Pastor Tom Roberts Pen

You can contact Pastor Tom
by calling
(908) 782-7831 or
send him an email at

PastorTom@Cherryvillebaptist.org

 

 

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Jesus prays for you!: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17: 20 - 23

Please open the attachment, remembering the Lord Jesus' words: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." Luke 22: 15

Maundy Thursday Service this evening at 7 p.m. The Sanctuary will be open for prayer for one hour after the service. Your place is set!

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"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." John 17: 13 -19

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Jesus continues his prayer for his disciples:

"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled."
John 17: 11 - 12

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Let Jesus' High Priestly Prayer resonate in your hearts at this, the beginning of Holy Week, as the Lord prays for his disciples: "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them." John 17: 6 - 10

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After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." John 17: 1 - 5

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 Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."

"You believe at last!" Jesus answered. "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16: 29 - 33

I have never been entirely convinced by the certainty with which the disciples declare that they understand Jesus words. I think by this point they were afraid to ask questions! But they do articulate the crucial point: "this makes us believe." Believing, faith, is the response God calls for to receive what Jesus has done for us.

Jesus accepts their statement of faith, even knowing that they will scatter when he is arrested. He was encouraged by their believing, even though he knew their weakness. He knew they would have to undergo this ordeal, and fail; before his resurrection and their subsequent filling by the Holy Spirit would allow them to grow into people whose words and lives matched his, even to the point of death.

This verse has special meaning to me. Many years ago, I heard Katie Smith dismiss a mini-camp with Jesus words: "a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." Ever since, I have used this verse at the end of every camping session I have led. In a week of camp a sense of community, Christian community, does develop. And there is a scattering after breakfast on Saturday at the end of the week. But while we are scattered, we are never alone, the Father is with us! Our church community constantly undergoes change. People move out, people move in, babies are
born, saints go home to the Lord, kids go to college. There is a scattering, but we are never alone, the constant is the Father. When we
believe in the one He sent, Jesus, the Father is, through the Spirit, wherever we might go. There are a lot of commas in that sentence, but I hope it makes sense!

The final verse kind of sums up all that Jesus had told them this night, tying together themes from John 14: 27-29; 16: 1 - 4; and 16: 9 - 11. He has told them these things so they may have peace. Shalom. Memorize verse 33: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Memorize and use daily!

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Thanks to everyone for a wonderful season of Wednesday Evening Lenten Services. Last night was a particular blessing. A special thanks to Kyle Tinnes (whose idea it was to focus on these chapters from John this Lent) and Jeff Spencer for their leadership. To hear the Word of God so earnestly and faithfully considered, and "rightly divided" by leaders and the entire
group was a wonderful encouragement.

Remember that we do not meet next Wednesday, so that we can meet next Thursday night at 7 to remember the Passover Meal, the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples, and around which he spoke these words that we have worshipped in on Wednesday nights and studied in our Daily Devotions this year.

Today's verses:

"Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and
entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." John 16: 25 - 28

Jesus seemed to be speaking in a mysterious or enigmatic way of Mansions, and Counselor's, Vines and Branches. The references that Jesus makes to his death and resurrection appear to us to be plain, but to the disciples, unwilling to believe that he was about to die, his words were perplexing. Had they understood, they would not have fled and hidden the next day. But
Jesus assures them that the time is coming, when he sends the Holy Spirit to them (16: 7), that all of this will make sense.

In verse 26b Jesus is not saying that he would not ask on their behalf, we know from Hebrews 7: 25 that "he always lives to intercede." He is saying that the Father loves them now not just because of His intercession, but because of the faith and love God established in the disciples.

Then, the gospel in one sentence, four short clauses:

I came from the Father - with whom Jesus existed from eternity in glory and entered the world - by His incarnation.

Now I am leaving the world - by His death and going back to the Father - by His ascension

Therein is the Gospel of man's salvation, and a concise summary of the Christian faith.

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"In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."
John 16: 23 - 24

When we believe in the saving death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, his blood shed as an atonement for our sins, his righteousness is imputed to us, in other words, the Father looks at us, but sees His precious, sinless, Son. By faith we are, as the scriptures say, "In Christ." That is what makes praying in His name such a powerful thing. The things we pray in His name ascend to the Father as His prayers. The things we "ask" approach the Father in the name of the One He loves best, the One
who is most precious, most obedient, most honoring to the Father. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God...Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4: 14, 16) Even more, Jesus himself prays for us! Constantly! "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." (Hebrews 7: 25) Jesus always lives to intercede for us!

This is the fourth time in this conversation that Jesus speaks of powerful praying! What he will do on the cross is provide access and entrance for believers into the loving fellowship and glory of the Trinity! Prayer is no longer us asking Him across a great distance, it is the same mutual belovedness that exists within the Godhead, Jesus wanting only to glorify and honor the Father, the Spirit bringing glory to Jesus, the Father glorifying the Son, and we enter in, through the Spirit, in Jesus' name, and
receive the best from the Father. Wow! Prayer becomes less asking God for what we want, than learning to want what He wants for us.

Speaking of prayer, tonight we will worship in the 3 prayers of Jesus in John 17. Jesus concludes this long conversation by praying: Jesus prays for himself, he prays for his disciples, and he prays for all believers, for you and for me! Kyle Tinnes and Jeff Spencer are going to help us look at this "High Priestly Prayer," or as Mike Wolfe calls it, the real Lord's prayer.

Let this be the Wednesday night that you come out, we will fellowship over soup and bread at 6, then worship at 7. Our children continue to prepare a drama for our Palm Sunday worship. It is not too late to be a part of it! God bless your day! PT
 

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"Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will
rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." John 16: 19 - 22

So many things here!:

- What a contrast between the disciples and the world. The world will think it is rid of Jesus at the cross, while the disciples will weep and mourn. That will change!

- You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. This is the movement of the gospel. This is the movement of the Bible. We face hardships and trials, but God turns our grief to joy (and no one will take away your joy!) The psalmist said "Weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30: 5) Isaiah said of Messiah: "He has sent me...to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:3)

- Jesus likened it to a woman giving birth to a child. I so remember that birthing amnesia from Jeanine's experience with Kerianne. Jeanine was in the hospital in labor at 7 a.m. on December 3, Keri was not born until 4 a.m. on December 4. But a 3 hour nap later, Jeanine was thinking only about her little girl, while I was still traumatized by her
trauma! It was almost like I had to explain to her what she had been through, or describe it to her, because she had (mostly) forgotten. There would be no John, Christian, or Josiah if she hadn't! Jesus had such a heart for women, and especially pregnant women. The day before on the Mount of Olives he likened the signs of his coming again to "the beginning of birth pains." (Mt. 24: 8) He worried about what the time of great distress would be like for them: "How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!" (Mt. 24: 19) Men in the first century did not worry about women, or care about what happened to them (sadly in many cases and places that is still true). There is no other ancient figure writing about, speaking about pregnant women. Except Jesus. Just another example
of his supreme compassion.

- Jesus promises them, "I will see you again and you will rejoice"

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At this, some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." John 16: 17-18

There was so much that the disciples did not understand while Jesus was with them. Understanding finally came, as Jesus promised, with the "paraclete", "the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
(14: 26)

To their credit, Jesus had not immediately linked the phrase "going to the Father" with "in a little while," but the apostles rightly saw them as connected. Few doubt that the first phrase refers to the interval before the crucifixion. But the 2nd clause, "after a little while you will see me" is so dynamic: for they saw him in the resurrection, they saw him in the coming of the Spirit, and we will see him in his second coming!

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"In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." John 16: 16

In the immediate context, Jesus is hinting to his disciples of the dramatic events that are about to occur: that very soon he will be taken from them, arrested, crucified, and buried; but that after 3 days the resurrected Lord would again be with them.

From our vantage point, we see Jesus in the flesh no more, but we await his return soon and very soon.

The sun has set on this week, and the morning light will bring a new week, and an opportunity for us to see one another and worship together. Tomorrow we will worship in the giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments, three months to the day after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. Let us be mindful of the 4th commandment: to remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. See you soon!

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 "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That
is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." John 16: 12 - 15

The Holy Spirit is truly "another Counselor", like our first Counselor, or "paraclete", Jesus Christ. (1 John 2: 1) The Spirit, in its own unique person and way, will function as Jesus did, will have the same goals and objectives that Jesus had:

  • the Spirit will "guide us in all truth", just as Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14: 6)

  • the Spirit will not "speak on his own...only what he hears", just as Jesus said "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me" (John 8: 28)

  • the Spirit will bring glory to Jesus, just as Jesus has sought to bring glory to the Father "so that the son can bring glory to the Father" (John 14: 13)

  • The Spirit takes what is Jesus' and makes it known to the believer, just as Jesus made the Father known to believers "I have made you known to them" (John 17: 26)


In other words, it seems as though the Holy Spirit will do for Jesus what Jesus has been doing for the Father. Now, remember, there is no division in the God-head, this is one God working in three persons, but we get a glimpse of the mutuality of love, support, revelation, and truth. Within the Trinity is a desire to glorify, and reveal, and honor the other persons of the Trinity.

It is a beautiful picture of the inner workings of our God, always pointing to the other, always lifting up and sharing, and honoring, and glorifying the other.

And the best news is that we are invited, we were created, to enter into this fellowship of love and honor and glory.

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"When he (the Counselor) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment; in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned." John 16: 8 - 11

The Holy Spirit does the work of conviction of sin. To experience conviction is not pleasant, but it is absolutely essential to salvation. Until we are aware of our sin, we will not seek the forgiveness of our Savior. To understand that we are sinners is the necessary first step to confession and repentance. It is like a physical pain or discomfort we might experience that leads us to go to the doctor. A painless disease would be fatal. The pain of conviction leads us to consult the Physician of our souls. When you feel the conviction of sin from the Holy Spirit give thanks to the Lord and turn to Him.

One caution for Christians: it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict. Way too often, the Christian feels that it is his or her responsibility to convict others of their sin. We proclaim God's truth, we stand for it, we live by it, but it is not our task to convict our brothers and sisters of their sin. When we feel the need to convict others, it comes from pride, and it looks like self-righteousness and Phariseeism.

From the Life Application Study Bible: Three important tasks of the Holy Spirit are (1) convicting the world of its sin and calling it to repentance, (2) revealing the standard of God's righteousness to anyone who believes because Christ would no longer be physically present on earth, and (3) demonstrating Christ's judgment over Satan.

The world's sin is that it does not believe in Jesus. (v.9)

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 "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." John 16: 5 - 7

As is so often the case, the disciples are less concerned about what will happen to Jesus (Where are you going?), than thinking about what will happen to them. Jesus, however, as is so often the case, is thinking about them, about their good.

That must have been hard to believe: Jesus saying "It is for your good that I am going away." He knew that his 'exodus', as Luke 9: 51 calls it, would be their salvation. If he did not die, he could not remove our sins; he could not rise again and defeat death, if he did not go back to the Father, the Holy Spirit would not come.

In taking on human flesh, Jesus submitted to many limitations. As Paul said to the Philippians, he "emptied himself," "he made himself nothing." (Phil. 2: 7) On earth he was limited to one place at a time. His leaving meant he could be present to the whole world through the Holy Spirit. As Jesus had previously said about the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, "he lives with you
and will be in you." That is good. That is for our good.

Tonight we will worship in this grand conversation, focusing this evening on John 16: 17 - 33, in which Jesus identifies the pattern of the Christian life: from grief to joy!

Hope to see you all for soup at 6, and worship at 7.

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"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you."

John 16: 1 - 4

From the Life Application Study Bible: In his last moments with his disciples, Jesus warned them about further persecution; told them where, when, and why he was going; and assured them that they would not be left alone, but that the Spirit would come. Jesus knew what lay ahead (Saul, for instance, who later became Paul, went through the land hunting down and persecuting Christians, convinced that he was doing the right thing Acts 9:1 - 2), and he did not want the disciples' faith shaken or estroyed. God wants you to know you are not alone. You have the Holy Spirit to comfort you, teach you truth, and help you.

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"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." John 15: 26 - 27

In this passage, Jesus uses two names for the Holy Spirit: Counselor and Spirit of truth.

This is the third of four times that Jesus uses the word "paraclete", translated here as Counselor, in other translations as Advocate, Helper, Comforter. Remember, these are the only four times that this word is used by Jesus in all the gospels, and that all four of them are part of this final conversation Jesus has with his disciples on the final night of his earthly ministry. It conveys the helping, encouraging, and strengthening work of the Spirit.

"Spirit of truth" points to the teaching, illuminating, and reminding work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit ministers to both the head and the heart, and both dimensions are important.

The use of paraclete here is very "comforting". Jesus has described the unreasonable hatred and evil in our world and the hostility of many toward Christ. He has warned his disciples that they will face the same hatred. How comforting to know that the disciples will have the power of the paraclete, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen them for any adversity they might face.

The Holy Spirit will testify about Jesus and the disciples must as well. For Jesus being the faithful witness meant dying on the cross of Calvary. For his disciples, it will mean persecution and for most of them, martyrdom.

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 "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'" John 15: 22 - 25

The word gospel literally means "good news." The story of Jesus is very good news. But it must be responded to. Jesus made the first choice - to love us and to die for us, to invite us to live with him forever. We must make the next choice - to accept or reject his offer. The gospel is good news once we receive and believe. There is a way in which the gospel, the good news, is bad news, and that is if we reject it (or ignore it, but really to ignore the good news is to reject it. No decision is a decision "no"). Jesus says here now that they (the world, the crowds) have heard me speak, and have seen the miracles I have done, the world must make a decision. And their guilt will be greater because they have seen and heard and in this case have not just been neutral, but have hated Jesus. But this too, fulfills scripture, long before Psalm 35: 19 and Psalm 69: 4 prophesied that Messiah would be hated for no reason.

Tomorrow as we worship, you will hear the good news. I am guessing that everyone or nearly everyone who is reading this devotional has heard the good news, and it is good news because you have said yes to it, you have received and believed. But if you never have accepted what Jesus has spoken, the miracles he performed, and the things he did among us that no one else ever did, his death on the cross an atonement for your sins, his resurrection a promise of eternal life for you who believe, let this be the time, let this be the day to say "yes" to Jesus, let this be a day of celebration of new life and good news, lest you rue the day you heard it and did not accept.

