New Covenant at his celebration of Passover on the night of his betrayal and arrest (Matthew 26:26-28).

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), the light of righteousness (John 1:5; 3:19-21), enlightenment (John 1:9), and eternal life (John 1:4).

Is Jesus your Lord? Are you Jesus’ disciple? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 1 Epiphany A

 First posted January 14, 2008;

Podcast: Monday 1 Epiphany A

Psalm 40:1-12 – Deliverance from Trouble;

Paraphrase:

The Psalmist describes the experience common to those who commit themselves and their situations to the Lord. The Lord hears us when we cry to him for help and wait patiently for him to respond. I personally testify with the psalmist that I have been in the “pit of trouble,” (perhaps even “one foot in the grave”), in the “miry bog,” and the Lord lifted me out and set my feet on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. He made my steps secure by the guidance of his Word and his Spirit. He has put a new song of praise to our God in my mouth. The Lord will do for others what he has done for me, as they hear and see what he has done for me and fear (have appropriate respect for his power and authority) and trust the Lord.

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods (Psalm 40:4)! The Lord has done many great things for each of us that we aren’t even aware of, and are beyond numbering or recollection (John 21:25).

The Lord does not desire sacrifice and offering, or religious ritual. What he desires are people with spiritual ears that listen to his Word and delight to do his will; who have his law written on their hearts.

When we have experienced his deliverance we want to share the glad news with others. Yet sometimes we feel hesitant to speak out, perhaps because of self-consciousness or fear of the reactions of our hearers. We need to learn to be led by the Holy Spirit and to trust him to give us what to say at the appropriate time (Luke 21:14-15). We must make the commitment and effort not hide his steadfast love, faithfulness, and saving help within our hearts.

When we face overwhelming troubles we can remember the Lord’s power and faithfulness to deliver us in the past, and be confident that he can and will deliver us from them now, no matter how overwhelming to us.

Commentary:

This psalm is a description of discipleship and spiritual growth. It’s what life in this world is about. God doesn’t cause trouble; our own sinful nature does, but he allows it, for now, in this world. Sooner or later we all experience trouble in life. If we have heard and believed God’s Word in the Bible, we can trust in God to deliver us as he delivered his people in the Bible testimony.

The Lord wants us to trust in his Word so that we can experience his unchanging love, his power and faithfulness, and his saving help. Sometimes we need to come to the end of our own human and material resources before we recognize and acknowledge that we need God’s saving help.

No matter how bad our worldly troubles are, they are nothing compared to the spiritual tragedy we all face, apart from the salvation God has provided only in Jesus Christ. We are all eternally terminally ill; we have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10) and the punishment for sin is eternal condemnation and destruction (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right). The problem is that while everything is going well for us in this life, we may be unaware of our spiritual “lostness” and eternal danger.

More than thirty years ago I came to the end of my own resources, and turned to the Lord for help. When I first began learning to hear God’s Word with spiritual ears, the Lord used this very text to teach me to trust and obey his Word and to show me that he has the power and willingness to deliver us from troubles. (See the second entry, “Discipleship” in my personal testimonies, sidebar, top right.)

If we think “disaster preparedness” is a good idea, the place to start is to read the Bible.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 1 Epiphany A  

First posted January 15, 2008;

Podcast: Tuesday 1 Epiphany A

Isaiah 49:1-6 – Redeemer of Israel;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Listen, neighboring countries and people far away! The Lord called forth his servant (the Messiah) from the womb and named him before his birth (see Matthew 1:20-21).

God made his servant’s words like a sharp sword and hid him in the shadow of his hand; like a polished arrow, hidden in his quiver. God appointed him as his servant. In Israel God will be glorified. The servant’s ministry seems futile, but he trusts in God for his reward.

The Lord formed his servant in the womb and created him to be God’s servant who would bring Jacob (the inheritor of the birthright; renamed Israel; his sons became heads of the twelve tribes of Israel) back to the Lord and gather Israel to him. The Lord honors his servant and has become his strength.

The Lord declares that he is not satisfied for his servant just to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the remnant of Israel. The Lord has given his servant as a light to the nations (Gentiles) “that my salvation may reach the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6b).

“Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one despised and abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they will prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you” (Isaiah 49:7).

Commentary:

The servant of the Lord is the promised Messiah, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but the Church and the people of God are also called to be his servants. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).

God’s people need to know the Bible so that the Holy Spirit can call it to their minds as needed. God’s people need to be “polished” by “discipleship” so that they are ready instruments for God’s service. They must be “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8), filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit so that they can be guided and empowered to serve God (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8), and can be assured that their service is not in vain (Isaiah 49:4). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16), by whom God honors his servant, and becomes his strength (Isaiah 49:5c; Zechariah 4:6).

The Church is the heir to the call of Israel to be God’s servant and to glorify him. Israel turned away from that call in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, but it is still God’s will for the remnant of Israel to be raised up and restored to the Lord through his servant Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:37-39; Romans 11:11-12). The Messiah was given through Israel, but his salvation is for all people who trust and obey him.

Jesus was despised and abhorred by the nations, including Israel, but kings have seen and have come to him and prostrated themselves before him, beginning with the visit of the “wise men” to the Christ Child (Matthew 2:1-11). Jesus is going to return, at the end of the world, on the Day of Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), and every knee will bow before him and every tongue will acknowledge him as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:10-11).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 1 Epiphany A 

First posted January 16, 2008;

Podcast: Wednesday 1 Epiphany A

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 – Thanksgiving;

Paraphrase;

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was the first “modern,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) of Jesus Christ; he did not come to faith in Jesus during Jesus’ physical lifetime (Acts 9:1-20), and so is an example for us. Paul was writing to the Church at Corinth that he had founded on his second missionary journey, and where he had stayed for a year and a half (Acts 18:1-11).

Paul had been called by God’s will to be an apostle, by Christ’s initiative, on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9). The Church is the body of believers who call on (trust and obey) the name (the person and character) of Jesus and have been sanctified (purified of sin and consecrated to God’s service) in Jesus (by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit). Paul prays that they will have the true Grace (God’s unmerited favor to us) and peace (with God and with their brethren) which are only possible through God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul gave thanks to God for the Corinthian Christians because of the grace of God which they had received in Christ Jesus (forgiveness of sin and salvation from eternal condemnation, and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit) through whom they were enriched with every spiritual blessing, in knowledge of and testimony to Christ which was confirmed in them. They lack no spiritual gifts, and will be sustained by Jesus and kept blameless (through his indwelling Holy Spirit) as they await the return of Christ on the Day of Judgment. God, who is completely faithful, has called them into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Commentary:

Paul was sought and confronted on the road to Damascus by the Spirit of the risen and ascended Jesus Christ. Paul accepted his rebuke and the authority of Jesus as Lord (Acts 9:5), repented and obeyed Jesus command (Acts 9:8-9). A “born-again” disciple of Jesus Christ living in Damascus named Ananias was prepared and guided to disciple Paul (Acts 9:10-16) until Paul received the gift (“anointing”) of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18), and then Paul began trusting and obeying the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:19-20).

Paul’s conversion was exceptionally rapid. The original disciples of Jesus’ earthly ministry had been with Jesus twenty-four hours a day for about three years, and still were not ready for ministry until they had been “born-again” by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-13). Paul, on the other hand, was formally well-educated in the Bible and in Judaism, and he had the passion for God; he just needed to be redirected to trust and obey Jesus. Discipleship is a process of spiritual growth that takes time. One should not expect it to take less than two or three years.

By the indwelling Holy Spirit Paul be came the missionary to the Gentiles and preached the Gospel for the first time in Europe, including Corinth.

Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth “discipling” the believers there, and continued to do it by letters to them later. The Holy Spirit is the grace of God which is received through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal knowledge of and fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father (John 14:23). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17) and the Counselor who teaches Jesus’ disciples all things and brings to their remembrance all that Jesus said (John 14:26). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the confirmation of the Gospel within believers. The Holy Spirit cleanses, consecrates, and sustains us guiltless at the Day of Judgment (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

This is the eternal purpose and central promise of God recorded throughout the Bible. God is faithful and will keep his promise. Those who hear and believe (trust and obey) the Gospel will receive the promise.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 1 Epiphany A

First posted January 17, 2008;

Podcast: Thursday 1 Epiphany A

John 1:29-41 – Finding Jesus;

Paraphrase:

John the Baptist was led by the Lord to begin preaching water baptism for repentance and forgiveness of sin, to prepare Israel to receive the Messiah. People were going to him at the Jordan River.

John saw Jesus coming to him and declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God (the sacrificial “Passover Lamb”) who takes away the sin of the world! John said that Jesus was the one who was to come after John chronologically, but who ranked before him in importance and existence. John’s mission of water baptism was to reveal the Messiah, but John had not known who the Messiah was. God had promised he would give John a sign: The Holy Spirit would descend in the form of a dove and remain on the Messiah, and that Messiah was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John testified that he had seen the sign, and that Jesus was the Son of God.

The next day John was talking to two of his disciples when Jesus passed by. John told the disciples to look and see the Lamb of God. The two disciples heard what John was saying, and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and asked what they sought. The disciples addressed him as Rabbi (teacher) and asked where he was staying, and Jesus invited them to come and see.

They went with Jesus to where he was staying and since it was about 4:00 PM they stayed with him. One of the disciples who had acted on John’s testimony was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. He went and found Simon and told him that he had found the Messiah (Christ; both mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively).

John the Baptizer was trusting and obeying God’s Word and God’s call. He was calling people to repent and prepare for the coming Messiah, which God had promised in his Word (the Bible). As John carried out God’s call, God promised to reveal the Messiah to him, and when he had done so, John testified to what God had revealed to him; that Jesus was the “Passover Lamb” of God whose sacrifice would remove the sin of all who accept and believe in him as God’s anointed Savior and (only begotten) Son. John testified that only Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34).

The disciples believed John’s testimony and acted on it, following behind Jesus. Jesus asked them what they wanted and they asked to become his disciples (students) and to stay with him, and for him to be their teacher. Jesus invited them to come and see (to give it a try). Andrew immediately found his brother Simon, and told him that he had found the Messiah.

Commentary:

This is the Gospel experience. God’s Word promises the coming of his anointed Savior and the baptism with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Those who trust and obey God’s Word are seeking his coming.

The Church is the heir to John’s mission to call people to repent and be baptized with water for spiritual cleansing in preparation to receive the Messiah, God’s anointed eternal Savior, who will baptize his disciples who trust and obey Jesus with the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17).

Christians are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) “disciples” of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26c) who trust and obey Jesus’ teachings and have been baptized with the indwelling Holy Spirit. God has revealed Jesus to them personally by his Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) within them, and they point to Jesus and declare that he is the Messiah; the Savior; the “Lamb of God.” To those who hear, believe their testimony and begin to follow Jesus, Jesus says, “Come and see.”

To come and see, we must turn from what we were doing and follow Jesus, stay with him and accept and learn to apply his teachings. As we begin to trust and obey Jesus he will baptize us with his indwelling Holy Spirit, the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Only after the Lord has revealed himself to us through his Holy Spirit (John 14:21-23; Luke 24:45; Acts 1:4-5, 8), can we testify to others that we have found the Messiah, and seek our brothers and sisters and invite them to come and see.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

1 Epiphany – Friday C

First posted January 15, 2010

Podcast:Friday 1 Epiphany A

Romans 12:6-16 – Christian Lifestyle;

By the indwelling Holy Spirit, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christians have various different spiritual gifts by God’s grace (unmerited favor), so we are to use them: If prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; if service, let us serve; if teaching, let us teach; if exhortation, let us exhort; if contribution, let us be generous; let those who give aid do so with zeal; let those who do acts of mercy, do so cheerfully.

Let us be genuine in our love; let us hold on to what is good and hate what is evil. Let us love each other with brotherly affection; let us try to outdo one another in showing honor. Let our zeal not grow tired; let us glow with the Holy Spirit, always serving the Lord. Let us always rejoice in our hope; in tribulation let us be patient, and let us pray constantly. Let us contribute to saints (believers in Christ; consecrated to God’s service) in need, and show hospitality to all.

Let us bless rather than curse our persecutors. Let us rejoice with the joyful, and weep with those who mourn. Let us live with one another in harmony. Let us never be conceited or haughty; instead, let us associate with the lowly, and be willing to do humble tasks.

Commentary:

In my experience, I have found that the Holy Spirit gives us different gifts at different times, according to our spiritual growth and opportunity for ministry. As a new “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian, I began as a student in Adult Sunday School and in weekly Bible Study. I had read the entire Bible, but I was just beginning to grow spiritually. In preparation for each session the Lord opened my mind to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45), and gave me great revelations from his Word. I was able to contribute and to grow spiritually.

I have found that if we seek to know, with the intention of doing, God’s will for us at a particular time and situation in life, that he will reveal it to us. The Lord wants to lead us, one day at a time, (Matthew 6:11; 33-34).

It is important to set aside a specific time each day to read the Bible with prayer and meditation (perhaps the first thing in the morning or the last thing at night). When God begins to show us things from his Word, we can pray them back, to make sure that we have understood. But remember that the Lord will not ever tell us anything contrary to his Word, or that will harm ourselves or others.

Jesus said that one must be “born-again” in order to see the kingdom of God which is all around us now, and ultimately to see and enter it in eternity (John 3:3, 5-8). I believe that the Church is the heir to the ministry of John the Baptizer, to call people to repent, to turn them to obedient trust in Jesus, to baptize them with water in preparation to receive Jesus, and to disciple new believers until they have been “born-again.”

The Church was intended to be a “disciple-making” organization. Unfortunately, in too many instances the nominal Church has settled for making “members” and building “buildings.” In too many instances the nominal Church is being led by “unregenerate” (not “born-again”) leaders. But the situation isn’t hopeless; what the Church needs is revival and reformation.

The new believer should make reading the Bible in entirety his first goal. Setting aside a time each day to read, meditate, and pray will establish an ongoing daily devotion or “quiet time” which we can follow for the rest of our lives. The Bible can easily be read by the average reader in one year, and there are a number of plans to choose from. My preference is one that includes Old Testament and New Testament portions each day (see Free Bible Study Tools, sidebar, top right). The knowledge of the Bible will help us avoid false teaching and false doctrine. Then one should find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching Church.

Jesus told his disciples to remain in Jerusalem (the Church is the modern equivalent) until they had been “reborn” by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; Acts 2:1-13) before going into the world with the Gospel to make disciples of Jesus and to teach them to know and obey all Jesus’ teachings (The Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20). We cannot complete the mission of Christ without the guidance and empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Faith is one of the most misunderstood words in the nominal “Church” and in the world today. Faith is not “wishing on a star,” or like making a wish as we blow out birthday candles. Faith is not getting what ever we want if we believe “hard enough.” Saving (from eternal condemnation) faith is obedient trust in Jesus Christ, who alone is God’s “anointed” (Christ and Messiah each mean “anointed,” in Greek and Hebrew, respectively) eternal Savior and King of God’s eternal kingdom (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Saving faith begins as a tiny “mustard seed” (Matthew 13:31-32), our “yes” to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and our commitment to learn, trust and obey Jesus’ teachings. When I had finished reading the Bible from cover-to-cover, I believed that Jesus was the way, truth and life, as he said (John 14:6), and I asked him to be my Savior and Lord. I realized that I needed to begin applying Jesus’ teachings in my life, so I decided to read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:28; representative of Jesus’ teachings). I had no problems with some teachings, but was guilty of others; some were things I couldn’t deal with right away, but I picked one that I could work on and began there.

Jesus doesn’t immediately give the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We need to demonstrate commitment to discipleship, and to learn to hear, trust and obey Jesus. Premature “rebirth” would be spiritual disaster (Hebrews 6:4-6). As we trust and obey Jesus we will learn that Jesus’ teachings are good, not too difficult, and our very best interest; and such experiences will cause our faith in Jesus to grow.

Prophecy is not foretelling the future. Prophecy is declaring God’s Word; the fact that it is God’s Word means that it will be fulfilled, over and over, as the conditions for fulfillment are met (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). The Bible contains both wonderful promises and ominous warnings. Anyone who doesn’t trust and obey the conditions for the fulfillment of the promises will receive the consequences the ominous warnings were intended to help us avoid.

There are several hazards to discipleship. One is that once one has read the Bible, one thinks one is ready to teach others. Reading the entire Bible is just the place to start. It’s the equivalent of a new born baby who cannot digest anything except Mother’s milk. The other is that one thinks that prophecy is that one can predict the Second Coming and the Day of Judgment. The new believer spends all his time speculating about “End Times” and never grows to spiritual maturity. I testify that I have seen both happen to new “disciples.” Jesus said that it is not for us to know (Acts 1:6-7). We need to be focused on discipleship and obedient trust in Jesus.

Instead of trying to determine our spiritual gifts, we should try to determine our current ministry opportunity. My first opportunity was weekly small-group Bible study and Adult Sunday School. Then I became Chairman of the Social Ministry Committee (aid and mercy for the lowly; hospitality). When those doors closed I began to seek other opportunities. As we identify the opportunities, the Lord will provide what we need to pursue them.

I felt that the lack of support of Social Ministry in the congregation indicated a need for Evangelism, so I became the chairman of the Evangelism Committee. The congregation regarded Social Ministry as an inreach (service to members) and Evangelism as an outreach (service to non-members) whereas I regarded them as the opposite. I hope you can understand the difference.

For a while, the only opportunity I had was “friendship evangelism.” I walked my youngest daughter to elementary school and met other parents there. I had a number of opportunities to share the Gospel with parents.

An opportunity opened to testify in another denominational church, and I had several great opportunities. But ultimately I had to go on to another denominational congregation. My current congregation provides spiritual support. The Lord gave me an Internet ministry which is not dependent upon a denomination or congregation. The Internet ministry suits my circumstances and abilities right now.

I had been looking for a way to feed myself in God’s Word daily, and the Lord led me first to a lectionary in my (ELCA) Lutheran Hymnal intended for personal devotions. Before I finished I realized that it should be published online so that others could use it. I asked the Lord and he approved. I searched for a ‘blog host, and found journalspace. Gradually it grew to what it is today.

My focus has been on discipleship from early on. I had introduced discipleship in my home congregation. When that opportunity closed, and I went to a new denomination, I allowed them to teach me in discipleship, and was able to testify to my experiences. Sometimes we can teach best by being students.

I’m convinced that the meaning and purpose of life is to seek, find and have fellowship with God, our Creator (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, who alone baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). This lifetime is our only opportunity to be spiritually “reborn” to eternal life.

There is a Day of Judgment coming when everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to God for what we have done in this lifetime. Those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, who have trusted and obeyed Jesus’ teachings, will have been spiritually “reborn” to eternal life, and will enter God’s eternal kingdom in heaven. Those who have rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord, who have refused or failed to trust and obey Jesus’ teachings, will be cast into eternal destruction in hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Is Jesus your Lord? Are you Jesus’ disciple? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

1 Epiphany – Saturday C

First posted January 16, 2010

Podcast: 1 Epiphany Saturday A

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 – Spiritual Wisdom;

To the spiritually mature, the apostles (messengers; of the Gospel), including Paul, the author of this letter, do teach wisdom, not of the world nor the worldly rulers whose fate is to pass away. The apostles teach the wisdom of God which was a secret, hidden wisdom, which God commanded at the beginning of Creation, so that his people would be glorified. Worldly rulers did not know this or they would not have put the Lord of glory to death. Paul quotes Isaiah 64:4, saying that man has not seen or heard, nor has he imagined in his heart, what God has prepared for those who love him. But now he has revealed it to his “born-again” people by the Holy Spirit.

As no one can know the innermost thoughts of a person except his own spirit. Likewise, no one knows the innermost thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world, but God’s Holy Spirit, so that we might understand the spiritual gifts God has given us. By the indwelling Holy Spirit apostles teach what they have learned by the Holy Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those to who possess the Spirit.

The unspiritual (unregenerate; un-born-again) person has not received the gifts of the Spirit and cannot comprehend them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person can judge everything, because he has the mind of Christ, but cannot be judged by the unspiritual person. Who is able to direct God’s Spirit or counsel or teach him?

Commentary:

God’s wisdom is unlike what the world falsely calls wisdom. Man’s wisdom seems right for a time, but often later is found to have been wrong. Pollution is one example. Another is the health benefits or risks of certain foods or preparations of food, which seems to change from day to day. God’s wisdom is eternal and eternally true. When we trust in God’s wisdom we can be sure that it won’t ever change.

God’s wisdom has been hidden because we aren’t able to know and understand his purpose until he reveals it to us. God has been gradually revealing his purpose for this Creation from the very beginning, so that his people would be glorified (honored; experience the joy of heaven). God reveals himself first in the goodness and complexity of Creation. Then he began to reveal himself to individuals who trusted and obeyed him and became the people of Israel.

The Old Testament (Old Covenant) of the Bible is the history of God’s dealing with Israel. It is a series of word-pictures, metaphors revealing the meaning and purpose of life in this Creation. The release from slavery to sin and death in the “Egypt” of this present world, though baptism into Jesus in the Red Sea, the wandering in the “desert” for forty years learning to trust and obey God’s Word and guided by the Holy Spirit who is the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21-22). Jesus is the “Joshua” who will lead us through the “river” of physical death and into the eternal Promised Land of God’s kingdom in heaven. The history of Israel is written for our instruction so that we can avoid the mistakes of the Israelites (1 Corinthians 10:11).

In God’s perfect timing, he revealed himself in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:8-9). Jesus is God made visible in human flesh in this world. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word, lived in human flesh in this world (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus it the fullest revelation of God to the world.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (note the Trinity; Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit is the fullest revelation of God to us individually and personally through the “baptism” (“anointing;” “gift”) of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). By the indwelling Holy Spirit we have personal daily fellowship with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. By the indwelling Holy Spirit we experience the joy of the Lord’s presence and his love for us. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The indwelling Holy Spirit teaches “born-again” Christians all things and reminds us of everything Jesus’ teaches (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit guides, empowers and equips us to be apostles, proclaiming God’s Word in the world (Matthew 10:19-20).

Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem (the Church is the modern equivalent) until they had received the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, &8) before going into the world with the Gospel, to make disciples and teach them to know and obey all Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 28:19-20). The Church is intended to be a disciple-making organization, following the example of Jesus.

Paul (Saul of Tarsus), is intended by God to be the prototype and example of a “modern,” “post-resurrection,” “born-again” disciple (student) and apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) of Jesus Christ, as we all can be. Paul demonstrated the method of making disciples that we should follow. Paul was discipled by a “born-again” disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10), until Paul received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). Then Paul began to make “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ. Timothy is a good example (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Then he taught Timothy to repeat the process with others who would be faithful to repeat the process again (2 Timothy 2:2).

Unfortunately, many nominal Churches have failed to make “born-again” disciples, because they’re led by “unregenerate” leaders. If the Church doesn’t make “born-again” disciples there won’t be any to be recruited for leadership. Doesn’t this text make clear what is wrong with nominal Churches today? It takes “born-again” disciples to make “born-again” disciples. The unregenerate don’t know what they’re missing or how to get it; otherwise they would be “born-again” too.

Some mainline denominations are teaching that the indwelling Holy Spirit is automatically conferred by some Church rite such as water baptism. This false doctrine not only doesn’t help its members, but actually causes spiritual harm, by discouraging them from seeking the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (see False Teachings, Spiritual Rebirth, sidebar, top right.

Many worldly people today are seeking spirituality in all the wrong places. Many others try to keep their physical bodies well and fit, with no thought to their spiritual health and fitness. Many refuse to believe anything they can’t see or touch. Many believe in demonic spirits but not in God. Many believe in worldly religions, which are mankind’s attempt to manipulate God to do their will.

Is Jesus your Lord? Are you Jesus’ disciple? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 1 Christmas – A – 01/01/ -07/2017

December 31, 2016

Week of 1 Christmas – A

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/usage.html

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).

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http://shepherdboy-mydailywalk.blogspot.com/

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

.mp3 Podcasts via Linux Festival text-to-speech and Panopreter Basic text-to-speech are available at:

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http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/c_year/wklx_c.html

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

1 Christmas – Sunday – A

First posted December 27, 2009; 
Podcast: 1 Christmas Sunday-A
Isaiah 63:7-9   –   Our Savior;

Psalm 111    –    Great Works of the Lord;

Galatians 4:4-7    –   Freedom in Christ;

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23   –    Escape to Egypt;
Isaiah Paraphrase:

Let us remember, give thanks and praise to the Lord for his goodness to his people, in his mercy and abundant steadfast love. He has treated them like trusted sons, and has become their Savior. He took their afflictions upon himself, “and the angel of his presence saved them” (Isaiah 63:9b); he redeemed them because he loved and had pity upon them; he lifted and carried them throughout their past.
Psalm Paraphrase:

Let us praise the Lord. I will thank the Lord with all my heart, among the congregation of his upright people. Those who study and recognize the great works of God will take pleasure in them. He is worthy of honor and majesty and his righteousness is eternal. His great works will be remembered for his graciousness and mercy.