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"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." John 15: 18 - 21

We have spent the last 20 days considering words and concepts like life, love, truth, joy, and obedience. How jarring here to hear the word "hate". But remember, Jesus is walking to the garden where he will be betrayed, and
arrested, then spit on, mocked, flogged, and crucified. Hatred is the right word. Why would the world hate one who brings joy, and love, and truth? Jesus says it is because they do not know (or presumably want to know) the One who sent Jesus: God the Father.

The prophet told us that "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53: 3) When he was
40 days old, Simeon said that Jesus would be "a sign that will be spoken against." (Luke 2: 34) After his first sermon in Nazareth they tried to push him off a cliff. When he healed a man on the Sabbath (Mark 2) , very early in his ministry, the Pharisees and Herodians began to plot how they might kill him. Jesus is the decision point, he is the dividing line, and how you respond to him will determine whether you are with him, or with the world that so vigorously opposes him.

When we use his name with the Father in prayer, the fruit is answered prayer. When the world hears his name, they will hate you as they hated him. That too, is just a step removed from their ultimate hatred of God who sent Jesus.

Jesus is preparing the disciples for life without his person. They will need the paraclete, the Counselor he will send, to respond to the animosity they will experience.

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"No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." John 15: 15 - 17

Jesus describes the disciples as friends rather than servants. The difference between those two states of relationship is tremendous, but it does not differ on the point of obedience. Both friends and servants must obey. A great difference is that a master does not explain the 'whys" to his servants, but he does to his friends. This entire conversation is part of Jesus explanation of "why" to his disciples. He is treating them as friends.

As the hymnwriter so beautifully said: "What a friend we have in Jesus" Jesus initiates this relationship, this friendship. He says, "I have called you", "I chose you", "(I) appointed you". Both thrilling and humbling. He is our access to God, "for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." If we want to know what God the Father is like, look at Jesus, listen to Jesus.

Jesus continues to provide access to the Father for us through prayer: we are to ask the Father in Jesus name when we pray. Answered prayer is one of the fruits of "abiding" with Christ. This section on the vine ends with the reiteration of the command to love. Why is the presence or absence of love so important to life in the vine? Mentally take stock of your own place among the branches of Jesus, the vine.

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"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." John 15: 12 - 14

Love and obedience. Love and obedience. This is such an important and recurring theme! Remember, this is Jesus' last extended conversation with his disciples and this is what he wants them to remember. Jesus demonstrates his love by obeying the Father's will to lay down his life for his friends. In obedience and love, Jesus will always go first; he will never ask us to do anything he has not already done completely and perfectly for us! Our human (sinful) nature always screams: it's all about us! The Holy Spirit abiding within us always commands: it's all about giving up self for others. To live this way is to live in both love and obedience.

Tonight is our Lenten worship night. We have in our previous three Wednesdays considered: Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life; the paraclete (Holy Spirit); and the True Vine. This evening we will consider Jesus warning that in following him, we will experience the hatred and opposition of the world, just as he did. You are warmly invited to worship at 7, and to our soup fellowship at 6 preceding worship. PT

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"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15: 9 - 11 NKJV

Throughout this conversation, the disciples are invited to join in the loving fellowship of the Father and the Son. Throughout this gospel, Jesus has emphasized his unity, fellowship, mutuality with the Father, and in this teaching more than anywhere else I can think of, Jesus invites the disciples, and by extension you and me, into this relationship. We are to rest there, make our home there: "Abide in My love." The evidence of our love is obedience to the Lord's commandments, just as he has been and will be fully obedient to the Father's plan for him. The fruit offered here is joy. I have often shared with you that the scriptures reveal that God cares very little for your happiness, a word seldom used in the New Testament, and He cares very much for your joy, that it might be full and complete!

From the Life Application Study Bible: When things are going well, we feel elated. When hardships come, we might sink into depression. But true joy transcends the rolling waves of circumstance. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. When our lives are intertwined with his, he will help us walk through adversity without sinking into debilitating lows
and manage prosperity without moving into deceptive highs. The joy of living with Jesus Christ daily will keep us levelheaded, no matter how high or low our circumstances.

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"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." John 15: 6 - 8

What a stark contrast lies before us all: to abide with Christ, the true vine, to bear fruit for the Father's glory, to know the lessing of answered prayer; or to be cast out, wither, and thrown into the fire and burned. God has given us the freedom to choose: we are invited to life with Him in all its glory, but we may choose life without him, and those that choose life without Him, will experience how lifeless that is.

When we abide in Christ, we may ask what we desire and receive it because, when we abide in Him, we will only desire what He desires; just as He only desires what the Father desires. Our life of prayer is not so much moving the Father to do what we desire, as it is to learn to desire what He desires. On the very night Jesus spoke the words we are studying he prayed: "Not my will but thine be done."

The fruit we may be privileged to bear for Him, even if it is much fruit, is not for our glory, but for the glory of the Father. The glory of the Father is why the universe exists, why you and I were given the breath of life, why Jesus Christ came to dwell among us full of grace and truth, why we have
been called to be His disciples.

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"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15: 5

This would be a good verse to memorize! A lifetime of Christian endeavor has certainly proved this statement true: apart from Christ, we can do nothing! It is not simply doing "for" Jesus, it is doing with Him, through Him, Him through us, like a branch attached to a vine.

In the first four verses of this chapter Jesus talked about branches that do not bear fruit, those that do bear fruit, and those that bear "more fruit". In verse 5, Jesus talks about those who bear "much fruit'. In this chapter, the descriptions of fruit that we might bear include: answered prayer, joy, love, obedience, and self-sacrifice.

Are you receiving the nourishment and life offered by Christ, the vine?

I look forward to the nourishment and life the Lord will bring us in worship tomorrow, on His day, as we abide in Him!

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 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." John 15: 3 - 4

I love the word abide, in fact that is why I am using the NKJV for this section. The greek word is "meno", the NIV translates it "remain", and the NKJV "abide." It is a critically important word and concept in this gospel.

The word occurs 40 times in John's gospel, 10 times in six verses here. To abide is to enter into that close, constant, intimate relationship, fellowship, friendship with Jesus. It is mutual: as we abide in Him, He abides in us. It is not so much doing more for him, as it is being more with him. Rest in that today, make your dwelling, draw your nourishment, take your stand, in a living union with Christ that is absolutely necessary for us to bear fruit. He's that close!

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'Come now; let us leave.'" John 14: 31 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that I may bear fruit." John 15: 1 - 2 (NKJV)

Chapter 14 of John's gospel had been spoken as the disciples sat with Jesus at the Passover table. He commands them to get up and begin walking from the upper room presumably in the city, through the city streets, out through the gate of the city, through the Kidron Valley toward the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. From the city into the countryside. As they walked they would have passed ancient vineyards, and Jesus provides this most thrilling visual aid for the intimate personal relationship that God desires with us.

Jesus is the vine, the true vine, the Father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches, intended to bear fruit. It is not a great surprise, although frightening, to think that branches that do not bear fruit "He takes away"; NIV says "cuts off."

What is surprising is that every branch that bears fruit "He prunes!" I would have expected every branch that bears fruit to get more water, or more sunlight, or more fertilizer, but the vinedresser prunes the fruitful branches back so they "may bear more fruit." That pruning is not just surprising, it is painful. It comes as discipline, or trial, or loss. It feels like defeat, but how encouraging to know that we are in the vinedressers hands, on the verge of bearing more fruit.

It was encouraging last night at prayer service, to hear the maturity of powerful testimonies from our church family, of believers who have and are enduring "pruning", but even in the midst realizing that God is working in them and through them to produce His fruit.

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"I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

'Come now; let us leave.'" John 14: 30 - 31

The prince of this world, Satan, is the one motivating Judas and the Roman soldiers who will shortly arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. But Jesus knows that they are not the reason he will be going to the cross. They have no hold on him, he is going to be arrested, tried, flogged and crucified, out of loving obedience to the will of his Father. Remember, this section began with Jesus saying to the disciples "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (14: 15) Here, he closes this section with an
example of what it means to express love through obedience. He will be "obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2: 8). Jesus does not ask us to do what he has not done first and completely.

This evening, we will worship in the wonderful passage of the Vine and the Branches from John 15. Please come out and join us. Worship at 7, Soup Supper at 6. Hope to see you there! PT

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"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe." John 14: 28 -29

Jesus paints His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension in simple terms: "I am going away." There is a double meaning in the next clause - "I am coming back to you." - for He will send the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, but He will also come back to us as the 2nd person of the Trinity when he returns in "power and great glory".

Just as it is best for the disciples that Jesus go to the Father, for then He can send them the Holy Spirit, so it is better for Jesus, and the disciples should be glad He is going to the Father. Jesus surrendered, emptied himself (Phil. 2:6), of many of His divine prerogatives when he took on human flesh for us.

Jesus is taking this final opportunity to let the disciples know what is about to take place, even if they can't understand it at this time. When they do see it happen, they will believe, for they will know that God was always in charge of what was happening to Jesus, even though it must have appeared frightening and chaotic to the disciples at that time.

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"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14: 27

I think I will let this verse speak for itself. This is Jesus speaking to his disciples on the last night of his earthly ministry. Through the living and active word of God, this is Jesus Christ speaking to you this evening.

A good one to hide in your heart! Shalom! God's peace be with you.

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"All this I have spoken while still with you. But the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
John 14: 25 - 26

For the 2nd time (14: 16) Jesus promises the "paraclete", the Counselor, also translated Helper, Comforter, Advocate. The "paraclete" is synonymous with the Holy Spirit. Two more wonderful attributes are listed here:

  • he will "teach you all things"

  • and will "remind you of everything I have said to you."

The Holy Spirit is still our teacher. Many a Tuesday in Bible Study, this Tuesday most recently, we have asked the Holy Spirit to teach us from God's Word, of things that are difficult, if not impossible for us to understand without the Holy Spirit's help.

The reason we have a reliable Word of God to study, particularly as it relates to the life and teaching of Jesus, is that the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, reminded the disciples of everything Jesus said to them. This extended discourse is a perfect example. At a time of crisis, on the eve of the Lord's crucifixion, as they walked to the place where he would be arrested, Jesus final words and counsel to his disciples are preserved for us by those eye and ear witnesses, in this case John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!

Lent is a season of "reminder", as we are reminded of Jesus willing, obedient, and loving sacrifice on the cross for us.

Let's remember to worship together tomorrow. Can't wait! PT

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"Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, 'But Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?'

Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.'" John 14: 22 - 24

Because the disciples were still expecting Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom and overthrow Rome, they found it hard to understand why he did not tell the world at large that he was the Messiah. Not everyone, however, could understand Jesus' message. Ever since Pentecost, the Good News of the Kingdom has been proclaimed in the whole world, and yet not everyone is receptive to it. Jesus saves the deepest revelations of himself for those who love and obey him.

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"Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14: 19 - 21

Two takes on this tonight:
- Look how the disciples, and that would include you and me, look how the disciples are included, invited into the loving unity of the Father and the Son! Throughout his ministry, Jesus has emphasized his unity with the Father. Jesus only does what the Father wants him to do, he only says what the Father tells him to say, Jesus says "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing..." (John 5: 19) Jesus says: "The Father and I are one." (John 10: 30) But now, in his farewell conversation with his disciples, Jesus indicates that with the sending of the Holy Spirit, those who love him and obey his command will be included in this blessed fellowship "I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." What a place to abide!

- From the Life Application Study Bible: "Sometimes people wish they knew the future so they could prepare for it. God has chosen not to give us this knowledge. He alone knows what will happen, but he tells us all we need to know to prepare for the future. When we live by his standards, he will not leave us; he will come to us, he will be in us, and he will show himself to us. God knows what will happen, and because he will be with us through it all, we need not fear. We don't have to know the future to have faith in God; we have to have faith in God to be secure about the future."

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"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14: 16 -18

Probably the central focus of Jesus' final conversation with his disciples was to emphasize to them that as He departed from the earthly scene, that He would send the Holy Spirit. And as hard as it would be for them to believe, it would be for their good that Jesus would go. Throughout the evening, Jesus speaks again and again on three themes:
1. He is leaving
2. His followers are staying
3. The Holy Spirit will be with them so that they may continue His work.

The word Jesus uses here is "paraclete" translated as Counselor, or advocate, comforter, helper. Jesus says he will send "another" Counselor, because He is the first Counselor: 1 John 2: 1 "If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ the righteous One." The Holy Spirit will continue and intensify the ministry of Jesus.

This evening, our Lenten Worship will focus on the wonderful promises of the "paraclete", the Counselor, as Jesus shares this teaching in His farewell discourse. Please come and be a part of our study and worship this evening at 7 p.m., and our fellowship time that will precede evening service: our Soup Supper that begins at 6. Hope to see you there. PT

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"If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14: 15 This sentence kind of stops one in one's tracks, but it is a consistent theme of John's gospel, and of this farewell discourse that we are meditating on through Lent: love expressed by obedience. When we think of showing our love for Jesus we think about love for Him expressed as worship, or praise, or song, or sacrifice, or emotion.

Jesus says: "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

A more modern way of thinking is: if we love Jesus, we don't have to obey what He commands. We are free to do as we please. Should all else fail, we can always fall back on His grace.

His commands are not to hold us back or keep us from fulfillment, His commands are life, they are for our good, and it is because He loves us that he gives us His commands, that He sets life-giving and life-protecting boundaries. We show our love in return, by obeying those commands. I think that the closest we get to understanding this is as parents. A parent sets limits out of love, and regards obedience as love in return.

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"And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." John 14: 13 - 14

What a wonderful promise as we approach the time of evening prayer. Our eyes read this and latch onto "I will do whatever you ask". I think the more important part of the promise is what follows "in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father."

We have access to God only through the blood and in the name of Jesus. But our prayers in his name, should share his desire in answering them: to "bring glory to the Father."

From the Life Application Study Bible: When Jesus says we can ask for anything, we must remember that our asking must be in his name - that is, according to God's character and will. God will not grant requests contrary to his nature or his will, and we cannot use his name as a magic formula to fulfill our selfish desires. If we are sincerely following God and seeking to do his will, then our requests will be in line with what he wants.

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"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14: 12

What a challenge to us as we order our days: "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing." What Jesus has been doing is feeding the hungry, healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching with authority, calming the storm, raising the dead! What have we been doing?

Jesus could say that those with faith "will do even greater things than these" because he knew that in his death, resurrection and ascension, his "going to the Father," God would send the Holy Spirit to believers. In his Incarnation, Jesus allowed himself to be limited in those whom he could touch, and teach, and heal. With His Spirit living in believers, his ministry stretches across the globe. How many will be healed today in hospitals started by Christians? How many will be fed today in soup kitchens established in Jesus' name? How many will be taught God's Word and His Ways through the power and authority of the Spirit of Truth in pulpits and churches across the world tomorrow on the Lord's Day?

See you then! Pastor Tom

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“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 

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

Jesus answered:  Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”  John 14: 7 – 11

Jesus is the visible, tangible image of the invisible God.  He is the complete revelation of what God is like.  Jesus explained to Philip, who wanted to see the Father, that to know Jesus is to know God.  The search for God, for truth and reality, ends in Christ. 

Simply put:  if we want to know what God is like, he has given us a visual aid in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

As John said in the Prologue to his gospel:  “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”  John 1: 18

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Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14: 5 – 6

From The Life Application Study Bible: 

This is one of the most basic and important passages in Scripture.  How can we know the way to God?  Only through Jesus.  Jesus is the way because he is both God and man.  By uniting our lives with his, we are united with God.  Trust Jesus to take you to the Father, and all the benefits of being God’s child will be yours.

            Jesus says he is the only way to God the Father.  Some people may argue that this way is too narrow.  In reality, it is wide enough for the whole world, if the world chooses to accept it.  Instead of worrying about how limited it sounds to have only one way, we should be saying, “Thank you, God, for providing a sure way to get to you!”

I love that Jesus starts his response by using God’s name:  “I Am” .  This is also a form of the verb “to be”.  Someone could show us the way, speak the truth, manifest life; but only Jesus is those things! 

Before it was called Christianity, our faith was called “the Way”, and before believers were known as Christians, they were called “followers of the Way.”

Blessings in Him,  PT

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“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  John 14: 1 - 4

          With these words, spoken on the last night of his earthly ministry, Jesus began the longest extended teaching to his disciples recorded in the gospels.  His final words to the disciples, who he will say are no longer servants, but friends, covers four chapters in John’s gospel.  This profound teaching will be the subject of our Wednesday Night Worship during the season of Lent, beginning this evening, Ash Wednesday.  It is called Ash Wednesday because we remember our mortality, that we are dust, and to dust we will return.  Ashes also are a symbol of repentance in the Bible, and it is a season for self-examination and confession.

          For centuries, Christians have marked the 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays) as a time to remember our Lord’s deliberate, obedient journey to Jerusalem and the cross.  Luke 9: 51 says “As the time approached for him to be taken into heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”  Jesus knew what awaiting him there, three times during his travels he told the disciples:  “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles.  They will mock him, insult him spit on him, flog him and kill him.  On the third day he will rise again.”  Luke 18: 31 - 32  

          For many years, we have remembered the Lord’s journey through worship and fellowship on Wednesday evenings.  We share a humble meal of soup and bread at 6 p.m., and then at 7 p.m. we gather for worship and prayer.  There is also a program for children during the 7 o’clock hour.

          Our entire church family is invited to come this evening for this special and holy time.  You are invited to bring a soup to share, or bread, or drinks. 

          As the Apostle Paul said: “ I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  Philippians 3: 10 – 11

          Hope to see you tonight.  In Him,  Pastor Tom

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The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and buried;
He descended into hell;
On the third day he rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy church throughout the world,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.
Amen.

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“If you would have your faith made vivid and strong, study much the story of your Saviour’s death.  Read it: read it: read it: read it. ‘Tolle: lege,’ said the voice to Augustine, ‘Take it: read it.”  So say I…Read it by day and by night till you familiarize yourself with the whole story of his griefs and sin-bearing.  Keep your mind intently fixed upon it; not sometimes, but continually.  Crux lux: the cross is light.  Thou shalt see it by its own light.  The study of the narrative, if thou pray the Holy Ghost to enlighten thee, will beget faith in thee; till at last thou wilt say: “I cannot doubt.” Charles Spurgeon

Mark 15

 1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

 2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

   “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

 3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

 5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

 6 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

 9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

 12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

 13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

 14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

   But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

 15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

 16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.  

 21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

 25 It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27 They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”

 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

 36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and  saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

 40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

 42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.

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Our scripture for today is everything that Mark wrote about this day, the day before Jesus' crucifixion.  It includes some of the most important passages in all the Gospel!  We will commemorate these events tonight at 7 p.m. with a Maundy Thursday Service of Candlelight and Communion, and then an hour of silent prayer after the service for those who wish.  The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum from which we get our word mandate, or command.  This day is called Maundy Thursday because it was on this night that Jesus gave his disciples a new command, a new mandate if you will, to love one another.                      

Mark 14:12-52 

 12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus disciples asked him, Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?

 13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? 15 He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.

 16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

 17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, I tell you the truth, one of you will betray meone who is eating with me.

 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, Surely not I?

   20 It is one of the Twelve, he replied, one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take it; this is my body.

 23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

   24 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, he said to them. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.

 26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.   

 27 You will all fall away, Jesus told them, for it is written:

   I will strike the shepherd,
   and the sheep will be scattered.

   28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.

 29 Peter declared, Even if all fall away, I will not.

   30 I tell you the truth, Jesus answered, todayyes, tonightbefore the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.

 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you. And all the others said the same.

 32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, Sit here while I pray. 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, he said to them. Stay here and keep watch.

 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 Abba, Father, he said, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. Simon, he said to Peter, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!

 43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard. 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, Rabbi! and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

   48 Am I leading a rebellion, said Jesus, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled. 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

 51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

Instructions concerning the Lord's Supper, the agonized prayer in the Garden, with the faithful ending: "Yet not what I will, but what you will", the betrayal by Judas, these words are the air we breathe, they are our daily bread.  Just as a note, many scholars surmise that the young man who fled without his garment may have been Mark himself, the author of this Gospel.

I have attached the bulletin for the Good Friday Service.  Please come as you are able to remember the Lord's suffering on the cross for you and for me.

Just a note, sunrise on Easter is just a few minutes after 6.  We will begin gathering at 5:45, and we will meet just at the north end of the horse fence past the cemetary, same direction but a little short of where we usually meet.   

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We will begin with scripture today from Mark’s Gospel, but please read on.  The Last Supper and all that will follow is drawing closer and a woman came to Jesus to extravagantly, beautifully worship Jesus and prepare Him for what would follow.  This act of love is surrounded by a growing plot to kill Jesus: 

Mark 14

 1 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2 “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

 3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

 4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

   6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

 10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Six weeks ago today, we began to prepare you to worship Jesus this week.  Since that Ash Wednesday, March 9, you have been prayed for by name each day by some member of your church family.  That prayer has been for your spiritual well-being and growth in this season, based on Colossians 1: 9 – 12.

On that day, I  began to send out daily devotions that have allowed us to read through and prayerfully consider most of the Gospel of Mark.

On Sundays, and Wednesday evenings, we have studied the 7 miraculous signs that Jesus did and that John recorded in his gospel, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20: 31)

Like Jesus in the scriptures, we are standing at the brink of the remembrance of his last days.  The Lord has blessed us as a church with some wonderful, worshipful ways of remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

Tomorrow evening we will have a Tenebrae Service in the sanctuary at 7 p.m. The service follows a tradition of the church dating back to the eighth century.  Tenebrae is the Latin word for “darkness” and it commemorates the final hours of our Lord’s life on earth.  The candlelight is gradually extinguished, symbolizing the fading loyalty of the disciples and friends of Jesus.  The gradual darkening of the church portrays the diminishing light of the world as Christ was departing from it.  As part of the service tomorrow, which our choir will lead,  we will share communion, remembering Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.

When the service ends tomorrow evening, we leave the sanctuary open for one hour for silent prayer.  It was after the last supper that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He asked his sleepy disciples to “keep watch with me for one hour…watch and pray…” (Matthew 26:40), and so we offer the opportunity for you to watch and pray with the Lord for one hour.

On Friday, we worship together from noon to three p.m., remembering the Crucifixion, and the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross.  It is a service at which you can stay for the entire time, or come for 20 minutes or a half hour as you are able.  Tomorrow I will attach a bulletin for the Good Friday Service with times and speakers.

I encourage you all to make time for these remembrances of the most Holy times in our Lord’s life.  I invite you to do “a beautiful thing” for Jesus, as the woman in today’s scripture did, an extravagant act of worship of our Lord.

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The scripture readings will be longer this week.  The most important part of any story gets the most attention and detail, and there is no doubt that the events of Holy Week, the events surrounding the cross of Jesus Christ, are given the greatest attention by the Gospel writers.  Think of the math:  Mark devoted 10 chapters to the three years of Jesus' public ministry, and 6 chapters to the final week!  I once did the counting of the verses in Mark, and as I remember it was something like 60% of the verses for the public ministry, and 40% of the verses for the final week.  Literarily, as well as spiritually, the cross of Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Gospel!
Our scripture reading today are some of the events of the Tuesday of Holy Week.  The tension between the religious leaders and Jesus is escalating quickly, we know that it will culminate in execution in just a few days.  Jesus disputes with the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, then tells a parable that they realize is directed toward them.  We understand verse 6: "He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, They will respect my son.'"  Sadly, ironically, they did not.

I included the tax story, because, well, it is the day after taxes, and it is somewhat heartening to know that Jesus dealt with all of the issues that we deal with, and he teaches us to do so with honor and integrity.  It is the job of the IRS to enforce that you render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's.  It is my joyful task in our devotions and other ways to encourage you to render unto God that which is God's!

Mark 11:

 27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 By what authority are you doing these things? they asked. And who gave you authority to do this?

 29 Jesus replied, I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John's baptism was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!

 31 They discussed it among themselves and said, If we say, From heaven, he will ask, Then why didn't you believe him? 32 But if we say, From men (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)

 33 So they answered Jesus, We dont know.

   Jesus said, Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

Mark 12:

 1 He then began to speak to them in parables: A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

   6 He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, They will respect my son.

   7 But the tenants said to one another, This is the heir. Come, lets kill him, and the inheritance will be ours. 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

   9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven't you read this scripture:

   The stone the builders rejected
   has become the capstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
   and it is marvelous in our eyes
?

 12 Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

 13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn't we?

   But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. Why are you trying to trap me? he asked. Bring me a denarius and let me look at it. 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?

   Caesar's, they replied.

 17 Then Jesus said to them, Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.

   And they were amazed at him.

In every way, be amazed at Him this week!! 

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Mark 11

 12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:

   “‘My house will be called
   a house of prayer for all nations’?

   But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

 19 When evening came, they went out of the city.

 20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

   22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

On the Monday after Palm Sunday, Jesus cleanses the temple.  Think about it: Messiah enters the Holy City and the Temple of the Living God and would rightly expect to find fruitful worship. Instead he finds dishonest commerce. 

The episode with the fig tree that sandwiches the cleansing of the temple is a parable in action that demonstrates that the worship of the Jews in the Temple has been unfruitful, has not been what God intended, and henceforth, the worship of God through Jesus Christ will bear fruit by focusing on the three important things Jesus mentions in verses 22 and following:

Have faith in God

Pray believing

Forgive as you have been forgiven

Are these things, faith, prayer, and forgiveness, the characteristics of your relationship with Jesus Christ?  Are you bearing fruit in this way?  Ask God today that you might!

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Mark 10:

 32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” 

 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

   36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

   38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

 39 “We can,” they answered.

   Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   

For the third time, Jesus announces his Passion to his disciples.  As in the two earlier occurrences, the story which follows the announcement illustrates the disciples' failure to grasp what he is saying. 

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Mark 10: 17 - 31  

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. Good teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

   18 Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.

 20 Teacher, he declared, all these I have kept since I was a boy.

 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. One thing you lack, he said. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

 22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!

 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, Who then can be saved?

 27 Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

 28 Peter said to him, We have left everything to follow you!

   29 I tell you the truth, Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

The thrust of this story is that attachments to anything or anyone which take precedence over one's attachment to the kingdom of God are obstacles which hinder one from entering the kingdom.  The question raised is: What commands my highest allegiance?  What are the things in life which compete for your allegiance and loyalty?

When you have thought about what exerts a claim on your loyalties, then ask yourself what would be involved for you to pledge your highest loyalty to the kingdom of God.  Do not be content with vague generalities.  Allegiance to the kingdom demands action as specific as Jesus' command to the young man to "sell everything you have and give to the poor."  What concrete action, what revisions of priorities, what re-orientation will be demanded of you if you heed Jesus' call to
"come, follow me" ?

Today's Prayer:  (from Ignatius of Loyola)  Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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Mark 9:30-41

 30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

 38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

   39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.  

For the second time, Jesus prophecies his betrayal, death, and resurrection.  The disciples still do not understand. 

Jesus then contrasts the faith of a child, with the childish behavior of the disipcles arguing about which of them was greatest.

The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is an upside down kingdom from our earthly perspective.  The first is last, the greatest is servant, and children are the ones deserving of our great welcome.  How about this, in welcoming children, we welcome not only Jesus, but also the Father who sent Him.  I think it must be pretty important to welcome children!  This makes me doubly thankful for the wonderful Christian Ed meeting we had last night.

Something to think about:  what does it mean to do something in the name of Christ?  What does this phrase teach us about our motivation? Our authority?  As you go through the day today, take a break now and then and ask yourself which of your activities you could honestly say you’ve done “in the name of Christ.”  Consciously try to approach each situation with that motivation and authority.

Today’s Prayer (from Thomas Aquinas) : "Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy thought can drag downwards; an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon me also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Amen.

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Mark 9:14-29 

 14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

   16 What are you arguing with them about? he asked.

 17 A man in the crowd answered, Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.

   19 O unbelieving generation, Jesus replied, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.

 20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

 21 Jesus asked the boy's father, How long has he been like this?

   From childhood, he answered. 22 It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

   23 If you can? said Jesus. Everything is possible for him who believes.

 24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. You deaf and mute spirit, he said, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.