The Lord provides food for those who fear him; he never forgets his promises. He has revealed his mighty power by his works to his people, and has given them the wealth of nations. Everything he does is faithful and just, and all his teachings are trustworthy. His Word is established for ever, to be obeyed in faithfulness and righteousness. The Lord has sent redemption to his people and established his covenant for ever. Holy and awesome is his name! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).
Galatians Paraphrase:

In exactly the right time God sent his son into the world to be born of a human mother, in Israel, God’s people, under the Covenant of God’s Law, to redeem them from the Law so that they could receive adoption as his children. The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God’s Son, has been given to his children, through whom they call God “Father”, and who testifies that they are children of God. So by God’s gift we are no longer slaves under the Law, but sons and daughters, heirs of the kingdom and promises of God.
Matthew Paraphrase:

An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Bethlehem, where Mary had given birth to Jesus, warning him to escape with Mary and the child to Egypt, because Herod the Great who ruled over Judah was seeking to kill Jesus. Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with Mary and the baby as the Lord had told him.

Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived in Egypt until the Lord told Joseph that it was safe to return to Israel because Herod had died. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

Being warned by the Lord that the son of Herod the Great, Archelaus, was ruling over Judea (the southern province of Israel, Joseph and his family returned to Nazareth in Galilee (the northern province of Israel, separated from Judea by Samaria), where they had lived when the angel had announced the conception of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26-38). The name “Nazareth” means “shoot,” or “sprout,” and Jesus was a “Nazarene” and a descendant of David, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1 of a shoot, the righteous branch, from the stump of Jesse (the father of David).
Commentary:

God’s purpose for this Creation has always been to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly trust and obey God. God has designed this creation to allow the possibility of sin (disobedience of God’s Word) so that we can have the freedom to choose whether to trust and obey him or not, and to learn by trial and error. But God retained control by setting a time limit on Creation and on our lifetimes, and by his terms of forgiveness and salvation. Realizing and having the proper respect for the power and authority of God, who has the power of eternal life or death over us is the beginning of true wisdom.

From the very beginning of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14) Jesus Christ has been God’s one and only provision for the forgiveness of sin and salvation from eternal condemnation and eternal destruction (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

God was not surprised when Adam and Eve disobeyed his Word in the Garden of Eden. Jesus is not an afterthought by God to save Creation after sin was introduced.

The Bible is the Word of God and the history of God’s relationship with his people in bringing about the fulfillment of his purpose for Creation, beginning with the call of Abraham. The Bible is the record of God’s goodness, mercy, love, and faithfulness, and the progressive revelation of himself and his purpose for Creation.

By God’s Word, we have all sinned and fall short of his righteousness (doing what is right according to his Word; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

By his Word through Isaiah, God has promised to become our Savior; he promised to take our sins upon himself, and to provide the “angel” of his presence to save us. In Jesus Christ God became our Savior; Jesus was fully human by his mother, and also fully God by the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:8-9: John 20:28).

Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by his crucifixion, to redeem us from the penalty of the Law. Jesus’ sacrificial death made it possible for us to receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 16:7), which is only through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (John 1:31-34; 14:15-17). The gift of the Holy Spirit is the “angel” of God’s presence within us which God promised through Isaiah (angel can be understood as Spirit (Acts 12:13-15; Revelation 1:1).

Jesus is God’s revelation of himself in human form. In Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection, God’s mighty power was revealed to all Creation. God has established a New Covenant of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life by grace (unmerited favor; a free gift), to be received by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Through faith in Jesus we have been redeemed from the condemnation of the Law of sin and eternal death, provided that we trust and obey Jesus through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God has given us this lifetime to seek and come to a personal fellowship with him (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Mary and Joseph are examples of God’s people who trusted and obeyed God’s Word. They accepted and obeyed the guidance of his angel (his Spirit), and by doing so, helped fulfill God’s eternal purpose, and received the fulfillment of his promise.

God’s Word is eternal. It is fulfilled over and over as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. God’s Word has creative force: God spoke Creation into being (Genesis 1:3; Hebrews 4:12). Jesus is the “living” Word of God, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus’ word is the Word of God (John 14:10, 24), with the creative force of God’s Word (Matthew 8:25-27). He could command us, but he allows us to choose for ourselves, whether to trust and obey.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday – January 2 – A

First Posted Jan 2, 2010;
Podcast: January 2-A
Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18  –  Spirit of Knowledge and Revelation;

Paraphrase:

Let us bless and thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received every spiritual blessing in heaven. Before the foundation of the world God chose us through Christ to be holy and blameless in his judgment. God destined us to be his children through Christ according to his will and purpose, to the praise of his glorious grace (unmerited favor) which we generously receive in God’s Beloved.Paul’s prayer for all believers is that, through faith in Jesus and love for all the saints (believers), God would give them “a spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of him” (God; Ephesians 1:17b),” that their spiritual eyes might be enlightened, so that they would know the hope they have been called to share, and the richness of his inheritance in the saints.

Commentary:

From the very beginning of Creation, God has intended to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly trust and obey God. The meaning and purpose of life in this world is to seek, find and come to personally know God (Acts 17:26-27). Jesus Christ has always been God’s one and only plan (Acts 4:12; John 14:6), through whom we are made holy (consecrated to serve God) and blameless in God’s Judgment (all our sins forgiven; sin is disobedience of God’s Word). Jesus has been designed into this Creation from the very beginning.  God is worthy of praise for his goodness and mercy to us, which we don’t deserve and can’t earn, but which he generously gives to us, with every spiritual blessing in heaven, through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

 

Believers who trust and obey Jesus will love the saints (their brothers and sisters in Christ; John 13:34), and as they trust and obey Jesus they will receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 21, 23), the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of wisdom, revelation and personal knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:2). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who teaches and reminds us of all Jesus’ teachings and empowers us to know and do God’s will. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit through whom we know and experience the hope and the richness of our eternal inheritance that we are called to share. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption, (Romans 8:15) by which we are spiritually “reborn” (John 3:3, 5-8), as children of God, to eternal life.

Only Jesus gives the gift (“baptism;” “anointing”) of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself, whether or not one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday – January 3 – A

First posted January 3, 2010;
Podcast: January 3-A
John 1:1-18  –   The Living Word;

Paraphrase:

At the beginning of Creation was the Word, the active, creative, eternal Word of God. The Word was with God in unity, and was God (shared the divine nature; was fully God). He existed in the beginning with God. Everything in Creation was made through him and nothing in creation was made without him. In him was (real, eternal) life “and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4b). “The light (of righteousness; eternal life) shines in the (spiritual) darkness, and the darkness (evil) has not overcome it” (John 1:5).John the Baptizer was a man sent from God to bear witness to the light, so that all could believe through his testimony. John was not the light but he came to bear witness to the light.

 

The true light that gives spiritual enlightenment to all people was coming into the world. He was in the world, and he was the creator of everything in the world, but the people of the world did not know and recognize him. He came to his own people and his own town, but his own people rejected him (Luke 4:16-30). “But all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace (unmerited favor; forgiving love) and truth (faithful promises); we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only (begotten) Son from the Father” (John 1:14). This is he of whom John said that he came after John in chronological appearing, but was before him in rank and existence. From his abundance we have received grace upon grace. The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth are through Jesus. No one has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, who is in complete communion with God, has revealed him.
Commentary:

Jesus Christ is the “living Word;” he is the fulfillment, embodiment, and exemplification of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus’ word is the Word of God (John 14:10, 24). Jesus’ word has the creative force of God’s Word (Matthew 8:23-27). Jesus was fully human and also fully God (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus is God, who became a man; not the other way around. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; one God in three expressions; in unity; the Trinity (Romans 8:9).

The structure of Creation has been designed with God’s promised Messiah, Jesus Christ at its very center (Ephesians 1:9-10). God has intended from the very beginning to create an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly choose to trust and obey him. This lifetime is our opportunity to seek and find God (Acts 17:26-27) and to learn to trust and obey him. God has created this world to allow for the possibility for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) so that we will have true freedom to choose whether or not to trust and obey God’s Word, but he has also fixed a time limit on Creation and our individual lifetimes.

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ is God’s one and only provision for the forgiveness of our sin, salvation from God’s judgment of eternal condemnation and destruction, restoration of fellowship with God which was broken by sin, and eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Jesus is the “light of the world,” “the light of life” (John 8:12). Light represents righteousness and darkness is sin and evil. Jesus is the true righteousness and he imparts his righteousness to those who trust and obey him (Philippians 3:9; 2 Timothy 4:8).

Light also symbolizes true, spiritual enlightenment, eternal truth, the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-8) contrasted with the darkness of spiritual ignorance, false teaching and unbelief (Romans 1:21; Ephesians 4:18).

Light also represents eternal life and the eternal kingdom of light (1 Timothy 6:15-16), contrasted with the darkness of eternal death.

[For me, from a background of High School Physics many years ago, I understand that the speed of light is a speed limit in this creation. One can never reach the speed of light, because as one does, time slows down and would appear to stop as the limit is reached. The result would be “relative” to the point of view of the observer; outside, time stops; inside, time goes on forever. This is not a scientific argument to prove “eternity,” but I have learned from experience that God’s Word is true, whether we understand everything about this Creation or not.]

Jesus came to his own people, Israel, God’s chosen people, who had a covenant relationship with God, who had the Bible scriptures, but many refused to recognize, accept, trust and obey him. Even in Nazareth, his hometown, he was rejected and driven out (Luke 4:16-30).

To those who accept Jesus, who trust and obey him, Jesus gives the “power” to become adopted children of God, who are “reborn” by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Jesus makes it possible for us to be spiritually “born-again,” but we must receive it by obedient trust in him. We cannot buy it, earn it or take it by force or deception. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Abraham was the mediator of the Old Covenant of Law between God and Israel. The Law was to restrain evil until the coming of Christ, and to show that no one is able to be saved by doing good works (keeping) of the Law (Galatians 2:16). They were only able to maintain the Covenant by continual sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sin.

Jesus’ coming ended the Old Covenant and established the New Covenant of Grace through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Jesus initiated the New Covenant at the Last Supper, and at his crucifixion, the curtain of the temple separating the people from the presence of God was torn in two from top to bottom, symbolizing that Jesus was the new and better way into the presence of God (Luke 23:45). Jesus has become the one and only sacrifice acceptable to God, for all time and all people, for the forgiveness of sin. The Old Covenant sacrificial system ended with the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D.

Jesus provides abundant grace (saving love; unmerited favor) and truth (faithful promises) to those who trust and obey him. Those who believe God’s Word recognize Jesus as God’s Son, and those who see and recognize Jesus, see what God looks like in human flesh. Only through obedient trust in Jesus can we receive the indwelling Holy Spirit and come to know Jesus and God the Father personally and intimately (Revelation 3:20; John 14:21, 23).

John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New. The true Church, the “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ, are the heirs of John’s call to announce the coming of Jesus and point others to him.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday – January 4 – A

First posted January 4, 2010;
Podcast: January 4-A
Ephesians 3:2-12  –  Mystery Revealed;

Paraphrase:

Paul was an evangelist to the Gentiles because his preaching had been rejected by the Jews, who had caused Paul to be imprisoned (Acts 21:27-22-29). Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) had become a steward of God’s grace to the Gentiles because of a revelation to him of the mystery of God’s plan. This mystery had not been known to former generations but had now been revealed by the (Holy) Spirit to the apostles and prophets of God. That plan is that Gentiles share with Jews the same inheritance, members of the same body and partakers in the same promise in Jesus Christ through the Gospel.By God’s grace (unmerited favor).

Paul was made a minister of the Gospel by the power of God working in and through Paul (by the indwelling Holy Spirit). Paul considered himself the least worthy of the saints (believers) and realized that it was God’s unmerited favor which made it possible for Paul to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, and to reveal to all people, the mystery of God’s plan which had been hidden for ages past in God, the Creator of everything. Through the Church the great wisdom of God has been revealed to the entire Universe. This is according to the eternal purpose of God which he has accomplished in Jesus Christ, our Lord. By faith in Jesus we can have bold and confident access to God.

Commentary:

God has always intended from the very beginning of Creation to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly choose to trust and obey him. This Creation has been designed according to God’s eternal purpose. It has been designed to allow the possibility of sin (disobedience of God’s Word) so that we truly have free choice whether or not to trust and obey God. God will not tolerate disobedience forever; he has placed a time limit on this Creation and on our lifetimes.

The meaning and purpose of this temporal lifetime is to seek and come to know God (Acts 17:26-27). This lifetime is our only opportunity to learn to know, trust and obey God, and to be spiritually “re-born” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life.