 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, Hes dead. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

 28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, Why couldn't we drive it out?

 29 He replied, This kind can come out only by prayer.

There is so much to note and learn from in this wonderful story.  Even though Peter, James, and John have seen the transfigured Christ, they still fumble and falter.  If Jesus' own disciples were so slow to grasp what it means to follow Jesus, there is hope for me also!

How often in the scriptures we see parents bringing their children to Jesus.  There is no more urgent crying out to the Lord than a parent for his or her child.

The father says "But if you can..." and Jesus answers, "If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes."  That is a great verse to memorize!

And the father's exclamation: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  That is a prayer we all can ask!

Finally, Jesus comment, "This kind can come out only by prayer."  There are some things in the Christian life that only come to be through prayer. 

An important reminder to us of the importance of prayer and faith.

Today's prayer:  "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!"

Today's confession of faith:  "Everything is possible for him who believes." 

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Mark 9:2-13 

 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

 7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

 11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

 12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

From Larry R. Kalajainen on this passage:

“In all of our journeys, there are times when, for a moment at least, we are given glimpses of glory.  Sudden insights into ourselves or into God flood our consciousness.  We have been plodding along, and suddenly we make a breakthrough to a new level of love, joy, faith, courage, or hope.  Maybe a retreat or a conference we’ve attended has been such a high point for us.  Perhaps some inner conflict has been resolved.  Maybe on one particular day, our prayer ceased to be a discipline and we found ourselves caught up in rapture and overwhelmed by God’s nearness. All of us have had such mountaintop experiences. 

The disciples wanted to stay up there on the mountaintop with the transfigured Jesus.  They wanted to build houses and live there.  But Jesus led them down from the mountain just as he had led them up.  We often make the mistake of the disciples, wishing we could stay “high” with Jesus.  However, life goes on in the valley of human need, and that is where we must live.  High points of religious experience are given to illuminate or transfigure the valleys where we live out our discipleship.”

In your prayer, as you remember your mountaintops, give thanks for them as God’s gift to you to help you prepare for the hard road of discipleship.  Let the memory of those moments of spiritual insight or revelation renew you for the journey in the valley of daily life.

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Mark 8: 34 – 9: 1

 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

 1 And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

There is a threefold movement to the decision to be a disciple, and it is the same movement that Jesus himself travelled to fulfill his earthy mission.  Self-denial, cross-bearing, and following constitute this movement of the spiritual life.

Self-denial does not mean self-hatred or self-discouragement.  It means taking self off the throne of my life in order that I may lose my self-centeredness and thus find my true self in God.

Taking up the cross was a very specific act for Jesus.  It can be no less specific for his followers.  For Jesus, it meant accepting suffering and death.  What will it mean for you to take up the cross?

The word follow is a special word for discipleship.  To follow Jesus means to take the same road, make the same kinds of choices, face the possibility of the same end he did.  What will it mean for you to follow Jesus?  Where is your point of departure?  What road will you travel as you walk in his footsteps?

If you can see no cross on the road, you may be on the wrong road.

Singing Prayer:

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me

The world behind me, the cross before me

The world behind me, the cross before me

No turning back, no turning back.

Looking forward to seeing and worshipping with you tomorrow

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Mark 8:31-33 

 31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Poor Peter, just got an A for the day with his blessed answer to Jesus question "Who do you say that I am?", when he goes and gets himself in trouble again.  Here Jesus makes the first of three (great number) Passion predictions that Mark records in his Gospel.  It is so meaningful that immediately after Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the Christ, that Jesus reveals what it means to be the Christ of God: that he will suffer, be rejected and killed, and after three days rise again. 

No one was expecting a suffering Messiah.  Everyone expected a triumphant, conquering Messiah.  That is why Peter, fresh off his divine insight, took him aside and began to rebuke him.  You can almost imagine the conversation: "Jesus, you aren't going to suffer, nobody is going to hurt you, we are going to Jerusalem and you will put those Romans in their place."

Jesus rebukes right back, in the strongest possible terms:  "Get behind me, Satan!"  Strong words, but it was Satan in the wilderness who had tempted Jesus to fulfill his mission without suffering.  Jesus would triumph over sin and death, but not in the way people expected. 

Jesus "spoke plainly" to the disciples, and he will speak plainly to us about what it means to be his disciple today.  Ask the Lord today to put in your mind the things of God and not the things of men.

As you pray, speak plainly to Him: your fears, your misunderstandings, your sins.  What He suffered, He suffered for you: knowingly, willingly, obediently, intentionally. 

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We have just seen a blind man healed in two stages, and now Peter begins to see and testify to who Jesus really is.  The full vision of Jesus for Peter and every Christian can only come at the cross:

Mark 8:

 27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, Who do people say I am?

 28 They replied, Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.

   29 But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am?

   Peter answered, You are the Christ.

 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

I remember this particular scene from the Franco Zeffirelli movie "Jesus of Nazareth."  It is dark, and the disciples are gathering again on the top of this mountain after returning from their missionary work, and Jesus asks the question "Who do people say I am?"  The disciples laugh out loud as they reveal the "crazy" answers people have come up with.  One disciple says "Some say John the Baptist" and they all roar.  Another says "Elijah" more laughter, "one of the prophets" and the group guffaws.  In the movie, Jesus is smiling too.

Then Jesus asks the question:  "But what about you?  'Who do you say I am?" Silence.  All the laughter and jollity ends.  Silence. Serious silence.  The question breaks the light hearted mood and pierces their hearts.  Then soberly, strongly, Peter breaks the silence.  "You are the Christ."  And the group quietly ponders this profound confession.

This is the turning point in Mark's Gospel.  From this point on, Jesus' disciples are more in focus than the crowds.  Jesus begins to direct his attention and teaching to those who were his closest followers.  In telling this story of decision, Mark is also calling his readers, both the original readers and all subsequent readers of the Gospel, to the same point of decision.  In effect, Mark is saying, "All right, now you've seen and heard this man Jesus as he has gone about Galilee teaching and preaching.  You've witnessed the authority of his words and his life.  Now it's decision time.  Who do you say that Jesus is?"

I have always contended that this is the decisive question of our universe.  Every human being is given a lifetime to respond to Jesus' question: "But what about you? Who do you say I am?"  Your answer makes an eternal difference.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  Amen

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Mark 8:22-26 

 22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”

A unique healing in the ministry of Jesus in that the healing takes place in two stages.  We have spoken on more than one occasion of both the physical and spiritual significance of Jesus bringing sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.  This particular healing highlights those instances when Jesus brings us sight and understanding in stages.

Think of a specific time in your spiritual journey when you were like the man after the first touch by Jesus – you had partial sight, but you really didn’t see “everything clearly.”  Maybe you are still at that stage.  Can you remember a point at which you felt that Christ had given you a second touch?  Was there a sudden insight into yourself, a new understanding of how God is working in your life, a liberation from an enslaving habit, or a breaking out of old patterns of behavior?  Thank God for his healing!

In what areas of your life do you now need a second touch?  Confess it to God now and ask him to put his hands on your eyes again.

A little Wednesday story:  John Wesley, the father of Methodism, received such a second touch, and it set him free to become the spiritual dynamo who transformed England in the 18th century.  For years, Wesley had been a pious and devoted Christian, a priest in the Church of England.  He had pursued a holy life with such purpose and method that he and his friends were given the derogatory name “Methodists.”  Yet, at one essential point, he remained blind: he did not feel the assurance in his spirit that God had accepted him and claimed him.  Here is his description of his second touch:

'In the evening  (of May 24, 1738)  I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation: and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.'

The next morning Wesley wrote: 'The moment I awaked "Jesus, Master" was in my heart and in my mouth.'

May Jesus, Master be in your heart and in your mouth today!

Hope to see you tonight!!!

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To appreciate this passage, you need to remember that Jesus has just finished feeding 4000 people, the second miraculous feeding of his ministry. We are not too surprised that the Pharisees would ask for a sign, but it is very surprising that Jesus' disciples are still worried about having no bread! The story heading for this episode could be "Uh Duh!"
Mark 8:
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it. 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 Be careful, Jesus warned them. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.
16 They discussed this with one another and said, It is because we have no bread.
17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?
Twelve, they replied.
20 And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?
They answered, Seven.
21 He said to them, Do you still not understand?
Way back in Mark Chapter 4, Jesus had spoken about teaching in parables and had quoted Isaiah 6: they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding". At this point that seems to describe the disciples. (verse 18)
What are the blind spots in your walk with Jesus. What has he provided for you a thousand times over that you still fret about? What have you "heard" in the scripture, but not really heard? Ask the Lord to heal your deaf ears and your blind eyes.
Also today, listen to someone you've never really listened to before. That someone may be a family member, an in-law, a co-worker, or a neighbor. Tune in the ears of your mind and heart to hear what others are saying to you, perhaps without words. As you hear them "speak" to you, lift them up in prayer.
I want everyone reading this to know, that during the 40 days of Lent, the following scriptural prayer is being prayed over you, by name, every day:
"...we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." Amen (Colossians 1: 9 - 12)

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Mark 8

 1 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

 4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

   5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

   “Seven,” they replied.

 6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

This is the 2nd miraculous feeding that Mark records in his Gospel.  Reflect on the different responses of Jesus and his disciples to the hunger of the crowd.  Jesus has compassion; his disciples are realists.  They recognize the impossibility of feeding such a large number of people with such meager resources.

How do you respond to needs of other people when you become aware of them?  Do you see the situation as one which has great possibilities for the exercise of faith?  Or are you a realist, saying, “It’s a shame the way things are, but what can one person do?” 

Seven loaves in the hands of pragmatic and at least faith-challenged disciples are certainly not enough to feed a multitude.  In the hands of Jesus, blessed with compassion and faith in God’s power, they become a feast which not only is sufficient but also produces seven baskets of leftovers.

What is the equivalent of the seven loaves in your life?  What do you have that you could give Jesus to multiply?  As you identify the gifts, abilities, interest, resources, and whatever else Jesus has given to you, consciously turn them over to Christ.  He may use them to feed a multitude! 

Prayer:  Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me.  Psalm 40: 13

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Mark 7:31-37 

 31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.

 33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

 36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

     On more than one occasion, Jesus restores the hearing of a deaf person.  The healings of Jesus certainly have a physical dimension, but they also very clearly have a spiritual dimension as well.  Twice already in Mark’s gospel Jesus has said “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

My prayer for you today, and tomorrow in worship, is that you will “hear” the Word of Christ.  That He would unplug your ears, and you would hear afresh, hear with meaning, what God would say to you through scripture and the Spirit.

Again today, we will pray the prayer of St. Francis :

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not 
so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
 

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Mark 7:24-30 

 24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

   27 First let the children eat all they want, he told her, for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.

 28 Yes, Lord, she replied, but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.

 29 Then he told her, For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.

 30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

What a marked (pun intended) contrast with the previous story.  Whereas the religious leaders of Israel have made a mockery of the religious law and thereby proved they are spiritually defiled, this Gentile woman, whom the Israelites would have considered as defiled, is really the one who is spiritually pure.  While the religious leaders find fault with Jesus, she desires only what he can do for her.

This is a good time for us to confess the times we have allowed ourselves to feel superiority and contempt for others, forgetting the great love the Lord has for those who are downtrodden, especially for those who are downtrodden! 

It is also a good time for us the think of times we have felt rejected and treated as an outcast by others for whatever reason.  Allow the "crumbs" from Christ's table to fall on your plate!  Remember that Christ offers us not "crumbs" but a banquet!

Today's prayer from Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.


Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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Jesus' Feast of Life:

Mark 6:33-44 

33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

 35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. This is a remote place, they said, and it's already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.

 37 But he answered, You give them something to eat.

   They said to him, That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?

   38 How many loaves do you have? he asked. Go and see.

   When they found out, they said, Five and two fish.

 39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.              

What a contrast between the banquet Jesus provides for those who come to hear him and the banquet Herod provided for those who came to flatter him!  Have you ever thought of the Christian life as a banquet?  It is the same image that occurs in the story of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee that we considered on Sunday.  Spend a few moments reflecting on the abundance and richness of God's grace.    Remember especially that the verbs of verse 41: "taking...gave thanks...broke...gave," are the words of the Lord's Supper.  The ultimate meal with which Jesus feeds us is himself given for us.   

The following prayer goes back to the 5th Century and is called St. Patrick's Breastplate:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

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Jesus' Feast of Life:

Mark 6:33-44 

33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

 35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. This is a remote place, they said, and it's already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.

 37 But he answered, You give them something to eat.

   They said to him, That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?

   38 How many loaves do you have? he asked. Go and see.

   When they found out, they said, Fiveand two fish.

 39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.              

What a contrast between the banquet Jesus provides for those who come to hear him and the banquet Herod provided for those who came to flatter him!  Have you ever thought of the Christian life as a banquet?  It is the same image that occurs in the story of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee that we considered on Sunday.  Spend a few moments reflecting on the abundance and richness of God's grace.    Remember especially that the verbs of verse 41: "taking...gave thanks...broke...gave," are the words of the Lord's Supper.  The ultimate meal with which Jesus feeds us is himself given for us.   

The following prayer goes back to the 5th Century and is called St. Patrick's Breastplate:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

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With the disciples sent out by Jesus to preach and heal, Mark takes the time to tell the story of a banquet thrown by King Herod.  Here we discover the fate of John the Baptist, whose preaching prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus.  It is both a foreshadowing of what awaits Jesus, if this is what happens to the messenger, we know that there is worse in store for the Message, but also a contrast with tomorrow’s story of the feeding of the multitude by Jesus.  Side by side we see the dramatic contrast of the banquet of Herod which produces death and the banquet of Jesus which gives life and abundance.

Mark 6:14-29 

 14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

 15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”

   And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

 16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

 17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

 21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

   The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

   “The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

 25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

 26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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Mark 6: 7-13, 30-32

7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.

 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

 30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Notice that the summary of this mission trip of the disciples corresponds to the mission of Jesus and to the summary of that mission in 1: 15: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

The mission of Jesus’ disciples is an extension of Jesus’ own mission.  Begin to reflect on your understanding of your own mission.  In what conscious and deliberate ways have you attempted to be an extension of Jesus’ mission in your own situation – at home, at work, in your neighborhood, at church?

Try to be conscious of where the Lord might be sending you in mission.  If you deliberately think of yourself as being sent by Christ, you will begin to discover where and to whom you are sent.  Look at all of your interactions today as opportunities for becoming a missionary for Christ.

Notice also how upon their return to Jesus they withdraw together to a lonely place, to the wilderness.  The rhythm of Jesus’ life and of his disciples was that a period of action is followed by a period of retreat and rest.  That is the rhythm of the Christian life, and tomorrow, the Lord’s Day, is that weekly day of reflection, refreshment, and rest in lives lived for Jesus Christ.  See you then!

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In studying Mark's gospel, we have seen a section of episodes in which Jesus brings miraculous peace and restoration to difficult situations: calming a storm, restoring a possessed man, healing a sick woman, and raising a dead girl.    Large crowds have gathered, as we might expect, but what we don't expect is the misunderstanding and rejection of Jesus by those close to him, today his hometown people in Nazareth:

from Mark 6:

1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

   “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

 4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Anyone who has ever experienced rejection by close family and friends should find it easy to identify with Jesus as he was rejected in his hometown.  Why did the people of his hometown synagogue "take offense" at him?  What was the result of the rejection Jesus suffered by those close to him?

Have you been guilty of rejecting Jesus in your life?  Has familiarity with Jesus and His story led you to deny or reject the miraculous about Him?

What experiences of rejection by people close to you have you had?  Was your behavior responsible for the rejection or was the mindset of your friends or family responsible?  How did you deal with the hurt you felt?

Maybe today is a good day to give up the feelings of resentment and anger you may feel toward those who rejected you.  In doing so you will be like our Savior: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering." (Isaiah 53: 3)

Today is a good day to forgive or to ask those we have rejected to forgive us. 

Prayer:  "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  Amen.

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Greetings all:  Sorry I missed you yesterday.  The computer was down in the church office so no email.  We did have a blessed Wednesday night fellowship and service together!

We will finish the story today that Mark had begun before the episode with the bleeding woman whom Jesus healed:

 21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live. 24 So Jesus went with him....

 35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. Your daughter is dead, they said. Why bother the teacher any more?

 36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, Don't be afraid; just believe.

 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep. 40 But they laughed at him.

   After he put them all out, he took the childs father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, Talitha koum! (which means, Little girl, I say to you, get up!). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Notice that the recent series of stories has had a progression from a hopeless situation involving the impersonal and inanimate forces of nature (storm) to the more personal but supernatural forces of evil which affect a person (Gerasene demoniac) to the deeply personal matter of physical illness (hemorrhaging woman) to the most personal and most hopeless situation of all - death (Jairus' daughter).

Picture yourself among the crowd of mourners gathered at Jairus' house.  If you had been there, what would your reaction have been to Jesus' announcement: "The child is not dead but sleeping"?  Would you have joined in the laughter?

Notice that Jesus leaves 9 of the disciples outside, and brings in just the inner circle:  Peter, James, and John  and the parents.  There was no room for doubters for this miracle.

We all have in our baptism experienced this transformation.  We have died to our sinful selves, and have been raised up by the touch and command of Jesus. 

There is no more wonderful verse to memorize than Jesus' words to the grieving father:  "Don't be afraid; just believe."  Hear Jesus say that to you today.

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After a wonderful morning of worship over it yesterday, one more look at Jesus stilling the storm.

The last petition in the Te Deum relates well to this story.  "Oh Lord, in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded."

"Let me never be confounded" is one of the most meaningful and profound prayers we can pray.  In the scriptures, God's creating and sustaining activity always tends toward order and harmony.  The biblical word for this is cosmos.  The antithesis of cosmos is chaos, or confusion, the force which opposes the order of creation.  In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told "The Spirit of God hovered over the chaos" (AT from the Hebrew).  Then come the creative acts of God: "And God said, 'Let there be...'".  Out of chaos comes cosmos - divinely given order or harmony.  So the prayer "Let me never be confounded" is a plea that my life will not dissolve back into chaos or confusion but will know and manifest the harmony of God's creative and sustaining work.

 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Spend some time simply repeating that one petition: "Oh Lord in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded."  Allow the Holy Spirit to hover over your personal chaos and bring order to it.

As the Lord leads, pray for others who are in chaotic situations.

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After a wonderful morning of worship over it yesterday, one more look at Jesus stilling the storm.

The last petition in the Te Deum relates well to this story.  "Oh Lord, in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded."

"Let me never be confounded" is one of the most meaningful and profound prayers we can pray.  In the scriptures, God's creating and sustaining activity always tends toward order and harmony.  The biblical word for this is cosmos.  The antithesis of cosmos is chaos, or confusion, the force which opposes the order of creation.  In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told "The Spirit of God hovered over the chaos" (AT from the Hebrew).  Then come the creative acts of God: "And God said, 'Let there be...'".  Out of chaos comes cosmos - divinely given order or harmony.  So the prayer "Let me never be confounded" is a plea that my life will not dissolve back into chaos or confusion but will know and manifest the harmony of God's creative and sustaining work.

 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Spend some time simply repeating that one petition: "Oh Lord in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded."  Allow the Holy Spirit to hover over your personal chaos and bring order to it.

As the Lord leads, pray for others who are in chaotic situations.

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Let praise bring you into God’s presence:  “Day by day we magnify thee, and we worship thy name ever, world without end.”

To a Jewish audience, no one could be in a worse, more unclean, situation than this man.  He is in Gentile territory, on the “other” side of the lake.  He is possessed with an evil spirit that is “Legion.”  He lives in a cemetery surrounded by dead bodies, with pigs (unclean animals)  roaming around.  Any good Jew would stay as far away as possible.  But Jesus doesn’t just encounter this man, he goes to him.  And when Jesus is touched by the unclean, he doesn’t become unclean, instead the unclean becomes clean.  And this man is not just clean, Jesus commissions him to be a missionary!  Sounds a whole lot like the church, a bunch of unclean people made clean by the touch of Jesus sent out to tell how much Jesus has done for us!

Mark 5: 1 - 20 1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

   “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

 11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

 14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Have you ever felt your sins, your weaknesses, your liabilities, or your problems were so overwhelming that you could say, “My name is Legion, for we are many”?  When?  Reflect on how many solutions to the possessed man’s problems had been tried and how all had failed.

Do you have an “impossible” situation in your life?  What does the authority of Jesus to drive out the Legion have to say to you?

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In the Te Deum there is a beautiful petition: "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin."  Let that be our starting prayer.  Pray it more than once if it helps you understand what you are asking. 

Mark 4:35-41 

 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Think of the biggest "storm" you've ever gone through.  Were you afraid?  Why?  Why does Jesus put the attitudes of fear and faith in opposition to each other?  Is fear the same as unbelief?

What is your answer to the disciple's question: "Who is this?"

There is a great old gospel song we are going to sing on Sunday.  If you know it you can start singing now:

 When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me; When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me.  When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea, Thou who rulest wind and water, Stand by me.

Please keep Kerianne and her classmates in prayer, they are en route to the DR now.

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A great prayer for a Monday, to start the week, from the fourth century.  It is a wonderful expression both of worship and of Christian doctrine:
 
We praise thee, O God : we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee : the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud : the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry, Holy, Holy, Holy : Lord God of hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee;
The Father, of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true, and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost , the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory , O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son , of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God , in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints,  in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name ever, world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded.
 
From Mark 3: 20 – 35:
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
 22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
 23 So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. 28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
 30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”
 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
   33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
 
It was not only the religious leaders of Jesus day who were concerned about him, but even his own family members. 
What does this tell us about the difficulty of depending on miraculous “signs” such as healings and exorcisms for proof of God’s activity?
What does it tell us about the tendency of those closest to Jesus to fall into unbelief?
Ask yourself:  When have I, either through indifference or actual resistance, lived or acted as though there were no God?

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"Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
but hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day comes,
when, with your saints, I may praise you forever.  Amen."
Mark 2:
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
 19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
   21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
 23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 3

 1 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
 4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
 
In these stories we see Jesus beginning to run into questioning and opposition.  His association with known sinners, his failure to observe the ritual laws of fasting, and his healing on the Sabbath provoke a strong reaction, especially from religious people.  This opposition builds from polite questioning to a hard and angry plot to destroy him.  Even traditional enemies like the Pharisees and the Herodians join forces against him.
What are some “old wineskins” in your life which may not be able to hold the “new wine” Jesus represents?  Think first about personal habits, then move on to your behavior in relationship to other people.  Throw away the old wineskin in your life by taking some definite action.  Deliberately attempt to become a new wineskin at that point.
Pray for our BYF and Leaders on the 30 Hour Famine, and for the people of Japan.

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Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
   O LORD, come quickly to help me. Psalm 40: 13

Mark 2

Jesus Heals a Paralytic
 1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

We jump ahead today to Mark 2.  So often the focus of our prayers is physical healing, and Jesus is the one who makes our bodies whole.  But in this healing recorded in Mark's gospel, Jesus makes it clear that there is a spiritual healing, the forgiveness of sins, that is of much greater priority than physical healing.  Our physical bodies are deteriorating, and unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, we all will get sick and die.  But the forgiveness of sins that Jesus alone can offer is eternal, it will not deteriorate, and cannot be taken from us.  You will never see anything like this!!!

What sins are paralyzing you?

Who are the friends whose faith can help carry you into the forgiving and healing presence of Christ?

Please pray earnestly today for the young people and adults who will be taking part in the 30-Hour Famine.

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A heartfelt thanks to all those who were able to come out last night.  What wonderful fellowship and worship together in this Holy time.  Hopefully many others can join us next Wednesday.
 
Today’s scripture from Mark: 
 

Mark 1:14-20

The Calling of the First Disciples
 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee, his first message is short and direct! 
The calling of Peter, James, and John is his first act, the message and the calling of disciples goes hand in hand.  Wherever the “good news” is proclaimed, men and women will be called to follow Jesus as disciples.
The three leave behind everything and follow him “at once”, “without delay”.  How convicting!  How seldom our response to Christ is as immediate.  Peter left behind his fishing nets (livelihood).  James and John left not only their nets but their father as well (family expectations). 
What are the equivalents of fishing nets and fathers in your life?
Prayer: Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. (Psalm 40: 13)  (A good one to memorize!)
Two prayer requests:  Chris Merritt’s wife, Kathy is in hospital with tremendous pain.  Please lift both of them up.
A Praise:  Ben Hackler arrived back on US soil yesterday after a one year tour in Afghanistan as a medic.  Thanks be to God!!!

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As the season of Lent begins today, that time of the year that the church has set aside to remember our Lord’s obedient and intentional journey to Jerusalem where he knew the cross awaited Him, I propose that we read through the Gospel of Mark together, studying carefully the life of our Lord as we seek to draw closer to Him.  We begin today in Mark 1: 1 – 13

Mark 1

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

 1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:

   “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
   make straight paths for him.’”

 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Forty is an important number in the Bible. We think of the 40 days and nights of rain for Noah, Moses was forty days on Mt. Sinai, Israel wandered forty years in the wilderness and many other examples.

And the desert, the wilderness, is an important place for Jesus.  It is in the desert that John prepares the way for the Lord, preaching his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, it is to this area that Jesus comes to be baptized , and it is out into the desert that Jesus is sent by the Spirit after his baptism, where he is tempted by Satan, and attended by angels.

We generally try to stay out of the desert, preferring the safety and comforts of home.  But the desert, the wilderness, can be a place of growth.  Loneliness from the company of others can intensify our awareness of the presence of God, and our reliance on Him for all things.  Lent is a time when Christians have voluntarily set aside comforts and habits, to venture into the spiritual wilderness with Jesus.  What will you leave behind, what will you surrender, to journey with Jesus?

Prayer: “Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” (Psalm 40:13)  Amen.

Invitation:  We will have an Ash Wednesday worship service this evening at 7 p.m.  A Soup Supper will precede this, beginning at 6.  All are welcome!!!

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Luke 2

 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 
The birth of Jesus took place in history.  Caesar Augustus, Herod the Great, Quirinius of Syria: Jesus was born into history not mythology.  God moved history so that the prophecy would be fulfilled, thus a family from Nazareth would find themselves in Bethlehem, the city of David,  for the birth of Messiah, just as promised.  God moved history, He also moved the cosmos: the star that signaled the birth of Christ was made on the fourth day of creation!!!  Perfectly placed for this time and purpose.  The humility of the family, using a manger for a crib because there was no place for them to stay.  And the tenderness of the mother as she cared for her new born Son.   This is Christmas!   PT

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Matthew 1:18-25 (New International Version, ©2010)

 18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
 
A couple of points from today’s Advent reading (We had a fun discussion about these yesterday at Bible study!) :  Both Joseph and Mary are visited by an angel, we are not told the name of the angel that visits Joseph, we are told that the angel “Gabriel” speaks with Mary.  Gabriel means either “God is  my hero” or “mighty man of God”.  Both are told that the baby’s name is to be Jesus.  Joseph is the first to be told why “because he will save his people from their sins.”  Both are immediately obedient:  Mary says “may it be to me according to thy word”, while Joseph did what the angel commanded him to do as soon as he woke up.  There is no scriptural record of Joseph speaking, but there certainly is a record of him believing and obeying.  Something to think about!   In Christ,  PT

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Isaiah 9:2-7 (New International Version, ©2010)

 2 The people walking in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
   a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
   and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
   as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
   when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
   you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
   the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
   and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
   will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
   there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
   and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
   with justice and righteousness
   from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
   will accomplish this.
 
The light of the Son be with you this Advent day.  PT

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Luke 1:26-38 (New King James Version)

   
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

I’m still on a Holy Spirit high this morning after our blessed day of worship yesterday.  Blessings and thanks to everyone who helped prepare, participated, and/or attended our worship services.  We all feel truly supported and encouraged.  God is very good to us!!!