This is only possible through Jesus Christ, around whom Creation has been designed (John 1:1-3, 14). All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23), and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s one and only provision for forgiveness of our sin, for salvation from eternal condemnation, and restoration to fellowship with God and eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom (Acts 4:12, John 14:6). None of us is worthy of salvation and eternal life; it is the gift of God to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

In order to have eternal life one must be “born-again (John 3:3, 5-8), by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Jesus Christ is the revelation of what formerly was the mystery of God’s eternal purpose, now revealed to the “born-again” disciples and apostles (messengers; of the Gospel) of Jesus Christ by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) is the prototype and example of the “modern,” “post-resurrection,” “born-again” disciple, apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) and prophet (spokesman of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit) of Jesus Christ, as we all can be. Paul had not known Jesus during Jesus’ physical lifetime and was a persecutor of Christians until he was confronted on the road to Damascus by the Spirit of the risen and ascended Christ (Acts 9:1-9). He repented, accepted Jesus as his Lord (Acts 9:5, 8-9), was “discipled” by a “born-again” disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10-16), until Paul was “born-again” (Acts 9:17-18), and then Paul became an apostle guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:20). Paul’s rapid conversion was exceptional, because he was already formally educated in the scriptures and loved God and God’s Word.

The true Church is the body of “born-again” disciples, apostles of Jesus Christ and prophets of God’s Word, stewards of the Gospel. They have received and personally experienced the revelation of the mystery of God’s plan in Jesus Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15), and are guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel and to make disciples of Jesus Christ in fulfillment of the Great Commission which the risen Jesus gave to his disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), to be carried out after they had been “born-again” (Luke 24:49: Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday – January 5 – A

First posted January 5, 2010;
Podcast: January 5-A
Psalm 72   –   Prayer for the King;

Paraphrase:

The psalmist prayed that the king would dispense God’s justice and righteousness. O that he would judge God’s people with righteousness and give justice for the poor. May the land prosper and provide favorable conditions. May the king uphold the cause of the needy, give relief to the needy and eliminate the oppressor.May he live as long as the universe exists, through all generations. May he be like refreshing showers on mown grass. In his reign may righteousness flourish and peace abound until the universe passes away.May his dominion be from sea to sea and from the river (Euphrates; cradle of civilization) to the ends of the earth. May he have victory over his enemies and completely subdue them. May the kings of the earth pay tribute to him. May they bring him gifts, fall down before him, and all nations serve him.

The Lord’s anointed King delivers the needy, the poor and helpless; he pities the poor and “saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:13b-14).

May he have long life, “may gold of Sheba (south Arabia) be given to him. May prayer and blessing be offered for him continually” (Psalm 72:15b). May the Land produce food in abundance and its people thrive and prosper.

“May his name endure forever, and his fame continue as long as the sun! May men bless themselves by him, and all nations call him blessed” (Psalm 72:17)

May the Lord God of Israel be blessed; He alone does marvelous things. May his great name be blessed forever; may the entire earth be filled with his glory! Amen! Amen!
Commentary:

The Lord was to be the King of Israel. When Israel asked for an earthly king like other nations, the Lord allowed it, although he warned them that their earthly king would tax them and conscript them to serve him, and not deal with them as righteously and lovingly as the Lord  (1 Samuel 8:4-22). Samuel was a priest and prophet of God who began the “anointing” of God’s chosen person to be king (1 Samuel 10:1-2).

Of the earthly kings of Israel, David was the closest to the ideal king and prefigured the coming of the Messiah (Messiah and Christ; mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively), the “anointed” eternal king God had intended from the very beginning of Creation.

Jesus Christ is the “Messiah,” the “royal Son,” the fulfillment of the psalmist’s prophecy of a king who would dispense God’s justice and righteousness; the righteous judge who would give justice to the poor, needy and helpless, and defeat the oppressor.

Jesus is the eternal king who will reign over God’s eternal kingdom in heaven. In his reign righteousness and peace flourish and abound for ever. He will reign over all the earth; he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His name will continue forever. All people will bless themselves by him and call him blessed.

This psalm is messianic prophecy, foretelling the coming of the Lord’s “anointed” eternal King. At Jesus’ birth, wise men (the “three kings”) from the east came seeking the child who had been born King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-2). They came to the Christ child in Bethlehem and bowed down before him and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Earthly “kings” will be judged by God’s Word according to how they treat the poor, the needy, and the helpless. America claims to be a “Christian” nation, with leaders who claim to be “Christian.” We claim to have a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But increasingly it is the government of the people, by the rich, for the rich. Instead of being a land of equal opportunity it is becoming a society of two classes: the “haves” and the “have-nots,” with a widening separation between the two.

Jesus has promised to return on the Day of Judgment in great power and glory, to judge everyone who has ever lived. In that day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to God (Romans 14:11). Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in his eternal kingdom in heaven, the fulfillment of the psalmist’s prophecy of a land of righteousness, peace and prosperity. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to trust and obey him will be condemned to eternal destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday – Epiphany – January 6 – A

First posted January 6, 2011;
Podcast: Epiphany January 6 – A
Epiphany means “manifestation.” The Church commemorates the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, at the coming of the Magi (“Wise Men”).

Isaiah 60:1-6   –    Zion Restored;
Mathew 2:1-12   –    The Wise Men;Isaiah

Paraphrase:

[This text was written just prior to the fall of Babylon and looks forward to the restoration of Judah, the remnant of Israel, to the Promised Land after their Babylonian exile.]

Zion (Jerusalem, the people of God) is urged to arise and shine, reflecting the glory of the Lord which is rising upon them. There is thick (spiritual) darkness upon the peoples (Gentiles) but the Lord will shine upon Zion and the Gentiles will see the glory of the Lord reflected by Zion, and the nations will come to that light, “and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3b).Look around and see; all gather together and come to Zion, her sons and daughters come from far away. Then Zion will be radiant and rejoice, “because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, and the wealth of nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah (Arab tribes east of the Red Sea); all those from Sheba (Descendants of Noah through Raamah, who settled on the Persian Gulf, to the east; Genesis 10:7) shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” Isaiah 60:5b-6).

Matthew Paraphrase:

When Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in Judea (the southern Roman province of Israel; the Kingdom of Judah before the Exile) in the reign of Herod the Great, “Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:2).  This upset Herod who caused turmoil throughout Jerusalem, assembling all the priests and scribes to find the scriptural basis of this event. The religious authorities quoted Micah 5:2, saying that the location was to be Bethlehem in Judea (Judah).

Herod summoned the wise men and in private found out the date that the star had appeared, and told the wise men to return to Herod when they had found the child, so that Herod could go and worship him also. The wise men left and continued to follow the star until it came to rest over the place where the child was. They were filled with great joy and entering, they found the child with his mother, Mary, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then they returned to their homes by another route, having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

Commentary:

This is the day that the Church celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (the “Three Kings,” “Magi”) to Christ. It is the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. This text of Isaiah was written prior to the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.*

God’s Word is absolutely reliable and true, and it is eternal; it is fulfilled over and over as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. The test of God’s Word is its fulfillment (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

The prophecy of Isaiah was marvelously fulfilled in the return of Judah, the remnant of Israel, to the Promised Land after seventy years of exile in Babylon, and it was fulfilled again at the first Advent (coming) of Christ and the visit by the Wise Men.

The prophecy also applies to the Church, the “New Zion,” and to Christians who are the “New Israel,” the “New People of God.”

Christ comes individually and personally through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). He is the one who frees us from captivity in Babylon and restores us to the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom. We are “reborn” (John 3:3, 5-8) by his “birth” within us.

Christians are “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ who are called to rise and shine with the reflected glory of Jesus Christ, the “Light of the World (John 1:9; 8:12).” Light is the symbol of divine righteousness and divine truth, not by worldly standards but by the standard of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.

None of us are righteous in God’s judgment by our own doings (Romans 3:23). Only through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ can we fulfill the requirements of God’s Word. None of us can know eternal truth and divine wisdom except through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-8). The fear (appropriate respect for the power and authority) of the Lord is the beginning of true, divine wisdom (Proverbs 9:10, Palms 111:10).

Jesus has called his followers to be his disciples (Acts 11:26c) and to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16) in the spiritual darkness of this world, so that we will draw people to Jesus who is the source of righteousness and truth.

The “Wise Men” were wise in worldly knowledge and they were able to see the signs of God in nature which led them to Jerusalem, the “city of God,” but they needed “believers” who were knowledgeable of the scriptures who were able to point them to Christ (“Messiah;” both words mean “anointed” in Greek and Hebrew, respectively; i.e., the promised Savior). The Jewish religious leaders considered themselves wise in religious knowledge, had the scriptures (the Old Testament Bible), and knew God’s promise of Christ, yet failed to trust and act on the scriptures themselves, to seek and find the Christ.

In many ways the situation is the same in our society today. Educated people are seeking spiritual answers in the wrong places. Religious people know a lot about God, but don’t know God personally. Leaders have formal education in the Bible, but don’t trust and obey the Word and receive the promises. Some use the Bible to further their own self-interests, instead of seeking to worship and serve the Lord.

Are you Wise? Are you seeking the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13; Deuteronomy 4:29)? Are you willing to worship him and give him your best gift, your obedience?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Introduction to Isaiah, p. 822, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Saturday – January 7 A

Use only until First Sunday after Epiphany.
First posted January 7, 2011;
Podcast: January 7-A
 

Psalm 45:7-9;Paraphrase:

Because the Lord’s anointed king loves righteousness and hates wickedness, God has anointed him with the “oil of gladness” above others. His robes are fragrant with precious perfumes. In ivory palaces stringed instruments play for his pleasure. Daughters of kings are among the bride’s attendants, and at his right hand is his queen adorned in gold of Ophir (a gold-producing region; perhaps India).

Commentary:

This psalm was probably written to celebrate a king’s marriage. It also applies to the Messiah (Christ, God’s anointed eternal king) and his bride, the Church.

Jesus is the Lord’s anointed eternal King of kings. Jesus had the same standards of righteousness and wickedness as God, and he was obedient to God’s Word unto physical death on the Cross, so God raised him up to eternal life and has given him a name and authority above all others, in heaven and on earth (Philippians 2:8-11; Matthew 28:18).

The true Church (as distinct from the “nominal” Church) is the body of “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) “disciples” (Acts 11:26c) of Jesus Christ. The true Church is the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9), the “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2). Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the wedding garment, the “anointing” (gift) of the indwelling Holy Spirit, without which no one will be allowed to attend the wedding (Matthew 22:11-14).

Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the “robe” of righteousness and the “garment” of salvation (Isaiah 61:10); it is Jesus’ righteousness and salvation which they are given, not their own, through his indwelling Holy Spirit within them (Romans 8:9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right). Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether or not one has received the “anointing” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

The wedding of the king is coming soon! We must get ready for the celebration. The Church is called to be the “ivory palace” of the king, precious and pure; not a social club. Her members are to be clothed in the wedding garments. We’re to be making “music” pleasing to the king. We’re to be serving the Lord, preparing for the wedding and glorifying him. We’re to be alert for his coming, not caught napping; not short of “oil” for our “lamps” (Matthew 25:1-13); not abusing our fellow servants; not indulging our physical appetites (Matthew 24:45-51).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of Christmas A -12/25 – 31/2016

December 24, 2016

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/usage.html

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

http://shepherdboy-mydailywalk.blogspot.com/

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

.mp3 Podcasts via Linux Festival text-to-speech and Panopreter Basic text-to-speech are available at:

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http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/c_year/wklx_c.html

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Free to distribute; for personal use, Bible Study Groups, and Adult Christian Education. Disk Image and/or .zip file to burn the complete Bible Study to CD are available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/#Burn_Site_to_CD

To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Sunday Christmas – December 25 A;
First Posted December 25, 2010
Podcast: Christmas Sunday A

Isaiah 9:2-7   —    Eternal King;

Psalm 96    —    The Lord Reigns!

Titus 2:11-14   —   Our God and Savior;

Luke 2:1-20  —    The Birth of Jesus;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” Isaiah 9:2). The Lord has multiplied the people of his kingdom, he has increased their joy. Their joy is like joy at the harvest, or when conquerors divide the spoils.

The Lord has delivered his people from their oppressors and bondage, as in the day of Midian (when Gideon and a few hundred men completely defeated a vastly more numerous army of Midianites, by obedient faith in God; Judges 7:15-25). The enemies of God who have attacked and shed blood will be burned as fuel for eternal fire.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His government and the peace he establishes will never end. He will establish his kingdom upon the throne of David and will uphold it with justice and righteousness for evermore. This will be accomplished because it is the Lord’s fervent commitment.

Psalm Paraphrase:

Let us sing a new song to the Lord, all the earth. Bless his name and tell of his salvation every day. Let us declare his glory and mighty works to all people and nations. The Lord is great and worthy of great praise! He is to be feared (having proper respect for his power and authority) above all gods, because all other “gods” are merely idols (the creation of humans), but the Lord is the Creator of the universe! His character is honor and majesty; in his sanctuary are strength and beauty.