This scripture from Luke 1 was saved for this final week of Advent.  As Bible-believing Baptists, we do not worship Mary, but we do appreciate her purity, her faith, and her obedience.  Her response to the angel, “Let it be to me according to your word,” is the model for every Christian in responding to God’s call on our life.  And the angel’s statement of truth can be an encouragement to all of us no matter what we are facing today: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”  Hide those in your heart.   PT

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Isaiah 7:10-14 (New International Version, ©2010)

 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”
 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, andc]"  will call him Immanuel.
 
Immanuel.  God with us.  My early morning prayer today is that God would be with us on this day that we have consecrated, set aside, for Him.  We have planned a day to give praise to God for what He has done through Jesus Christ, we invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit to give life, spirit and truth, to our worship, and we need you, for you are the Body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  Sunday School at 9:30, Morning Worship at 11, and our Cantata/Christmas Pageant at 5:30.  May the Lord make a way for you to be with us, and may God be with us.  PT

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Luke 1:67-80 (New International Version, ©2010)

 67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
   because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
   in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
   and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
   and to remember his holy covenant,
 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
   and to enable us to serve him without fear
 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
   through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
   by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
   and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
 
When John is born, his father Zechariah’s tongue is loosed, and filled with the Holy Spirit, he sings a hymn of praise to God, honoring not only his son, who will “go before the Lord to prepare the way for him”, but also honoring the coming Messiah, Jesus, who will be called “the Son of the Most High.”  It is appropriate that we love to sing at Christmas time, in Luke’s gospel, the only way that the participants can express the magnitude of what God is doing is in song:  Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, the Angels, later on Simeon.  At Christmas, our words sometimes fall short of understanding the Incarnation, but our hymns, songs, carols, and anthems best express our praise!  We will be doing a lot of singing tomorrow, in morning worship and at the Christmas Pageant, please do come and join the voices raised in praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.  PT

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Luke 1:57-66 (New International Version, ©2010)
 57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Sorry!  It has been a very busy day here at CBC and I am late getting this out to you all.  The birth of John the Baptist, the fulfillment of the angel's promise to Zechariah.  "His name is John"...15 1/2 years ago Jeanine and I said the same thing about our first son!  Special words.  In fact, there are a number of brothers in our church family whose name is John, and this would be a good day to give thanks for each one!  Verse 66 is an important reminder about the wonder possible in each human life.  When we look at a baby, hand made by God, knit together in his mother's womb, fearfully and wonderfully made, we may ask "What then is this child going to be?"  May the Lord's hand be with you, and all God's children today.  PT 

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Luke 1:46-56 (New International Version, ©2010)

 46 And Mary said:
   My soul glorifies the Lord
 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me
   holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
   just as he promised our ancestors.
 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Mary's Song, and what a song it is, known as the Magnificat, from the Latin word for glorify in the first phrase.  Read it, really read it this morning.  Note the astonishing things she says about the humble and the hungry in contrast with the proud and the powerful!  Notice also that young Mary knew her scriptures.  Her song echoes Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2: 1 - 10.  Look it up.  Mary knows scripture the way I pray that we do, so that when God works in our lives we recognize him, we understand what is happening according the the scriptures.  God's Word becomes the lens through which we understand life, as it was for Mary.  Note also what we taught on Sunday, that Mary does not sing this magnificent song when the angel visits her, but not until her relative, Elizabeth, has confirmed for her, encouraged her, that what she has believed is true.  This is the spirit of encouragement that we need in the church, to affirm in one another what we see God doing in our lives.  Blessings, PT

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Luke 1:39-45 (New International Version, ©2010)

 39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
 
 
Today we fast forward past the angel’s visit with Mary, we will come back to that next week.  This morning we read of Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth.  These two women are at the center of what God is doing at Christmas: the mother of John the Baptist who will prepare the way for the Lord, and the birth of Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As I shared on Sunday, the Bible stands alone in ancient literature in portraying women as active in God’s move through history, the Holy Spirit active in women’s lives, in sensitively presenting the experiences of a pregnant woman, as Elizabeth feels the baby in her womb leap for joy, and in highlighting the powerful faith of these simple, but godly women.  Jesus Christ changed everything for all of us, his life, death, and resurrection are the center the entire universe, and His advent made a huge difference in our appreciation and respect for women, and the role God has given them to play in salvation history.  To all of you:  “Blessed is she (and he) who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”   PT

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Luke 1:18-25 (New International Version, ©2010)

 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Faith.  The thing that God looks for in us is faith.  And a lesson here is that faith is not the outward show, but the inner heart.  God can tell the difference.  Zechariah asks, "How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."  He is silenced until the baby is born because he "did not believe..."  At Gabriel's next stop, with Mary, she too asks a similar questions, "How will this be since I am a virgin?" She is not chastened for asking, but the Angel instructs her on what will be a miraculous conception, an overshadowing by the power of the Most High when the Holy Spirit comes upon her. Elizabeth's pregnancy was natural but unlikely and unexpected.  Mary's was supernatural, beyond our ability to conceive, literally.  Both were true because God said so:  "For nothing is impossible with God."  Carry that with you this Advent day.  PT

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Luke 1:14-17 (New International Version, ©2010)

14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
The angel of the Lord tells Zechariah about the son, John, who will be born to him and his wife Elizabeth.  John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 4: 5-6, the last two verses of the Old Testament (Look it up!), of a prophet like Elijah who would precede Jesus and prepare the way for him.  John, like Samson and Samuel before him, was to live under the Nazirite vow that included abstaining from alcohol.  Blessings to you this Advent day!   PT
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Hard to imagine that the third week in Advent begins today.  Scripturally, we will spend this week in the first chapter of Luke, beginning this morning with God’s promise of a son to Zechariah.  Hope to see you at worship this morning!

 

Luke 1:5-13 (New International Version, ©2010)

 5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.

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Mark 1:1-3 (New International Version, ©2010)

 1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
   “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
   make straight paths for him.’”
 
As we have seen in the last two days, John the Evangelist theologizes ( a real word, I didn’t make that up!)  on the meaning of Jesus’ coming.  Mark, in his style, jumps right in:  let’s get going!  Mark skips right past the Christmas story.  The point of agreement: “The beginning…”  like John 1: 1 and Genesis 1:1. 
Mark is the first to use the word ‘gospel”, from the Old English godspel, which means good news or good story.  The good news is that God has provided salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! 
You will recognize the two passages Mark quotes:  verse 2 is from Malachi 3: 1 which we read on Wednesday this week, and verse 3 is from Isaiah 40: 3 which was our first advent reading this year.  The point is this: understanding the ministry of Jesus must begin with the Old Testament.  What Isaiah says about God applies to Jesus, his Son. 
Preparing the way for the Lord, making straight paths for him, is not just what John the Baptist preached, but what our Advent prayer is that God will do in our hearts and lives.  I dearly hope to worship with you tomorrow morning, as we “Prepare the way for the Lord”.   PT

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John 1:9-18 (New International Version, ©2010)
 

 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God andis in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

 

Wow!  I would ask you just to focus on verse 14 for a minute.  Young's Literal Translation puts it this way:  "And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us...".  The greek for "made his dwelling" is literally tabernacle, which reminds us of the Old Testament Tent of Meeting which was filled with the glory of God.

The New Living Translation puts it this way: "So the Word became human and made his home among us.   But my favorite is Eugene Peterson in "The Message" who puts it this way: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood."   In Christ, God moved into the neighborhood, and the neighborhood has never been the same!!  Praise God.  That is Incarnation, that is Christmas!!  Blessings  PT

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John 1:1-8 (New International Version, ©2010)

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
 
Having laid the prophetic groundwork in the Old Testament, we move for the first time this Advent season to the New Testament.  Matthew and Luke will tell us how the birth of Messiah came about, it is John who tells us what it means.  Cosmically, what Christmas means.  It is so profound that both the creation of all that is in Genesis 1, and the new creation inaugurated by the advent of Jesus Christ start with the words: In the beginning...   Blessings,  PT

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Malachi 3:1-6 (New International Version, ©2010)

 1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
 5 “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
 6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
 
 
The messenger was fulfilled in John the Baptist, and the appearance of the Lord in his temple first occurs when Mary and Joseph bring the baby to the temple 40 days after his birth, in accordance with Jewish law.  Then a stark warning for us:  “Who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” (v.2)  No wonder the Lord Jesus counseled us to “Be careful…be always on the watch and pray…” (Luke 21)    In Him who does not change!  PT

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Three things for you today!  The scripture in which God promises that Messiah will come from Bethlehem, the City of David.  Next, the words to the beautiful carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem," for you to sing and meditate upon.  Finally, a little of the story of how this hymn came to be written, both the lyric and the music!  Inspired stuff!! :

Micah 5:2-4 (New International Version, ©2010)

 2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
   one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
   from ancient times."
 3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
   until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
   to join the Israelites.
 4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
   in the strength of the LORD,
   in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
   will reach to the ends of the earth.
 
 
O Little Town of Bethlehem    Words: Phillip Brooks    Music: Lewis Redner 
1. O little town of Bethlehem,
    How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
    The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
    Are met in thee to-night.
2. For Christ is born of Mary;
    And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
    Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
    Proclaim the holy birth;
And praises sing to God the King,
    And peace to men on earth.
3. How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.
4. O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
    Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
    The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel
 
Hymn Story:
It was the sight of Bethlehem itself, one feels very sure, that gave Phillips Brooks the impulse to write this hymn. He was then rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, in Philadelphia. Bishop Brooks was the most famous preacher and the most widely-loved clergyman of his time.  He had spent a year's vacation traveling in Europe and the East. "After an early dinner, we took our horses and rode to Bethlehem," so he wrote home in Christmas week of 1865. "It was only about two hours when we came to the town, situated on an eastern ridge of a range of hills, surrounded by its terraced gardens. It is a good-looking town, better built than any other we have seen in Palestine. . . . Before dark, we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it (all the Holy Places are caves here), in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds...somewhere in those fields we rode through the shepherds must have been. . . . As we passed, the shepherds were still "keeping watch over their flocks or leading them home to fold."
The church organist, Lewis Redner, tells the story of how the music came to be written:  "As Christmas of 1868 approached, Mr. Brooks told me that he had written a simple little carol for the Christmas Sunday-school service, and he asked me to write the tune to it. The simple music was written in great haste and under great pressure. We were to practice it on the following Sunday. Mr. Brooks came to me on Friday, and said, 'Redner, have you ground out that music yet to 'O Little Town of Bethlehem'?' I replied, 'No,' but that he should have it by Sunday. On the Saturday night previous my brain was all confused about the tune. I thought more about my Sunday-school lesson than I did about the music. But I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868.
Thank God it has.  Blessings to you this day.   PT

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Zechariah 6:12-13 (New International Version, ©2010)

12 Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’
 
The Lord tells Zechariah that the coming Davidic King will be a priest as well.  This was not a traditional thought in Judaism.  In fact, the Essenes of Qumran of whom we spoke at the beginning of Advent, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, expected two Messiah’s, a king and a high priest.  But God united in the person of Jesus Christ not only king and priest, but prophet as well.  “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”  Read Psalm 110 for that combination of king and priest, and Hebrews 7: 23-27 has amazing insight in Jesus’ High Priestly office.  Blessings, PT

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Isaiah 11:1-10 (New International Version, ©2010)

 1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
   from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
   the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and of might,
   the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
   He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
   or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
   with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
   with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
   and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
 6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
   the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
   and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
   their young will lie down together,
   and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
   the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
   on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
   as the waters cover the sea.
 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
 
What a day, glorious day, it will be!!  What a glorious morning we will have as we worship together in anticipation of the coming Christ, from the family of Jesse, David’s father, and as we remember the Lord’s death until He comes again!  See you soon,  PT

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As the first week of Advent comes to a close, we read a celebration of the loving, faithful character of God, who at Christmas keeps the covenant promise He made to David.  A prophet like Moses, a king like David, the Son of God: Jesus truly is All in All. 
The Roberts family is celebrating this day God’s love and faithfulness in giving us our first-born, Kerianne, who turns 18 today.  God has been so kind to us to let us delight in sharing in the life of this precious and amazing young woman!  Thank you all for the Christian love, instruction, and encouragement you have shared with her over these years!  You have made a difference for God in her life.    PT

Psalm 89:1-4 (New International Version, ©2010)

    A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
 1 I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
   with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
   through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
   that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
   I have sworn to David my servant,
4 ‘I will establish your line forever
   and make your throne firm through all generations.’”

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Moses speaking:

Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (New International Version, ©2010)

15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

 17 The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.

God promises His people that he will send them a prophet like Moses.  John knows that Jesus, the Messiah is greater than Moses: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1: 17).  Acts 3: 17-23 shows through the preaching of Peter that the early church recognized that Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy.  God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai, and Jesus gives his new, amazing, authoritative teaching also from the mountain, the Sermon on the Mount.  (Matthew 5 - 7). As Peter says: 'you must listen to everything he tells you." Acts 3: 22

Peace. PT

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Genesis 3:8-15 (New International Version, ©2010)

 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
   The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
   “Cursed are you above all livestock
   and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
   and you will eat dust
   all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
   between you and the woman,
   and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
   and you will strike his heel.”
 
This is why we need a Savior, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And in verse 15 is the first promise of Messiah in the Bible, still in the Garden, just after the Fall and the Curse, God announces that the offspring of a woman will crush the serpent, Satan.  Jesus is He, born of a woman and the Holy Spirit, who has crushed our enemy, at great cost to Himself, and has taken the curse upon Himself, that we might be restored.  As God pronounces the righteous curse, he proclaims the promise of release from it.  Thanks be to God.     PT

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Genesis 3:8-15 (New International Version, ©2010)

 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
   The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
   “Cursed are you above all livestock
   and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
   and you will eat dust
   all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
   between you and the woman,
   and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
   and you will strike his heel.”
 
This is why we need a Savior, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And in verse 15 is the first promise of Messiah in the Bible, still in the Garden, just after the Fall and the Curse, God announces that the offspring of a woman will crush the serpent, Satan.  Jesus is He, born of a woman and the Holy Spirit, who has crushed our enemy, at great cost to Himself, and has taken the curse upon Himself, that we might be restored.  As God pronounces the righteous curse, he proclaims the promise of release from it.  Thanks be to God.     PT

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Isaiah 40:9-11 (New International Version, ©2010)

 9 You who bring good news to Zion,
   go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
   lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
   say to the towns of Judah,
   “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
   and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
   and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
   he gently leads those that have young.
My favorite moment in G.F. Handel’s Messiah comes near the end of the Christmas portion.  An alto stands and sings from today’s passage in Isaiah, verse 11 King James Version: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: and he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”  It is the Old Testament image of God as the Good Shepherd.  In the midst of the song, the alto sits down, and a soprano stands to sing, the melody stays the same but the piece is pitched a key higher, and she sings from Matthew 11: “Come unto him all ye that labour, that are heavy laden, and he will give you rest.  Take his yoke upon you, and learn of him, for he is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  Subtly, but stunningly Handel has made a bold statement of faith here.  He has identified the gentle shepherd of Isaiah 40 with the Good Shepherd of the gospel.  The one who gathers the lambs in his arms and gently leads those that are with you in none other than the one who comes to the manger and goes to the cross – so that all of us who labor and are heavy laden may at last find rest.  The one born at Christmas is the very God whom Isaiah describes!  The melody of salvation is the same in both testaments.  It is brought to completion, to fullness, in Jesus Christ.    Blessings in Him,  PT

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HOPE:
 

Isaiah 52:7-10 (New International Version, ©2010)

 7 How beautiful on the mountains
   are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
   who bring good tidings,
   who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
   “Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
   together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
   they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together,
   you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
   he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm
   in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
   the salvation of our God.
God of Advent, kindle within me the flame of hope  As I walk through this day, may that hope remind me of  your promise that something good is coming.  Amen.
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Hope thrives in the wilderness.

 
  Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.
 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
   that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
   double for all her sins.
 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
   the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
   a highway for our God.
 Every valley shall be raised up,
   every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
   the rugged places a plain.
 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
   and all people will see it together.
            For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40: 1 – 5
 
Beloved Church Family,  Let us begin our Advent Journey, let us “prepare the way for the LORD”, by gathering together in worship this morning.  In Christ, Pastor Tom
 
God of hope, help me prepare the way for you in the wilderness of chaos.  Give me strength, wisdom, and patience to clear a path for you through my cluttered heart and life.  Amen.

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Subject: Lenten Prayers
 

The most important, most meaningful prayer ever spoken:
 
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
 
Thank you, Jesus.

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On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus shared a great deal with his disciples, as recorded in the gospel of John chapters 14 – 17, and then closed with a prayer. As we have learned, he prayed first for himself, then for the disciples, and today, for you, for us, for all believers:

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

Wow!!!

The scripture says: “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.” Went into it for more prayer, in what we know as the Garden of Gethsemane.

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In his prayer on his last evening with his disciples, recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed first for himself, and then for his disciples. Learn from Jesus Christ to pray:


"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

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As we enter Holy Week, we will meditate on the prayers of the Lord Jesus Christ himself in his last week of earthly ministry.  This morning we begin with the beginning of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, in which he first prays for himself:  Jesus spoke these words during his Last Supper conversation with his disciples:

 1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

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Brothers and Sisters, Holy Week begins tomorrow.  Our Lord who has set his face to go to Jerusalem, enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and weeps over the city that “did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19: 44)  May our hearts be humbled as our Lord’s was as he entered the valley of the shadow of death, that we may recognize his coming and calling for us:
 
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Rafael Merry del Val (1865-1930)

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This prayer first appeared in 1915, and is often attributed to Francis of Assisi. It does capture the simplicity and humility of his ministry.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
As to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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Today a Children’s Morning Prayer with a special shout out to Mrs. Hill’s Kindergarten class at Crossroads Christian Academy who look forward to their daily prayer time!!
 
Lord, in the morning I start each day,
By taking a moment to bow and pray.
I start with thanks, and then give praise
For all your kind and loving ways.
Today if sunshine turns to rain,
If a dark cloud brings some pain,
I won't doubt or hide in fear
For you, my God, are always near.
I will travel where you lead;
I will help my friends in need.
Where you send me I will go;
With your help I'll learn and grow.
Hold my family in your hands,
As we follow your commands.
And I will keep you close in sight
Until I crawl in bed tonight.
Amen.
-- Mary Fairchild

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Ignatious of Loyola was born in Spain in 1499. In 1521, his leg was severely wounded in battle, and during a long convalescence he had nothing to read but a book on the life of Jesus Christ. From this beginning, he surrendered his life to Jesus and served him throughout his life. This is a prayer of surrender that anticipates our evening worship tonight, to which everyone is invited!!

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will.
All that I am and all that I possess You have given me:
I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

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Beloved,

A prayer in poem form, a sonnet to be specific, from the great Christian poet John Donne (1572 - 1631) which speaks of the need at times of God's forcible intervention in our hearts to bring us to our senses, when our instincts and sinful nature would lead us away. It is very dramatic, very honest, and very earnest in its appeal to God to break through:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly' I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

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Beloved, 
 
As a new work week begins, it is appropriate to submit ourselves completely to God’s will for us.  Rather than asking God to get behind our agenda, it is best to open ourselves to whatever it is that God in his perfect will can use us for.  This prayer is by a theologian and poet named François Fénelon who wrote in the late 17th Century:

Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee, Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. Father! Give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations; I simply present myself before Thee. I open my heart to Thee. Behold my need, which I know not myself; see and do according to Thy tender mercy. Smile or heal, depress me, or raise me up; I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them: I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee, I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will. Teach me to pray. Pray thyself in me.

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A Saturday Bible prayer from the New Testament.  Peter and John had just been released from arrest, and they returned to the believers and shared what God had done.  Acts 4 says:  "When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God."  Here is that prayer:
 
 "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
   " 'Why do the nations rage
      and the peoples plot in vain?
 26The kings of the earth take their stand
      and the rulers gather together
      against the Lord
      and against his Anointed One. 27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

Luke says that "after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." May it be so with us tomorrow!! PT

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Beloved,
There came a time in King David's life when he began to think about the blessings he enjoyed, and it bothered him that he lived in a fine house, but the ark of the covenant still resided in a tent.  He decided to build a house for God.  At first, the prophet Nathan encouraged him, but God revealed to Nathan that He did not want David to build such a house.  Instead, God was going to build David a house, a dynasty, that would exceed anything he could ever imagine, and that permanent blessings would come to his descendants (climaxed by Messiah, Jesus Christ, "of the house and lineage of David").  David's prayer of praise not only glorifies God, but expresses stunning awe at what God was planning to do.  It contains elements of prayer that we can incorporate in our prayers like praise, repentance, petition, and thanksgiving, and reflections of history.
 
 18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:
       "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?
19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD ?

 20 "What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

 22 "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? [a] 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.

 25 "And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, 'The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

 27 "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. 28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever."  2 Samuel 7: 18 - 29

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As we look to the Bible, God’s word, to teach us a prayer vocabulary, we turn today to an episode in the life of the Godly King Jehoshaphat.  Enemies had gathered to attack Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat went into the temple of the Lord and prayed.  His concluding words, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” has more than once been a part of my prayers.  We are blessed at Cherryville to have adults and children worship together, and that practice finds scriptural support in this passage.  The Chronicler notes that “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children, and little ones, stood there before the Lord,” as Jehoshaphat prayed in the temple.  May your eyes be on the Lord today!!  PT
 
"O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 'If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.'
 10 "But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."  2 Chronicles 20: 6 - 12

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Beloved, As we prepare to gather for worship tonight, two Bible prayers from King Hezekiah. The context of each is very important. In the first prayer Hezekiah has received an arrogant and threatening letter from Sennacherib, King of Assyria, calling on him to surrender before he is crushed, like Sennacherib has crushed all the neighboring countries in his path. Scripture says that Hezekiah "went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord", a wonderful visual of laying out our concerns before God. It continues:

And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD : "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.
"It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men's hands. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God." 2 Kings 19: 15-19

Sometime later, Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. God sent Isaiah the prophet to tell him to put his house in order because he would not recover. Scripture says:

'Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.' 2 Kings 20: 2 - 3

Hezekiah's earnest prayers were answered most emphatically by God. In answer to the first prayer, Sennacherib and his army were defeated without a fight. And God added 15 years to Hezekiah's life in response to his crying out to God. May the Lord hear and answer your earnest prayers today and always!! PT

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This week we are sharing prayers of the Bible. This morning our prayer is from Nehemiah, who was a great man of prayer. The book of Nehemiah is constantly interspersed with prayers as he tells the story of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. While in exile, he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and that its gates had been burned by fire. The scripture says that "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." This morning's prayer was part of that initial time of prayer before God as he sought to address this situation. I would draw your attention to the first words of the prayer: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands''. It is almost identical to the beginning of Daniel's prayer from yesterday, and a wonderful phrase to memorize and incorporate in our prayers as we enter God's presence with praise.

"O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'
10 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." (The man being King Artaxerxes, whom Nehemiah served as cupbearer)

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Beloved,

This week let’s consider some of the great prayers of the Bible.  Our first prayer will be Daniel’s prayer from Chapter 9 of Daniel.  It is always a blessing to weave the Biblical language of prayer into our prayers!!  This prayer comes from the time of the Babylonian Captivity.  Daniel “turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” when he “understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.”

 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:
       "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

 7 "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
       "Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

 15 "Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

 17 "Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."

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Late on a Saturday Night, a prayer for Sunday Morning (and a reminder to move your clocks forward an hour!); while looking forward to worshipping together on the Lord’s Day!!!:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; glory be to Thee, O Lord most high.

O God, I crave Thy blessing upon this day of rest and refreshment.   Let me rejoice today in Thy worship and find gladness in the singing of Thy praises.  Forbid, I beseech Thee, that only my body should be refreshed today and not my spirit.  Give me grace for such an act of self-recollection as may again bring together the scattered forces of my soul.  Enable me to step aside for a little while from the busy life of common days and take thought about its meaning and its end.  May Jesus Christ be today the companion of my thoughts, so that His divine manhood may more and more take root within my soul.  May He be in me and I in Him, even as thou wert in Him and through Him mayest be in me and I at rest in Thee.

O Thou who art the Source and Ground of all truth, Thou light of lights, who hast opened the minds of men to discern the things that are, guide me today, I beseech Thee, in my hours of reading.  Give me grace to choose the right books and to read them in the right way.  Give me wisdom to abstain as well as to persevere.  Let the Bible have proper place; and grant that as I read I may be alive to the stirrings of Thy Holy Spirit in my soul.

I pray, O God, for all human hearts that today are lifted up to Thee in earnest desire, and for every group of men and women who are met together to praise and magnify Thy name.  Whatever be their mode of worship, be graciously pleased to accept their humble offices of prayer and praise, and lead them unto life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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A Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie
 
With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early; for when thy judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
 
Give me, O God, this day a strong and vivid sense that Thou art by my side.  In multitude and solitude, in business and leisure, in my downsitting and in my uprising, may I ever be aware of Thine accompanying presence.  By Thy grace, O God, I will go nowhere this day where Thou canst not come, nor court any companionship that would rob me of Thine.  By Thy grace I will let no thought enter my heart that might hinder my communion with Thee, nor let any word come from my mouth that is not meant for Thine ear.  So shall my courage be firm and my heart be at peace.
    I steadier step
    When I recall
    That though I slip
    Thou dost not fall.
O Thou Desire of all nations, in the knowledge of whose love and power there is salvation for all the peoples of the earth, hasten the day, I beseech Thee, when all men shall acknowledge Thee as Lord over all.  Hasten the day when our earthly society shall become the kingdom of Christ.  Hasten the day when Thy presence and the strong hand of Thy purpose shall be found not only in the hearts of a few wise and brave men but throughout the broad land, in court and council-chamber, in workshop and market-place, in the city and in the fields.  And whatever I myself can do, give me grace this day to begin; through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Evening Prayer - John Baillie
 
O Father in heaven, who didst fashion my limbs to serve Thee and my soul to follow hard after Thee, with sorrow and contrition of heart I acknowledge before Thee the faults and failures of the day that is now past.  Too long, O Father, have I tried thy patience; too often have I betrayed the sacred trust Thou hast given me to keep; yet Thou are still willing that I should come to Thee in lowliness of heart, as now I do, beseeching Thee to drown my transgressions in the sea of Thine own infinite love.
 
My failure to be true even to my own accepted standards:
My self-deception in face of temptation:
My choosing of the worse when I know the better:  O Lord, forgive.
 
My failure to apply to myself the standards of conduct I demand of others:
My blindness to the suffering of others and my slowness to be taught by my own:
My complacence towards wrongs that do not touch my own case and my over-sensitiveness to those that do:
My slowness to see the good in my fellows and to see the evil in myself:
My hardness of heart towards my neighbor's faults and my readiness to make allowance for my own:
My unwillingness to believe that Thou hast called me to a small work and my brother to a great one: O Lord, forgive.
 
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and give me the strength of a willing spirit.  Amen.

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Any prayer that focuses our attention on Jesus is a worthy prayer.  A morning prayer from John Baillee. 
 
Hoping to worship with you all this evening.
 
O God, who hast proven Thy love for mankind by sending us Jesus Christ our Lord, and hast illumined our human life by the radiance of His presence, I give Thee thanks for this Thy greatest gift.
For my Lord's days upon earth:
For the record of His deeds of love:
For the words He spoke for my guidance and help:
For His obedience unto death:
For His triumph over death:
For the presence of His Spirit with me now:  I thank thee, O God.
 
Grant that the remembrance of the blessed Life that once was lived out on this common earth under these ordinary skies may remain with me in all the tasks and duties of this day.  Let me remember -
His eagerness, not to be ministered unto, but to minister:
His sympathy with suffering of every kind:
His bravery in the face of His own suffering:
His meekness of bearing, so that, when reviled, He reviled not again:
His steadfastness of purpose in keeping to His appointed task:
His simplicity:
His self-discipline:
His serenity of spirit:
His complete reliance upon Thee, His Father in Heaven.
And in each of these ways give me grace to follow in His footsteps.
 
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I commit all my ways unto Thee.  I make over my soul to Thy keeping.  I pledge my life to Thy service.  May this day be for me a day of obedience and of charity, a day of happiness and of peace.  May all my walk and conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ.  Amen.