Let everyone on earth acknowledge the Lord’s glory and strength. Give him the glory due his name; bring an offering into his courts. Come to worship him with cleansed garments (see Exodus 19:10-11). Let all the earth fear him.

Declare to all nations that the Lord reigns! He rules over the entire world, and his rule cannot be overthrown. He will govern with justice and fairness. Let all heaven and earth rejoice. Let earth and sea and everything in them exalt; let all nature rejoice at the coming of the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world and all people with truth and righteousness.

Titus Paraphrase:

The grace (unmerited favor; free gift) of God has appeared for the salvation of all people, so that we might turn from unbelief and the pursuit of earthly desires; that instead we might live sober, godly, righteous lives in this world as we wait the fulfillment of our great hope in the glorious return of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus gave himself for us, to redeem (pay the penalty for) us from all our sin (disobedience of God’s Word), “and to purify for himself a people of his own, who are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

Luke Paraphrase:

In about 6-5 B.C.,* Caesar Augustus (27 B.C. to 14 A.D.*) decreed that a census should be recorded throughout the Roman Empire. This was the first such census, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Every head of the house was to return to the city of his birth, and Joseph went with Mary, his betrothed, who was pregnant, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David, in Judea, since Joseph was a descendant of David. While in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and delivered her first-born, a son. They were in a stable, because the inn was full, and Mary wrapped the child with swaddling cloths and used a manger for the child’s crib (consider Isaiah 1:3)

In a field nearby, shepherds were watching over their flocks during the night, and an angel of the Lord appeared to them, transforming the darkness with the radiant light of God’s glory, and the shepherds were afraid. The angel told them not to be afraid, because the angel had a message of good news and great joy for them and all people. The angel announced that a Savior, Christ the Lord, had been born that day in the city of David (Bethlehem). The Angel told the shepherds that they would find an infant wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly there were a multitude of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

When the angels left, the shepherds decided to go and see the child which the angels had announced, and they found Joseph and Mary and the child, as the angels had told them. Then they made known what the angels had said, and all who heard wondered about what the shepherds had told them. Mary kept thinking about what the shepherds had said. The shepherds returned to the field praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as the angel had told them.

Commentary:

In the era long before city streetlights, the shepherds were out in a field in vast darkness. The announcement of Christ’s birth by the angel was intended to be a graphic illustration of the fulfillment of God’s Word through Isaiah (Isaiah 9:2). God’s kingdom of light (righteousness) has appeared in the dark night (of sin) of this world.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior, who saves God’s people from sin, eternal condemnation and destruction. Jesus is the promised Messiah (“Christ;” both mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively), the promised eternal king and heir to the throne of David, the great shepherd-king of Israel.

Jesus is the Savior who gives us victory over our spiritual enemy, Satan, as God gave Gideon over the Midianites. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross paid the price of our redemption from the penalty of our sin. Jesus’ blood cleanses us of sin and provides the holy garments we need to enter into God’s presence and worship him in spirit and truth.

Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for us to be cleansed and made holy so that we could receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9),  and so that we could personally know and have fellowship with God our Father and Jesus our Lord and Savior. Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, within us who have been “reborn” (John 3:3, 5-8). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The shepherds trusted and acted upon God’s Word delivered by the angel, and they experienced for themselves the truth of God’s Word and the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah. Having experienced God’s salvation for themselves, they told everyone what God had revealed to them, praising and glorifying God.

Jesus is the “bread of (eternal) life” (John 6:33-35, 48, 51). Jesus’ placement in the manger was the fulfillment of God’s Word through Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 1:3). An ox knows its owner, and an ass knows its source of food is the manger its master provides, but the people of Israel do not know or acknowledge their master or his providence.

Jesus has appeared for the salvation of all people, but that salvation must be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Jesus is the King of kings, the Lord of the Universe. He reigns now and eternally. Only individually can we choose whether or not to allow him to reign over us, now, in this lifetime.

Jesus has promised to return on the Day of Judgment, to judge the living and the dead (in both the physical and spiritual senses; 1 Peter 4:5). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in paradise;  but those who have rejected Jesus and refused to trust and obey Jesus will be condemned to eternal destruction in Hell with all evil (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Those who have been “born-again” will pray for, work for and rejoice at Christ’s return, but those who have rejected Jesus will be fainting with fear (Luke 21:26) and trying to hide from the wrath of God.

Are you ready for Christ’s Second Coming? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Luke 2:1n, p. 1242, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Christmas Monday – December 26 A

Podcast:  December 26 Christmas A

Psalm 111   —     Praise the Lord!

Paraphrase:

In the congregation of the righteous I will praise the Lord with my whole heart. The works of the Lord are great and studied by those who delight in them. He does everything with honor and majesty and his righteousness will endure for ever. His wonderful works will not ever be forgotten.

The Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him. He is faithful to his covenant. He reveals to his people the power of his works, and has given them the wealth of nations. All his works are faithful and just and his teaching is trustworthy. His Word will endure forever, to be carried out with faithfulness and righteousness.

He has given redemption to his people. His covenant is established forever. Let his name be reverenced and feared. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it. His praise endures for ever” (Psalm 111:10).

Commentary:

God has been progressively revealing himself, first through the goodness of Creation, then through the history of his dealing with Israel recorded in the Bible, in the physical manifestation of Jesus Christ, and ultimately, individually and personally in the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The meaning and purpose of this lifetime is to seek, find and come to personal knowledge of and fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27). God wants us to trust and obey his Word, so that we can learn that he is powerful and faithful to do what he promises, and that his will is good and our very best interest.

As we trust and begin to act in faith upon his Word in our daily lives we will grow in faith as we experience his power and faithfulness. We will begin to know, study and remember what he has done for us, and we will want to praise and glorify him in worship in the congregation of his people. We will want to study his teachings so that we can live the fullness of life that he wants us to have.

We cannot begin to know anything about ourselves and life in this world until we realize that God exists, that he is much greater than ourselves, and that he has the power and authority of eternal life or death over us. He is Lord, whether we acknowledge him or not.

Creation has been moving toward the coming of the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus Christ, from the very beginning (John 1:1-5, 14). Nothing reveals the power and wisdom of God more clearly than Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). Christ’s birth is the central moment in history, and since that moment has been moving toward its conclusion at Christ’s return on the Day of Judgment.

Jesus is the one and only Redeemer God promised (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the mediator of the eternal covenant between God and his people (John 14:6; Matthew 26:26-28; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Each one of us will experience Christ’s return either personally and individually through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17), or at the end of our physical lifetime at the throne of judgment. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). This lifetime is our only opportunity to be “re-born” (John 3:3, 5-8) to spiritual, eternal life.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday December 27 – Christmas A

First Posted December 27, 2010
Podcast: December 27 Christmas A

Isaiah 63:7-9 — Abundant Steadfast Love;

Paraphrase:

Let us remember and declare the steadfast love of the Lord and give him praise, according to all that he has given us. With great goodness and mercy he has dealt with Israel, in accordance with his abundant steadfast love. He acknowledged them as his people, treated them as trusted sons, and became their Savior. He bore their affliction, “and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9).

Commentary:

The Bible contains the historical record of God’s abundant steadfast love for his people. In one sense we are all God’s people, because he is our Creator, but in another sense, Christians are the “New Israel.”

God has intended from the very beginning to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly trust and obey him. He designed Creation to allow the possibility for sin in order for us to have freedom of choice, and he built the Savior, Jesus Christ into the very structure of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14).

God loves us and has demonstrated great steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness to us. He has come into the world in human flesh in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:8-9) to be our Savior; to bear our affliction in our place, and to redeem us from (pay the penalty for) sin (disobedience of God’s Word; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

God has been progressively revealing himself and his purpose throughout history, and the coming of the Messiah is the central point in history. God has designed Creation so that we all need forgiveness, and that forgiveness is a free gift to all those who trust and obey God’s one and only Savior, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6)

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, is the “angel” of his presence. “Angel” can be understood to mean “Spirit” (consider Acts 12:12-15; Revelation 1:1; 22:16). Only Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Jesus came to save us from sin and eternal condemnation by making it possible for us to be spiritually “reborn” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, his presence within us to lift, empower and guide us.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday December 28 – Christmas A

First Posted December 28, 2010
Podcast: December 28 Christmas A

Galatians 4:4-7 — Spirit and Sonship;

Paraphrase:

Paul compared the Law of Moses to guardianship of a minor. God’s people were heirs of God’s estate and eternal life, but under control by the Law until the time set by God for them to receive the inheritance.

In the perfect timing of God, God sent his Son, born of a human mother, born into Israel and Judaism, under the Law, so that he could redeem those under the Law, so that they could become God’s adopted children.

Commentary:

It is by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we receive adoption. It is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God’s Son, within us, through whom we can call God our Father, and who testifies that we are his sons and daughters. So, through God, by the sacrifice of his Son on the Cross, we receive adoption as sons and daughters by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who we received through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are heirs of God’s kingdom and eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

It is by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are freed from bondage and condemnation under the Law (Romans 8:1-9). Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

Jesus won’t give the gift of the Holy Spirit until we make an earnest commitment to trust and obey Jesus. When we make that commitment, he will give us the Holy Spirit so that we can trust and obey God’s Word as we were unable to, under the Law.

God’s Law, God’s Word, the Bible, and the “living Word,” Jesus Christ, the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14), were given to Israel and through Israel to the world.

The world did not have a covenant to trust and obey God’s Word as Israel did, but we are all ultimately accountable to God and will be judged by the standard of his Word. Jesus is the ultimate standard of God’s Word. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven, but those who have rejected Jesus will receive eternal condemnation and eternal destruction in Hell (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; John 3:16-19).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday December 29 – Christmas A

First posted Dec. 29, 2009;
Podcast: December 29 Christmas A

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 – Escape into Egypt;

Paraphrase:

After the visit by the Magi (“wise men”), an angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus, because Herod the Great was about to order the male infants in the region under two years old to be killed, in an attempt to destroy the Messiah, Jesus (Matthew 2:16). Joseph left with Mary and the child, in the night, and went to Egypt, as the Lord had told him. They remained there until Herod died. The prophecy of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I have called my son,” was thus fulfilled.

When Herod had died, an angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream that it was safe to return to Israel, because those who had tried to kill the child were dead. Joseph returned to Israel with Mary and Jesus, but when he heard that Herod Archelaus (son of Herod the Great) reigned in Judea, they returned and dwelt in Nazareth of Galilee (the northern province of Israel, separated from the southern province of Judah by Samaria). So another prophecy was fulfilled: Nazareth means “shoot” or “sprout” from which came Jesus, the righteous “shoot” and “branch” from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).

Commentary:

Nazareth was where Joseph and Mary were living when the angel announced Jesus’ conception to Mary (Luke 1:26-38). Bethlehem, the city of David, was the birthplace prophesied by scripture, and was fulfilled by the necessity of the Roman census, which required Joseph to return to the city of David, since Joseph was a descendant of David (Luke 2:1-7).

Jesus was the promised Messiah (God’s “anointed” Savior and eternal King). David was the great “shepherd-king,” and Jesus was the “Good Shepherd” and eternal King, the “son of David,” who inherited David’s throne as God had promised (2 Samuel 7:5-13; Psalm 89:20-29).

God was able to fulfill his promise in every detail, and was able to protect Jesus until God’s purpose was fulfilled. God’s promise was fulfilled in God’s perfect timing, in every detail, when all the events were aligned: the Roman census, crucifixion (which was the Roman form of execution), and the circumstances which led Joseph to return to Nazareth.

God’s will and purpose for Creation has always been to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly choose to trust and obey God. He has designed this creation with the possibility of sin (disobedience of God’s Word) so that we can have free choice whether or not to trust and obey God, but he has set a time-limit on this creation and on our lifetimes. God’s eternal Savior and King, the Messiah, Jesus Christ is God’s one and only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal condemnation and destruction (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right). Jesus Christ has been designed into the very structure of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14).

God’s will and purpose will be accomplished whether we cooperate with it or not. Herod the Great tried unsuccessfully to prevent Jesus from fulfilling God’s purpose. The Jewish religious leaders tried unsuccessfully to prevent Jesus’ fulfillment by having him crucified, but their rejection of Jesus actually fulfilled God’s purpose. Judas rejected and betrayed Jesus, but only accomplished God’s purpose (1 Corinthians 2:6-8; Acts 13:27). But their rejection cost their eternal lives in the kingdom of God in Heaven.

God’s will and purpose will be accomplished whether we cooperate with it or not, but our choice will have personal, eternal consequences. Mary and Joseph trusted and obeyed God’s Word, became part of the fulfillment of God’s plan and received the blessing of its fulfillment. Are we willing to cooperate with God’s plan, or do we expect God to cooperate with our plans and our agenda?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday December 30 – Christmas A

First Posted December 30, 2010
Podcast: December 30 Christmas A

Isaiah 11:1-5 – The Righteous Branch;

Paraphrase:

Isaiah foresaw, by the Holy Spirit, a shoot coming forth from the stump of Jesse (David’s father), a branch growing from his roots. He would be known by the Spirit of the Lord upon him, the spirit of (divine) wisdom and understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord (awe and respect for his power and authority). He will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will be the righteous judge, not influenced by what people say or do outwardly. He will judge with righteousness for the poor and meek. His word will correct the errant and slay the wicked. His judgment will be controlled by righteousness and faithfulness.

Commentary:

Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the “Son (descendant) of David,” the “Nazarene” from Nazareth (the name means “shoot”). John the Baptizer testified that he had witnessed the Holy Spirit descend and rest upon Jesus physically as a dove at Jesus’ baptism by John, and testified that the Lord God had told him that this sign would identify the Son of God, the Messiah, who would “baptize” with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34).

Jesus promised that his disciples who trusted and obeyed Jesus would receive the “baptism,” the “anointing” with the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17), and that the Holy Spirit would counsel, guide, teach, and remind them of all that Jesus taught (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit would give Jesus’ disciples what to say at the moment they were required to testify (Luke 12:11-12).

Jesus’ promise began to be filled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). Peter, who recently had denied knowing Jesus three times to a maidservant of the high priest (John 18:15-27), was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave a great first sermon (Acts 2:14-36).

Before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, only a few individuals like Isaiah had a personal relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ coming made it possible for his disciples to share in the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ and experience a personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ (John 14:21, 23). We can experience the wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, and knowledge, and delight in the fear of the Lord.

Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday December 31 – Christmas A

First Posted December 31, 2010;
Podcast: December 31 Christmas A

Hebrews 2:9-16 – Suffering of Christ;
Luke 2:22-32 – Light of Revelation;

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Citing the prophecy of Psalm 8:4-6, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Jesus was for a time made lower than angels, but now has been crowned with glory and honor because he was willing to suffer death for us (he died for our sins so that we would not have to die eternally for them ourselves).

Jesus is the one for whom and by whom all things exist (Matthew 28:18; John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus is the “pioneer” (the one to show us the way) of our salvation, who has been made “perfect” (spiritually mature) through suffering. The sanctifier (Jesus; one who purifies and consecrates to God’s service) and those who are sanctified [who receive salvation through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus] have the same origin: God the Father. So Jesus can unashamedly call us brethren, in fulfillment of Psalm 22:22. Jesus has proclaimed God’s name to his brethren and has glorified God’s name in the midst of God’s people. Jesus has trusted in God to the point of death on the Cross, and his disciples are the “children” God has given him (Isaiah 8:17c-18a).

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus’ ministry was not to angels, but to mortal humans.

Luke Paraphrase:

Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple for the rite of purification of Mary and the Child, according to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:2-8), to present Jesus to the Lord (because every first-born male is holy to the Lord), and to offer the required sacrifice. There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon who was righteous and devout, who was looking for the coming consolation of Israel (the Messiah), “and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25c). The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the Christ (“anointed;” Messiah; Savior) of God before Simeon died.

Led by the Spirit, Simeon entered the temple, and when Mary and Joseph presented the young Jesus, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Commentary:

Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word, lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is fully God and fully human (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus set his divine nature aside and became obedient to God (Philippians 2:8-11).

Jesus is God’s promised, “anointed” eternal Savior and King. He was attendant at Creation, and everything in Creation was made by him and for him (John 1:1-5, 14).

This Creation has been designed by God to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly choose to trust and obey God. This lifetime is our only opportunity to learn by trial and error to trust and obey God, to seek and come to know personally God, our Creator (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Jesus came to be the only sacrifice, once for all time and all people, which is acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sin, salvation from eternal condemnation, and restoration to fellowship with God and eternal life in his heavenly kingdom (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Jesus came to show us, by word and example, how to be God’s children. He came to show us the way to eternal life in God’s kingdom in heaven. He came to make it possible for us to be cleansed and consecrated so that we could be “anointed” with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He came to make it possible for us to be spiritually “reborn” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life by the indwelling Holy Spirit. By his Resurrection, he demonstrated that there is existence beyond physical death! He came to free us from the fear of physical death. Jesus came to free us from slavery to sin and eternal condemnation.

Simeon was one of only a few people before Jesus’ coming who was “anointed” (filled with) the Holy Spirit. He prefigures the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

Simeon believed God’s Word promising the Messiah and had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would witness the birth of the Messiah. He trusted and obeyed the Holy Spirit and the revelation of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled. Simeon praised God by the Holy Spirit, and was unafraid of, and accepting of physical death.

As we believe and obey God’s Word, revealed through Jesus Christ, Jesus will reveal himself to us (John 14:21) and will make God the Father known to us (John 14:23; John 14:8-11; Luke 10:22). We will know with certainty that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

We are called to trust and obey Jesus and to follow his example and teaching, to seek the fulfillment of the promises of God’s Word, and to grow to spiritual maturity by the guidance and empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 4 Advent A – 12/18 – 24/2016

December 17, 2016

This is a Three-Year Lectionary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship 3-year Lectionary (for public worship), “Prayers of the Day…” (Propers), p. 13-41, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978. It is based, with only minor variations, on the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many denominations, including the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches:

http://www.commontexts.org/

and:

http://www.commontexts.org/rcl/usage.html

The daily readings are the Propers (Lections) for the following Sunday, so that the daily devotions can prepare us for worship. Additional Lections are from Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, “Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers,” United Lutheran Church of America, General Rubrics VIII. Scripture lessons for Matins and Vespers, p. 299 – 304, Philadelphia, 1918.

The previous 2- year Bible Study based on the Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978, is available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).

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Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

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http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible2/b_year/wklx_b.html

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 4 Advent A

Sunday 4 Advent A

Variable; use until Christmas Day.
First Posted Dec. 20, 2009;
Podcast: Sunday 4 Advent A

Isaiah 7:10-14 (15-17) The Sign of Immanuel ;
Psalm 24 King of Glory;
Romans 1:1-7 Apostleship;
Matthew 1:18-25 Announcement ;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

In 734-733* B.C., when Ahaz was king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and Pekah was king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Pekah allied with the king of Syria to attack Jerusalem. God sent Isaiah, the prophet of Judah, to Ahaz, to tell him not to fear but to trust and obey God. God assured Ahaz that the enemies would not prevail. God told Ahaz to ask for a sign, no matter how seemingly “impossible,” which God could give him, in order for Ahaz to trust and obey God, But Ahaz said that he would not put God to the test.

Then Isaiah said to Ahaz, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman (a virgin) shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13-14). Isaiah prophesied that before the child was old enough to eat solid food he would know right from wrong, and before that, the lands of the kings who threatened Judah would be deserted. The Lord declared that he would also bring tribulation on Judah greater than that of the time Ephraim split to create the divided monarchy (i.e. the Northern Kingdom).

Psalm Paraphrase:

[The psalm, which is attributed to David, may have been used as a processional, led by the Ark of the Covenant (representing the presence of God), ascending to the temple gates.]

Remember that the earth and everything and everyone in it belongs to the Lord, who has established solid ground from the primordial flood (watery chaos; Genesis 1:9-10). Only those who are cleansed of sin and pure in heart, who do not desire what is false or practice deceit, can ascend the hill of God and stand in his temple. They are the ones who will be blessed and vindicated by God who has provided their salvation. They are the ones who seek God and a personal knowledge of and fellowship with him.

The Psalmist cries out, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in! Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle! Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7-10 KJV)!

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul was writing to the Roman Church which had already been established by others. He was writing to introduce himself, to announce his intention of visiting them, and to set forth his understanding of the Gospel.

Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ who had been called and set apart for the Gospel (the “Good News” of God’s Plan of Salvation, which see: sidebar, top right), which God had revealed beforehand by his prophets and recorded in the Holy Scriptures (the Bible). This Gospel was fulfilled in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was, by his earthly family, the descendant of David, the great shepherd-king, and revealed as the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through Jesus we have received grace (unmerited favor; a free gift) and apostleship (the call to be a messenger; of the Gospel), to bring about the obedience of faith (faith is obedient trust) for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5b), including the Roman Christians and all who have responded to the call to belong to Jesus.

“To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

Matthew Paraphrase

Mary was betrothed to Joseph, a descendant of David, but the marriage had not yet been consummated, when Mary was found to be pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph knew that the child was not his, but he didn’t want to cause Mary public shame, so he decided to divorce her quietly. While Joseph was contemplating this, he had a dream in which an angel of the Lord told him not to be afraid to marry Mary, because the child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit. She would give birth to a son, who was to be named Jesus (his name means “savior”) because he would save his people from their sins (disobedience of God’s Word). This was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 that an “[unmarried] young woman” (a virgin), would conceive and bear a son who would be called “Emmanuel” (Immanuel) which means “God with us.”

Commentary:

God’s people were under attack from their enemies, and Isaiah, a prophet of God, was sent to declare God’s Word, telling Ahaz, their leader, not to worry, because God promised them that their enemies would not prevail. God offered to give Ahaz a sign so that Ahaz would trust and obey God’s Word, but Ahaz said he didn’t want to put God to the test.

His reply seemed “pious,” but Ahaz did not actually trust and obey God’s Word. Instead he sought worldly alliance with Assyria, paid for out of the temple and palace treasury, and Judah became a vassal of Assyria (2 Kings 16:1-20) initiating the decline that led to Babylonian exile, and fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 7:17. Ahaz literally sold God’s people into slavery and exile with the treasure of the temple and king (2 Kings 16:7-8).

God’s promise that Judah’s attackers would not prevail and would be wiped out didn’t do Judah any good because their “king” didn’t trust and obey God’s Word. Instead his disobedience caused them to receive the punishment that God’s Word of assurance and warning was intended to prevent.

Ahaz put his trust in human “kings” instead of the King of Glory, and it led to disaster. The people of Judah put their trust in their earthly leader, Ahaz instead of the Lord and they suffered tribulation and exile. In contrast, Jesus is the true Savior and King of kings. Those who put their trust in Jesus will not be sold into, but rather redeemed from exile and slavery.

In one sense all are God’s people because God is our Creator. In another sense God’s people are those who choose to trust and obey God. If we will be God’s People, he will be our God (Jeremiah 7:23; Ezekiel 11:20; Leviticus 26:3, 12; Jeremiah 11:4c). This lifetime is an “ascent” of the people of God to the gates of the eternal heavenly temple of God, the Creator and Lord of Creation. This lifetime is our opportunity to “assent” to the Lord as our King.

Only those who are cleansed of sin and pure in heart, who do not pursue what is evil or practice deceit, will be able to enter his gates and stand within God’s temple. On our own merits not any one of us qualifies! All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (doing what is right according to God’s standard, his Word; Romans 3:23).

Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17) can our sins be cleansed and our hearts purified; only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we be freed from slavery to sin and be able to resist temptation.

This Creation has been designed to allow us the opportunity to seek and come to know and have fellowship with God our Creator (Acts 17:26-27), and this is only possible through obedient trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s one and only provision for our forgiveness (of sin) and salvation (from eternal condemnation and destruction; Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who seek God will find him, and those who find him and learn to trust and obey him will be blessed and vindicated by God who has provided their salvation through Jesus Christ.

God’s Word calls us to prepare for and await the coming of the eternal Savior and victorious almighty King of glory! Let us unbar the gates of our hearts and open the doors of our souls to receive him (John 1:12; Revelation 3:20)!

God’s Plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ has been designed into Creation from the very beginning (John 1:1-5, 14), and God has been progressively revealing it by his prophets as recorded in the Bible. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of scripture and prophecy, the eternal Savior and heir to the throne of David.

Jesus is the revelation of God’s person and character in human flesh. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived in this world by human flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). Jesus’ resurrection is the demonstration of the truth and power of God’s Word, and the fact of existence beyond physical death.

Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the promised indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus (Romans 8:9), through whom we have personal fellowship, and the assurance that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is the prototype and example of a “modern,” “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ. He was convicted by the Holy Spirit of the risen, ascended Jesus, on the Road to Damascus (Acts (9:1-9), repented and accepted Jesus as his Lord (Acts 9:5-9), was “discipled” by a “born-again” disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10-17), until Paul was “re-born” (Acts 9:18-19) and then Paul, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, began fulfilling (Acts 9:20) the Great Commission, which Jesus gave to his “born-again” disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, 8), making “born-again” disciples and teaching them to repeated the process (2 Timothy 2:2).

Paul taught that Christians have received grace (the free gift of forgiveness and salvation through faith, i.e., obedient trust) in Jesus, and apostleship to bring all “believers” to obedience of faith in Jesus. All of us are called to be “saints” (set apart for God’s use). Grace (God’s unmerited forgiveness and salvation) and peace (with God and other people) are only from God, only through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Isaiah 7:21-8:15n, p. 830, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Monday 4 Advent A

Variable; use until Christmas Day.
First Posted Dec. 21, 2009;

Podcast: Monday 4 Advent A

Psalm 96 – The Lord Reigns!

Paraphrase:

Let all the earth sing to the Lord a new song; let us bless his name and tell of his salvation every day. Let us declare his glory and his marvelous works to all people and all nations. The Lord is great and worthy of great praise. He alone is the one true God, to be feared (having proper reverence and respect for his power and authority) above all (“so-called”) gods (idols), for the Lord is the maker of the universe. Honor and majesty are his character and there is strength and beauty in his sanctuary.

Acknowledge the Lord, all people. Acknowledge his glory and strength. Give him the glory due his name (his character and person). Bring offerings to him and worship him, trembling before him, all people of earth.

Proclaim the Lord’s reign among all nations. The world has been established and cannot be changed; the Lord will judge the people of earth with equity. Let all Creation rejoice: Earth, heavens, sea and field and everything in them, rejoice, for the Lord comes to bring justice to the earth; he will judge the world with righteousness and all people with his truth (divine truth; God’s Word; the Bible), fulfilled embodied and exemplified in Jesus Christ, the living Word (John 1:1-5; 14).

Commentary:

God is the Creator of the Universe. God has always intended from the very beginning of Creation to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly trust and obey him. He has designed this Creation to allow the possibility of sin (disobedience of God’s Word) but he will not tolerate disobedience forever. He has set a time limit on this temporal world and our own lifetimes. He won’t allow the disobedient and rebellious to enter his eternal kingdom, or it wouldn’t be heaven.

Jesus has been designed into the very structure of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14). God’s Word declares that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10) and that the penalty for sin is (eternal) death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s one and only provision for forgiveness of our sins, salvation from eternal condemnation and destruction in Hell, restoration to fellowship with God, and eternal life (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right). Forgiveness and salvation are by grace (unmerited favor; a free gift) to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Acts 14:15-17).

The meaning and purpose of life in this world is the opportunity for us to seek and find God (Acts 17:26-27), and to learn by trial and error to trust and obey God’s Word.

God wants us to seek and find him. He has been incrementally revealing himself to us throughout history, first in Creation itself; then in the record of his dealing with Israel recorded in the Bible. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of his revelation to us in human flesh, and the indwelling Holy Spirit is the ultimate revelation of himself to us personally and individually.

God is Lord of the Universe, whether we know and acknowledge him or not. Jesus is God’s promised eternal Savior and King. Jesus came in the flesh to become the one sacrifice acceptable to God, for all people and all time, for the forgiveness of our sins, to those who accept him in faith (obedient trust).

Jesus began his reign over his eternal kingdom on the day of his resurrection from physical death to eternal life. Jesus has promised that he will return to this earth to judge “the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5), in both physical and spiritual senses. Everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to him for what we have done in this life (John 5:28-29). In that day “…at the name of Jesus every knee should (shall) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11; Isaiah 45:23).

Jesus Christ is the Judge, and the standard of judgment, by which we will all be judged. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will have been spiritually “re-born” and will live eternally in God’s heavenly kingdom. Those who have refused to accept Jesus’ Lordship and trust and obey Jesus will be condemned to eternal destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Jesus’ disciples come to a personal fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:21, 23). We testify to the truth of God’s Word, the reality of spiritual rebirth, and personal fellowship with the Lord. We testify to what we have personally experienced and know to be true. Jesus reigns as Lord in his “born-again” disciples who trust and obey Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

As his “born-again” disciples we are commissioned to proclaim God’s Word, the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ, to a lost and dying world.

Are you ready for Christ’s return? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 4 Advent A

Variable; use until Christmas Day.
First Posted December 23, 2008;
Podcast: Tuesday 4 Advent A

Isaiah 9:2-7 – The Messianic King;

Paraphrase:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). The Lord has enlarged the nation and magnified its joy; their joy is like the joy of a great harvest; as when men divide the spoils of war. The Lord has broken the oppressor’s rod and removed the burden of the oppressor, like the day of Midian (the great victory of God over Midian; Judges 7:15-25). Every boot of marching soldiers and every uniform with the blood of war on it will be burned with fire. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His government and peace will be over all and will never end. His kingdom will be established on the throne of David and upheld with righteousness and justice from now on through eternity. God will accomplish this because it is his great fervent desire.

Commentary:

This is the prophetic vision foretelling the Messiah, the ideal king. The world is in spiritual darkness, and Jesus is the the light of the world (John 8:12); the light of righteousness (John 1:4, 3:19-21), the light of spiritual enlightenment (John 1:9), and the light of eternal life (John 1:4).

The Lord has enlarged his nation to include all Gentile believers over time since the first coming of Jesus, in human flesh. The Church is the “New Israel” and all who believe (trust and obey) Jesus are the children of Abraham and the children of God (Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7, 14).

“Born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christians (disciples of Jesus Christ; Acts 11:26c), have the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit which testifies with our spirits that we are children of God (Romans 8:16-17), that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we experience the love of God and the joy of our salvation. It is only by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are able to worship and praise our Lord (Romans 8:15; John 4:23-24). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal knowledge of and fellowship with God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:21, 23), and can testify that Jesus is risen from physical death to eternal life.

Spiritual “rebirth” is the great spiritual harvest in which we rejoice. The world is in great need of spiritual truth, spiritual healing, and spiritual “birth” today. The only source of genuine spiritual truth (John 14:17), healing and rebirth is in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, the “living Word,” the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14:6, 17). Only Jesus gives the gift (“baptism;” “anointing”) of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

“Born-again” Christians are called to join in the spiritual harvest; to complete the mission of Christ at the Day of Judgment at the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus came to bring the “Good News” (“Gospel”) of forgiveness of sin (disobedience of God’s Word). Jesus is the only way to know divine eternal truth, the only way to have peace and restoration of fellowship with God that was broken by sin, and the only way to have restoration to eternal life (John 14:6) from eternal death which is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Gideon was a Judge, a leader of Israel in lieu of a human king (God was the King of Israel), before the monarchy. God raised Gideon up from the people to free them from the oppression of the Midianites. Gideon selected his army according to God’s guidance. Some thirty thousand men mustered, and from that Gideon selected only three hundred (Judges 7:2-8).

Gideon’s three hundred men surrounded the enemy camp of uncountable thousands during the night, carrying lamps concealed in jars, and trumpets (their hands were full of non-weapons). When Gideon blew his trumpet all his men did the same, and broke the jars, holding the lamps in their left hands. The vast army of the enemy erupted with confusion, and the enemy turned their weapons against their own fellow soldiers. The remainder of the enemy was routed and the Israelites pursued them and captured their kings and killed them. The enemy was completely destroyed.

Christians are involved in a spiritual battle, and the enemy is Satan and his demons. We cannot fight the battle in our own strength; we must be equipped, empowered and guided by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Jesus warns his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (the modern equivalent is the Church) until they have received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, before going into the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Jesus is the child who was born; the Son who was given. He is the Lord’s “anointed” (designated) Savior and eternal King. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (the Spirit of God; Romans 8:9), the wonderful “Counselor” (“Paraclete”; John 14:26 RSV), Mighty God (the Spirit of God; Romans 8:9; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28), Eternal Father (Romans 8:15-16), and Prince of Peace (following the order of Melchizedek: the name means “King of Righteousness;” Melchizedek was king of Salem; which means “King of Peace”).

Since Melchizedek has no genealogy and no date of birth or death recorded in the Bible, he symbolizes and foretells an eternal kingdom. Jesus has been given eternal dominion over all Creation (Matthew 28:18); he has been appointed the Righteous Judge of the Universe (2 Timothy 4:8; Acts 17:31). Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Luke 2:14; Acts 10:36; Romans 5:1). Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of God of an eternal kingdom founded upon the throne of David (2 Samuel 7:5-13; Psalm 89:20-29).

From the very beginning of Creation God has always intended to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who would trust and obey God. This Creation is a “seedbed” intended to grow obedient people of God. This Creation allows the possibility of sin (disobedience of God’s Word), but is limited by time, since God is not willing to tolerate rebellion and disobedience forever, or at all in his eternal kingdom. This lifetime is our only opportunity to seek God, to grope for him in our spiritual blindness, to find him and be spiritually enlightened (John 1:9; Luke 24:25, 32; 2 Corinthians 3:13-16) and have fellowship with him (Acts 17:26-27).

This lifetime is our only opportunity to be spiritually “reborn” to eternal life by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 4 Advent A

Variable; use until Christmas Day.
First Posted Dec. 23, 2009;
Podcast: Wednesday 4 Advent A

Titus 2:11-14 – Our Salvation;

Paraphrase:

God’s grace has been revealed for the salvation of all people, teaching us to renounce irreligion and the passions of this world, and to live sober, godly, upright lives in this world as we await our blessed hope, the appearance with glory of our great savior and God, Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us so that we can be redeemed from all sin and to purify people for himself who are zealous for good deeds.

Commentary:

It has always been God’s plan, from the beginning of Creation, to create people who would willingly choose to trust and obey God’s Word, in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word lived out in this world in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

This world is God’s seedbed, to grow disciples of Jesus Christ. We are all born into this world physically alive but spiritually unborn. This lifetime is our opportunity to seek, find and have daily fellowship with our Creator, and this is only possible through the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible to know with certainty for oneself that one has been “born-again” (Acts19:2).

God has given us the freedom to choose for ourselves whether to trust and obey God in this world, but God is not going to tolerate rebellion and disobedience forever, or at all in his eternal kingdom, or it wouldn’t be Heaven; Paradise restored.

Jesus is God, with the whole fullness of God dwelling within him (Colossians 2:8-9, John 20:28).

God has taught the Israelites over a long period of time that blood sacrifices are required for the forgiveness of sin. Animals were sacrificed on the altar, and then the worshipers had a feast of the remains. Jesus has become the one and only sacrifice acceptable to God, once for all time and all people who will receive it by faith.

His flesh provides the perfect unblemished “lamb” of the New Passover, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist. His blood, shed on the cross, marks us as his people, to be passed over by the destroyer.

Israelites were forbidden to drink the blood of animals, or consume meat with it’s blood. Blood was thought to contain the spirit of the animal. God doesn’t want us to be filled with the spirits of animals, but with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.

The New Passover, Holy Communion, is a spiritual feast. The elements of Communion (bread and wine) with his pronouncement accomplish what he promises (his body and blood). It isn’t the amount, but the faith in his promises, which accomplish the miracle.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 4 Advent A

Variable; use until Christmas Day.
First Posted December 23, 2010;
Podcast: Thursday 4 Advent A

Luke 2:1-20 – The Birth of Jesus;

In about 6-5 B.C., Caesar Augustus decreed a census of the world (the Roman Empire). Quirinius was governor of the Roman province of Syria (and Augustus appointed him to replace Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, as governor of Judea, after Archelaus’ removal in 6 B.C.*). Everyone was required to return to their ancestral home to be registered.

Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, was a descendant of David, the great human shepherd-king of Israel. Joseph lived in Nazareth, but was required to go to the city of David, Bethlehem (David’s birthplace), to be enrolled with his betrothed, Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-38).

While in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and Jesus, her first-born son, was born. She wrapped him in swaddling cloths (strips of cloth, as was the practice, in much the way that newborns are wrapped tightly with a blanket today). Then she laid him in a manger (a cattle feeding trough, which was unusual, but at hand because of the circumstance). All the inns were crowded and Mary and Joseph had to make do by staying in a stable.

In the vicinity, there were fields where sheep were grazing, and the shepherds were required to watch over the flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, supernaturally radiant with the glory of the Lord (see Matthew 17:1-6; Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). The shepherds were terrified by the sight, but the angel told them not to be afraid. Then the angel announced the birth of Jesus, saying that the child born that day in Bethlehem, the city of David, would result in great joy for all people, because a Savior, who is Christ (Messiah; both words mean “anointed;” thus designated by God) as Lord (one who has power and authority; a master; a ruler; governor; a prince; a proprietor, an “owner;” the eternal King of God’s kingdom).

The angel told the shepherds that they would find a baby swaddled and lying in a manger, in confirmation of what the angel had told them. Then a large multitude of angels filled the sky, glorifying God in heaven with highest praise, and offering peace among people on earth with whom God is pleased.

Then the angels disappeared, and the shepherds decided to go into town to see what they had been told. In haste, they went and found Mary and Joseph and the child, who had been swaddled and laid in a manger as the angel had said. Having witnessed it, the shepherds told everyone they could, about what they had seen, and what they had heard from the angels about the child. The people were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary made a point of remembering and thinking about what the shepherds had said. The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising and glorifying for all they had heard and seen, as they had been told.

Commentary:

Luke was probably a physician in Troas (northwest Asia Minor: present-day Turkey) who had been converted by Paul (Saul of Tarsus). His accurate, extensive medical knowledge and interest shows that he was educated and scientific in his outlook. So it is unsurprising that his account of Jesus’ birth includes historical “benchmarks” by which important dates can be closely determined. Thus we can believe that Jesus was a historical figure, whose time and place of birth can be determined.

Genealogy was important to Jews because inheritance in the Promised Land was based on portions allotted to tribes and families. The land had been distributed at the time Israel entered the land, and was passed down to the descendants.

God has always intended to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly choose to trust and obey God. This present Creation is deliberately intended to be an opportunity for us to learn by trial-and-error to trust and obey God, and to be spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to eternal life.

In order to allow us the freedom to choose whether to trust and obey God, God designed Creation to allow for the possibility of sin (disobedience of God’s Word, in the Bible, and in Jesus Christ the “living Word,” fulfilled, embodied and exemplified; John 1:1-5, 14). But God limited this Creation and we ourselves by time, because God is not willing to tolerate rebellion and disobedience forever, or at all in his eternal kingdom.

We are all sinners, who fall short of God’s standard of righteousness (doing what is right, good, and true according to God’s Word; Romans 6:23). Jesus, the Christ, has been designed into Creation from the very beginning (John 1:1-5, 14). He is the eternal Savior, God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sin, and salvation from eternal condemnation and death in hell, which is the penalty for sin (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of an eternal Savior, which has been made continuously throughout the Old Testament scriptures, beginning after the fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15). The angel declared the fulfillment of God’s promise to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus, and as the shepherds acted in faith (obedient trust) they found it as the angel had said.

The shepherds became the first evangelists to personally discover the truth of the Gospel (the “good news” of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus) and to proclaim it to others. As people continue to believe and act upon God’s Word, we personally experience Jesus Christ by the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Like the first evangelists, the shepherds, we will eagerly tell others what we have “heard and seen.”

Jesus is the only way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) to have peace and fellowship with God which was broken by sin. God offers everyone peace through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, but only those who please God, by obedient trust in Jesus, receive that peace (Matthew 7:21-27, Luke 6:46).

The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the “second birth” (John 3:7 BBE -Bible in Basic English: compare Revelation 20:6 RSV, KJV, NKJV; being “born-again:” John 3:3, 5-8 KJV; “born anew:” RSV; “born from above:” RSV note “e).

David, the human shepherd-king, was deliberately intended by God to be the prototype and illustration of the Christ, who is the ultimate “good” shepherd-king of God’s people (John 10:11-14).

Bethlehem means “house of bread;” it’s modern name is Beit-Lahm, meaning, “house of flesh.” Jesus was placed in a manger (a “crib,” a trough for grain; food; “bread”) for the livestock. Isaiah’s prophecy of 1:3 was fulfilled: “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.” The ox (considered pretty dumb; “dumb as an ox”) knew his master, and the ass (also considered dumb; “slow”) knew where to find his daily “bread,” but Israel, who had the Old Testament scriptures prophesying the Messiah (Savior; Christ; Lord: master; king) didn’t recognize and acknowledge him as master and source of the bread of eternal life (John 6:33, 35, 48-50.

Jesus is the “Lamb” of God (the sacrificial lamb of the New Passover; John 1:29, 36) whose body sacrificed on the cross became the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sin. The Passover Lamb, perfect, and unblemished, was offered as a sacrifice to God. The meat of the lamb became the meal of salvation, and the shed blood marked the houses of the Israelites to be “passed over” by the destroying angel (Exodus 12:1-14).

On the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-19), and instituted the New Passover (Matthew 26:26-28 RSV: see note “g;” compare NKJV). The New Testament of the Bible refers to the New Covenant of God with his people, through Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion, Eucharist) is the New Passover feast. It is a spiritual feast: the elements of bread and wine or grape juice are tiny, but the spiritual result is great.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*Dates: The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Luke 2:1n, p. 1242, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Friday 4 Advent A

Variable; use until Christmas Day.
First Posted Dec. 24, 2010;
Podcast: Friday 4 Advent A

Isaiah 7:10-14 – The Sign of Immanuel;

Background:

Isaiah was the prophet to Judah and Jerusalem from 742-687 B.C..* Jerusalem was attacked by Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel of the divided monarchy, in alliance (734 B.C.***). Ahaz, King of Judah (742-727 B.C.****), was frightened and wavering. Isaiah prophesied to Ahaz, by God’s command, that the attack would not succeed. It was necessary for Ahaz to believe God’s Word, in order to withstand the attack.

Text Paraphrase:

Through Isaiah, the Lord offered Ahaz the opportunity to ask the Lord for a sign (as proof), no matter how high or deep, of the fulfillment of God’s Word. Ahaz declined to test the Lord by asking for a sign, so Isaiah, asked Ahaz, the heir to the throne of David, the great human shepherd-king, if it wasn’t sufficient for Ahaz to weary (try the patience of) humans; did he have to weary God as well? Isaiah declared that God himself would give Ahaz a sign: A “maiden” (“virgin;” young woman; girl; Isaiah 7:14b note;* RSV note “i”) would conceive and bear a son, who would be called Immanuel (or Emmanuel), meaning “God with us” (compare Matthew 1:18-23).

Commentary:

The Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria with the fall of Samaria, the capital, in 721 B.C.. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist, because of the Assyrian policy of exiling citizens of a conquered land to other conquered territories, and bringing aliens to settle and pacify the land. Only the poorest, least healthy residents were allowed to remain and thus intermarried with the aliens, resulting in the Samaritans, of mixed race and religion, at the time of Jesus’ physical ministry.

This prophecy was given through Isaiah about 730 years before its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ (6-5B.C; Herod the Great died early in 4 B.C.**). Evidently Ahaz did not believe God’s Word, because he made an alliance with Assyria for protection, and Judah became a vassal of the Assyrians.

Jesus became the ultimate, eternal heir to the throne of David, as God had promised David (2 Samuel 7:5-13; Psalm 89:20-29). David had been deliberately intended by God to be the prototype and illustration of the Messiah (meaning God’s “anointed”). Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise: the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-15), the “son of David” (David’s descendant; heir to David’s throne; Matthew 21:9), the eternal king of God’s Kingdom (1 Timothy 1:17; Matthew 28:18). Jesus is God in human form (Colossians 2:8-9; Matthew 11:27; compare John 14:7).

Jesus is Immanuel: God with us. Only Jesus baptizes with the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34) the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). By the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we personally experience “God with us.”

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Matthew 1:21n, p. 1172, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.

** ibid, Matthew 2:1n, p 1172.

***Ahaz, p 33, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, David Noel Freedman, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids Michigan, 2000, ISBN 0-8020-2400-5;

**** ibid p 31


 

4 Advent – Saturday – A

Variable: Use until Christmas Day.
First Posted  12-24-2016
Podcast: 4 Advent Saturday A
Hebrews 11:1-12 — Faith;
John 1:1-14 – Prologue;Hebrews Paraphrase:

Faith is the certainty of fulfillment of what one hopes for; the conviction of things unseen. Our forefathers in faith received divine approval through faith. By faith we believe that everything which exists in this world was created, by God’s Word, from things which are unseen.Cain and Abel each offered sacrifices to God. Because his was offered in faith (obedient trust) Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God as righteous (good, right and true according to God’s Word); but Cain’s was not (because Cain’s attitude was not right; Genesis 4:7). Abel died, but his example of faith lives on.

Enoch lived in obedient trust in God; he disappeared and was never found, because God took him into heaven, so that Enoch would not experience physical death, since Enoch had pleased God. “And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:5-6). When God warned Noah of the impending flood, although no evidence was yet seen, Noah built the ark to save his household, by faith. Thus Noah’s faith condemned the unbelieving world, and Noah inherited the righteousness which comes by faith.

When God called Abraham to go to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance, Abraham went in faith, although it was a land he had not seen or known. When he got there, he lived in the promised land as an alien, camping in tents with his sons, Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs in the same promise. Abraham lived with his hope focused on the city (eternal  Jerusalem) in heaven,  established and built by God upon an eternal foundation (in contrast with foundationless tents).

By faith, Sarah conceived and bore a child by the power of God, after she was no longer able physically to bear children, because she considered God faithful to do as he had said (Genesis 17:19; 18:11-14; 21:2). Although Abraham had been as good as dead, concerning childbearing, he became the father of a vast number of descendants, as innumerable as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore.

John Paraphrase:

The Word, the creative action of God, existed at the very beginning of Creation; the Word was with God in personal relationship from the very beginning, and was God in his entire nature and being. Through him (the Word) all things were created, and nothing came into existence apart from him. He is the sole source of physical and spiritual life, and light is the essence and symbol of life. That light shines in the darkness (of sin and death), and has not been overcome by darkness.

John (the Baptizer; not the Apostle; John 1:19-28) was a human who was sent from God to testify to the light, so that all might believe through his testimony. John was not himself the light (the Word of God, in human form), but came to attest to the light.

The true light (of righteousness and eternal life), the source of divine enlightenment, was coming into the world. That light had come into the world, which had been created through him, but the world did not recognize him. Even the people of his own hometown didn’t acknowledge and welcome him. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name (his total character and nature), he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only (begotten) Son from the Father” (John 1:14).

Commentary:

Faith is trusting and obeying God’s Word, without having seen what is promised (Romans 8:24-25). Faith is not getting whatever one believes, if one believes “hard enough.” Faith is not like wishing on a star, or making a wish over birthday candles.

God’s Word is unlike mankind’s word. “God’s Word is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12); it is a creative force. The defining characteristic of God’s Word is its fulfillment (Deuteronomy 18:21-22); God’s Word is always fulfilled, and it is fulfilled over and over as the conditions for its fulfillment are met.

This world was created by and for God’s Word. God spoke, saying “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Jesus is the “living Word,” God’s Word fulfilled, embodied and exemplified (John 1:14). Jesus’ word is the Word of God, with the creative force of God’s Word (Mark 4:39-41; compare Genesis 1: 9).

Jesus is the Messiah (Christ; both words mean God’s “anointed”), the promised eternal Savior and King, deliberately designed into Creation from the very beginning. Jesus is not an afterthought, added to Creation after man sinned (disobeyed God’s Word). God designed this Creation with the possibility of sin, in order to provide us the opportunity to choose whether to trust and obey God’s Word or not, and the time to learn, by trial-and-error, that God’s way is our own very best interest. But God is not willing to tolerate rebellion and disobedience forever, or at all in his eternal kingdom. So God has limited this Creation and we, ourselves, by time.

God knew that given free choice, we would all choose our own will rather than God’s. So we are all sinners, who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin is (eternal) death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness of our sin, restoration to fellowship with God which was broken by sin, and our salvation from eternal death (Romans 5:8; Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

We are all born into Creation physically alive, but spiritually unborn. This lifetime is our opportunity to be spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8), by the “baptism” of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personally discernible, ongoing, daily experience (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and contains both wonderful promises and ominous warnings. To receive the promises we must believe (trust and obey; assent to and act upon) them. In order to do that, we must read and hear God’s Word to know what it contains. The warnings are given to help us avoid the consequences of ignoring or disobeying God’s Word.

Note that the promises of God’s Word must be received and acted upon (John 1:12-13), by knowing and claiming them for oneself. Spiritual rebirth is not automatically conferred by some Church ritual, such as water baptism.

The offerings of Cain and Abel are the beginning of the tithe (a tenth) offering of the harvest of both plant and animal. The offering acknowledged God’s lordship and providence. The offering of Abel was acceptable to the Lord because Abel’s motives were righteous (doing what is good, right, and true according to God’s Word) and Cain’s were not (Genesis 4:7).

God began teaching his people from the very beginning about sacrifice; the duty to return to the Lord a portion of what he has provided us, and the necessity of blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus’ blood shed on the cross became the one and only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sin, and that forgiveness is received through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. When we realize the love of God given to us through Jesus Christ, we will be motivated to trust and obey Jesus, not out of fear of punishment, but in gratitude and love.

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), the light of righteousness (John 1:5, 3:19-21), the light of divine enlightenment (John 1:9), and eternal life (John 1:4; 8:12; 14:6).

It is not true that faith is “blind.” We don’t have to wait until we die physically to see whether there is life (or existence) beyond physical death. When we believe God’s Word, we will come to know with certainty that God’s promises are true (John 6:68-69). The only people who don’t know with certainty where they will spend eternity are those who have not believed in Jesus and are spiritually “lost” and perishing eternally.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


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