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An Evening Prayer from John Baillie, this one is a favorite of Betty Tinnes who shared it with the ABW-CBC recently.
 
O God, the Father of all mankind, I would bring before Thee tonight the burden of the world's life.  I would join myself to the great scattered company of those who, in every corner of every land, are now crying out to Thee in their need.  Hear us, O God, and look in pity upon our manifold necessities, since Thou alone art able to satisfy all our desire.
 
Especially do I commend to Thy holy keeping:
    All who tonight are far from home and friends:
    All who tonight must lie down hungry or cold:
    All who suffer pain:
    All who are kept awake by anxiety or suspense:
    All who are facing danger:
    All who must toil or keep watch while others sleep.  Give to them all, I pray, such a sense of Thy presence with them as may turn their loneliness into comfort and their trouble into peace.
 
O most loving God, who in the Person of Thy Son Jesus Christ didst manifest Thy love to man by relieving all manner of suffering and healing all manner of disease, grant Thy blessing, I pray, to all who in any corner of the world are serving in Christ's name:
    All ministers of the gospel of Christ:
    All social workers:
    All missionary workers abroad:
    All doctors and nurses who faithfully tend the sick.  Accomplish through them Thy great purpose of goodwill to men, and grant them in their own hearts the joy of Christ's most real presence.
 
And to me also, as I lie down, grant, O gracious Father, the joy of a life surrendered to Christ's service and the peace of sin forgiven through the power of His Cross. Amen.

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Beloved,
        John Baillie was a Scottish theologian and a Church of Scotland minister, as well as professor at Edinburgh University.  In 1936 he published "A Diary of Private Prayer", which has Morning and Evening prayers for each day of the month.  The copy I have first belonged to my Grandmother, Mrs. T.E. Roberts.  This week we will look at some of my favorites:
 
Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of Thee, let my first impulse be to worship Thee, let my first speech be Thy name, let my first action be to kneel before Thee in prayer.
 
For Thy perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
For the love wherewith Thou lovest mankind:
For the love wherewith Thou lovest me:
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:
For the indwelling of Thy Spirit in my heart:
For the sevenfold gifts of Thy Spirit:
        I praise and worship Thee, O Lord.
 
Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of Thee.  Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day:
Keeping me chaste in thought:
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Thine.
 
O God, who hast been the Refuge of my fathers through many generations, be my Refuge today in every time and circumstance of need.  Be my Guide through all that is dark and doubtful.  Be my Guard against all that threatens my spirit's welfare.  Be my strength in time of testing.  Gladden my heart with Thy peace; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

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In preparation for sharing Communion tomorrow, first the communion prayers from the Didache, the early Christian discipleship manual, and then a prayer from "Valley of Vision" entitled: The Lord's Supper:
 
 
First concerning the Cup: "We give thanks to you, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David, your child, which you made known to us through Jesus, your child; to you be glory for ever."
 
And concerning the broken Bread:  We give you thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus, your child.  To you be glory for ever.  As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountians, but was brought together and became one, so let your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
                                                                                                Didache (2nd Century) 
 
God of all good,
I bless thee for the means of grace;
teach me to see in them thy loving purposes
and the joy and strength of my soul.
 
Thou hast prepared for me a feast;
and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,
I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,
and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation
and see his wondrous grace,
I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.
 
By thy spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.
While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour's death,
may I ponder why he died, and hear him say,
'I gave my life to purchase yours,
presented myself an offering to expiate your sin,
shed my blood to blot out your guilt,
opened my side to make you clean,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.'
 
Oh may I rightly grasp the breadth and length of this design,
draw near, obey, extend the hand,
take the bread, receive the cup,
eat and drink, testify before all men
that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,
reverence and love, receive my Lord,
to be my life, strength, nourishment, joy, delight.
In the supper I remember his eternal love,
boundless grace, infinite compassion,
agony, cross, redemption,
and receive assurance of pardon, adoption, life, glory.
 
As the outward elements nourish my body,
so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate my soul,
until that day when I hunger and thirst no more,
and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast
.
                           
                                                                                Valley of Vision

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Beloved,
 
The "Didache" or "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" was a handbook of Christian morals and church order that probably dates from the early second century.  In addition to recommending the Lord's Prayer and several communion prayers, it encourages believers to give thanks in prayer:
 
We give thanks to you, O Holy Father, for your Holy Name which you made to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you made known to us through Jesus, thy Child.  To you be glory forever.
 
You, Lord Almighty, created all things for your Name's sake, and gave food and drink to people for their enjoyment, that they might give thanks to you, but us you have blessed with spiritual food and drink and eternal light through your Child.
 
Above all we give thanks to you for you are mighty: To you be glory forever.
 
Remember, Lord; thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it together in its holiness from the four winds to your kingdom which you have prepared for it.  For yours is the power and the glory forever.
 
Let grace come and let this world pass away.  Hosanna to the God of David.  If any man be holy, let him come!  If any man be not, let him repent:  Maranatha, Amen.

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A short prayer today from a man named Origen (185-254) , an early Christian scholar and theologian who taught in Alexandria, Egypt. 
 
 
 Jesus, my feet are dirty. Come even as a slave to me, pour water into your bowl, come and wash my feet. In asking such a thing I know I am overbold, but I dread what was threatened when you said to me, “If I do not wash your feet I have no fellowship with you.” Wash my feet then, because I long for your companionship.
—Origen (c. 185–254)

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A euchologion is a worship service book containing liturgies and prayers (see, you even get SAT words thrown in along with prayers!)  Fragments from this book, called the Euchologium Sinaiticum were found by archeologists in a monastery in Mt. Sinai in 1850.  The book dated from the 11th century, but some of the prayers, like the one below, came from the 4th century.  Ancient stuff, but still the same power of the gospel!! 

Hope to see you all tonight for worship and soup.  Pastor Tom 

 

Be off, Satan, from this floor and from these four walls. This is no place for you; there is nothing for you to do here. This is the place for Peter and Paul and the holy Gospel; and this is where I mean to sleep now that my worship is done, in the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [God] send me your Spirit; instill the wisdom of your Holy Spirit into my heart; protect my soul and body, every limb in my body, every fiber of my being, from all possible harm and all traps the Devil may set for me and every temptation to sin. Teach me to give you thanks, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Euchologium Sinaiticum

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We continue a week of prayers from the Earliest Church:
 
ON you we call, Lord God, all-wise, all-surveying, holy, the only true Sovereign. You created the universe, you watch over all that exists. Those that are in darkness, overshadowed by death, you guide into the right road, the safe road. Your will is that all men should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.
 
With one voice we offer you praise and thanksgiving; full-hearted, full-throated we sing you the hymn you have a right to at this hour. In your mercy you called to us (holy the calling!), taught us and trained us, gave understanding, wisdom, truth to us, life eternal.
 
You bought us back with the pure and precious blood of your only Son, freed us from lies and error, from bitter enslavement, released us from the Devil’s clutches and gave us the glory of freedom.
We were dead and you renewed the life of our souls and bodies in the Spirit.
 
We were soiled and you made us quite spotless again.
 
We pray you, merciful Father, God from whom all encouragement comes, give us strength to act as befits men with such a vocation, such calling to worship, such newness of life.
We mean to observe the sacred commands of the divine law; we long to come closer to you, closer today, long to have light from you, light to know you and serve you.
 
We pray you, give us the strength to do all this with a will.
Do not think of the sins we have committed or of those we still commit.
Put out of your mind the failings we give way to night and day.
Do not impute our offenses to us, whether we did them on purpose or whether we could not help them. Remember, Lord, that men are apt to make slips; we are a spineless race, given to blundering: think of our build, our limitations.
 
Our skins may be sound, but there are sores underneath.
O God, you are well disposed to us: give us the strength of your support. Give us encouragement; give the light that goes with it. Make us live by the dogmas of the faith preached by your holy apostles and the high teaching of the Gospels of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
May we not be content only to hear and to speak of them but behave and act as they bid us, for then our conduct will deserve reward.
 
Teach us to look upwards, to seek out and probe the heavenly, not the earthly.
If that is our attitude and if you act in us, what glory for your power, all-holy, omnipotent, worthy of all praise; glory through Jesus Christ, your beloved, with the Holy Spirit, now and throughout the ages. Amen.
- Ouchmounen Papyrus

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This week we will look at some prayers from the early church.  We can recognize that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  God Bless You.  Pastor Tom

 

We ask you, Master, be our helper and defender. Rescue those of our number in distress; raise up the fallen; assist the needy; heal the sick; turn back those of your people who stray; feed the hungry; release our captives; revive the weak; encourage those who lose heart. Let all the nations realize that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your Child, and that we are your people and the sheep of your pasture.

—1 Clement (c. 96)
 
Clement was bishop at Rome, and wrote this prayer in a letter to the church at Corinth, the very same Corinthians to whom Paul wrote.  This letter is one of the oldest Christian documents outside the New Testament.

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Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester

(1197-1253)

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits thou hast won for me,
For all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
May I know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly:
For ever and ever.
 
In my generation this prayer became the inspiration for the song “Day by Day” from “Godspell”   See you on the Lord's Day.  PT

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This simple but beautiful prayer was published in Salisbury (Sarum) England in 1558, in a collection of prayers called the Sarum Primer.  This is one to memorize!!

 

God be in my head
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart
and in my thinking;
God be at my end
and in my departing

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From last evening's worship, a prayer of confession, to the One who assures us that he washes us whiter than snow:

 

“Yet I Sin” from Valley of Vision

Eternal Father, Thou art good beyond all thought, but I am vile, wretched, miserable, blind; my lips are ready to confess, but my heart is slow to feel and my ways reluctant to amend.
I bring my soul to Thee; break it, wound it, bend it, mould it.

Unmask to me sin's deformity that I may hate it, abhor it, flee from it. My faculties have been a weapon of revolt against Thee:

as a rebel I have misused my strength, and served the foul adversary of Thy kingdom.

Give me grace to bewail my insensate folly, grant me to know that the way of transgressors is hard, that evil paths are wretched paths, that to depart from Thee is to lose all good.

I have seen purity and beauty of Thy perfect law, the happiness of those in whose heart it reigns, the calm dignity of the walk to which it calls, yet I daily violate and contemn its precepts.

Thy loving Spirit strives within me, brings me Scripture warnings, speaks in startling providences, allures by secret whispers, yet I choose devices and desires to my own hurt, impiously resent, grieve and provoke Him to abandon me.

All these sins I mourn, lament and cry pardon.
Work in me more profound and abiding repentance; give me the fullness of a godly grief, that trembles and fears, yet ever trusts and loves, which is ever powerful and confident; grant that through the tears and repentance I may see more clearly the brightness and glories of the saving cross.

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Beloved, On the day we shall meet to meditate on Luke 7: 36 -50, I offer you a verse, a meditation, and a short prayer, the verse from Hebrews 12: 2, and the meditation from Charles Spurgeon, and the prayer from an old hymn.
 
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
 
It is ever the Holy Spirit's work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.
He insinuates, "Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus."  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  
 
But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but the "Christ is all in all."
 
Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee- it is Christ;
it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee - it is Christ;
It is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument - it is Christ's blood and merits;
therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ;
look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope;
look not to they faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.
 
We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.
 
"Lord, deny me what thou wilt,
Only ease me of my guilt,
Prostrate at thy feet I lie,
Give me Christ, or else I die."

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Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Today's Lenten prayer is call the Te Deum Laudamus, or just Te Deum, an early Christian hymn of praise.  The Latin title means: "You, God, We Praise."  Tradition says that it was written by the early church leaders Ambrose and Augustine on the occasion of Augustine's baptism in 387 A.D.  Note to Choir Members:  Our favorite composer, John Rutter, has a musical version of this!!  Might it be in our future?  
 
WE praise thee, O God : we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
    All the earth doth worship thee : the Father everlasting.
    To thee all Angels cry aloud : the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
    To thee Cherubin and Seraphin : continually do cry,
    Holy, Holy, Holy : Lord God of Sabaoth;
    Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty : of thy glory.
    The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
    The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
    The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
    The holy Church throughout all the world : doth acknowledge thee;
    The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
    Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
    Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
    Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
    Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
    When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man : thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
    When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death : thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
    Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
    We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
    We therefore pray thee, help thy servants : whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
    Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.
    O Lord, save thy people : and bless thine heritage.
    Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
    Day by day : we magnify thee;
    And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
    Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
    O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
    O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us : as our trust is in thee.
    O Lord, in thee have I trusted : let me never be confounded.

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Beloved,  Three morning prayers for the start of the week:
 
LET US KNOW, let us press on
to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn.
Hosea 6: 3
I OWE the Lord a morning song
of gratitude and praise,
for the kind mercy he has shown
in lengthening out my days.
He kept me safe another night;
I see another day.
Now may his Spirit, as the light,
direct me in his way.
Amos Herr
WHO CAN TELL what a day may bring forth? Cause me, therefore, gracious God, to live every day as if it were to be my last, for I know not but that it may be such. Cause me to live now as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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Beloved, This prayer is the beginning of the Litany from the Book of Common Prayer, which has been a resource for Protestant worship for many years.  Tomorrow we will remember the Temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ and His victory.  We will also reflect on the temptations we are prone to "from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil."
 
O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth : have mercy upon us.
O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth : have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful: have mercy upon us.
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful: have mercy upon us.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God: have mercy upon us.
REMEMBER not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood.
Spare us, good Lord.
FROM all evil and mischief; from sin, from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting condemnation,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all uncleanness in thought, word, and deed; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all sedition, conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and Commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By thine Agony and bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; by thy sending of the Holy Spirit; by thy heavenly Intercession; and by thy Coming again in glory,
Good Lord, deliver us.
In all times of tribulation; in all times of prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgement,
Good Lord, deliver us.

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Beloved,
This prayer was written by St. Patrick (372-466), who gave much of his life to missionary work in Ireland.

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever by power of faith Christ's incarnation, his baptism in the Jordan river, his death on the cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb, his riding up the heavenly way, his coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to harken to my need,
the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward, the Word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me; Christ to comfort and restore me;
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three,
of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit Word; praise to the God of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord!