3rd Sunday after Pentecost, 30 Jun 2019: Gal 5:1,13-25; Luke 9:51-62 ~ Free to put Jesus first!

Third Sunday after Pentecost

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening Prayer:

Sovereign God, ruler of our hearts, you call us to obedience and sustain us in freedom. Keep us true to the way of your Son, that we may leave behind all that hinders us and, with eyes fixed on him, walk surely in the path of the kingdom, where he lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
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“I am Free” – Newsboys

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A Reading from the New Testament: Gal 5:1,13-25 (NLT)

Freedom in Christ

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
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For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

Living by the Spirit’s Power

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
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A Reading from the Gospels: Luke 9:51-62 (NLT)

Opposition from Samaritans

As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village.

The Cost of Following Jesus

As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
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Intercession:

Almighty God: You have created a new people for Your very own possession through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ. And, You have set us free from sin and shame to love and serve You and to live as citizens of Your coming Kingdom through the power of Your Spirit at work in us. Hear our prayer, gracious God, for all those who follow Jesus –

+ That all church leaders may faithfully and courageously proclaim the coming of Your Kingdom….
+ That all church leaders may receive the gifts they need for the ministries You have given them….
+ That all believers may follow Jesus wholeheartedly as guided and empowered by Your Spirit….
+ That all believers may grow in grace and visibly demonstrate the good fruit of Your Spirit in their lives….
+ That all who are fearful and anxious may receive Your support through the loving-kindness of believing friends….
+ That all believers suffering persecution may be delivered from evil and receive help, healing and hope….
+ That all believers on vacation may travel safely and be renewed by the wonders that You show them….
+ That all believers may receive Your mercy and help where we need it most….

Almighty God, our Refuge and our Strength: Hear our prayers and work Your perfect will in our lives, we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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“No Longer Slaves” – Jonathan David & Melissa Helser

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Closing: – Psalm 16 (excerpts)

You are my inheritance, O Lord. Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge…
You are my inheritance, O Lord. I bless the LORD who counsels me…
You are my inheritance, O Lord. Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices…
You are my inheritance, O Lord. You will show me the path to life…

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+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday Morning, 29 Jun 2019 – James 2:1-13 ~ Faith and Favoritism

Saturday Morning

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening:  (A Collect for Sabbath Rest – Saturday)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and set aside a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared to meet you in worship, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Reading from the Book of James 2:1-13 (NLT)

A Warning against Prejudice

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
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Morning Reflection:

Faith and Favoritism

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ
if you favor some people over others?

–  James 2:1 –

In today’s reading, James comes right to the point: Showing personal favoritism is inconsistent for Christians who worship the glorious Lord Jesus Christ. The example offered is preferential seating of the rich and powerful at Christian gatherings.

In regard to the poor:

+ God has chosen the believing poor to be rich in faith.
+ The believing poor will inherit the Kingdom of God.

In regard to the rich:

+ The unbelieving rich oppress the poor.
+ The unbelieving rich slander Jesus Christ.

The problem of showing favoritism in Christian assemblies is that it treats people exactly opposite to the way God treats them.

Questions for consideration:

  • Can you think of examples where the rich and powerful have been given preferential treatment at Christian gatherings? Please explain.
  • Can you think of examples of people who expect preferential treatment at Christian assemblies? Please explain.
  • Does focusing a church’s ministry on one segment of the population, e.g. youth, or community leaders, amount to showing them preferential treatment? Please explain.
  • Can you think of people in your Christian assembly who are marginalized, e.g. poor, sick, or elderly? How can you show them courtesy and compassion? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer:

Prayer for the Poor and Powerless:

Heavenly Father: We pray especially today for the poor and powerless whom you hold close to your heart. Open our hearts to receive them as you do – rich in faith, though poor in worldly status. Fill us with compassion for the very young, the old, the disabled, the stranger – that we might honor them with our friendship and express our concern for them with acts of kindness and love. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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“All the Poor and Powerless” – All Sons & Daughters

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday Morning: 28 Jun 2019 – James 1:12-27 ~ Faith and Obedience

Friday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (A Collect for Endurance – Friday)

Almighty God, whose beloved Son first suffered pain and crucifixion before entering into glory: Mercifully grant that we, walking in his footsteps, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – James 1:12-27 (NLT)

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

Listening and Doing

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
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Morning Reflection:

Faith and Obedience

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.

– James 1:12 –

In today’s reading, James builds on his premise that God uses our troubles to perfect us in faith and obedience that we might receive his promised reward – “the crown of life” – life to its fullest potential in the present and in the future.

But that premise requires clarification: God is not the source of our temptations, he simply uses them for our good. Rather than blaming God we need to recognize that we are responsible when we yield to temptation, not God. So how does temptation work?

+ Temptation comes from our own sinful desires.
+ These desires give birth to sinful actions.
+ When unchecked, these sinful actions lead to death.

Nevertheless, God is good; his desire is to bless us –

He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word.
And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
– James 1:18 –

So, how then can we respond positively to the God who chose us and loves us? By accepting God’s Word, by acting on it, and by abiding by it. Here are some practical examples to follow –

+ Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry
+ Control what you say and do, shun filth and evil
+ Humbly accept the word God
+ Care for orphans and widows in their distress
+ Refuse to let the world corrupt you

Questions for consideration:

  • As you consider these practical examples of faith and obedience, which one(s) are most difficult for you? Please explain.
  • What would would you need to do (or not do) in order to act positively on God’s word to you? Please explain.
  • Obedience is not simply a one-off, it is ongoing; and for believers it means taking on a lifestyle that distinguishes us from that of the world. Can you think of one way you are influenced by the corruption of the world? And what would it take to resist that influence? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: For Holy Thought

O God, without whose beauty and goodness our souls are unfed, without whose truth our reason withers: Consecrate our lives to your will, giving us such purity of heart, such depth of faith, and such steadfastness of purpose, that in time we may come to think your own thoughts after you; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

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“Christ Be All Around Me” – All Sons & Daughters

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Thursday Morning: 27 Jun 2019 – James 1:1-11 ~ Faith and Endurance

Thursday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: Guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our lives we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – James 1:1-11 (NLT)

Greetings from James

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.

Greetings!

Faith and Endurance

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
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Morning Reflection:

Faith and Endurance

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy.
– James 1:2 –

Today we begin reading the Letter of James, written by the Apostle James (a leader of the Church in Jerusalem) to Jewish converts living outside of Israel.

The primary purpose of the letter is to strengthen the faith and loyalty of Jewish converts to Christianity in the face of antagonism and persecution from religious Jews. In this regard, the letter of James offers practical advice to all Christian converts on how to live godly lives in the face of hostility from their unbelieving families and former associates.

He begins by urging a change of attitude toward our troubles – “consider it an opportunity for great joy.” Why? Because God uses trials to shape believers into people that will glorify Himself. How does that work?

+ Troubles produce endurance
+ Endurance produces maturity
+ Maturity produces contentment

Are you confused by James’ admonition? Then ask God for wisdom – and trust in God alone, by faith, to give it to you.

Questions for consideration:

  • How do you view your current the troubles? As an opportunity for great joy? Or something else? Please explain.
  • What do you think is the difference between asking God for wisdom, and asking God for help? Please explain.
  • What temptations do you face to divide your loyalty between faith is in God alone, and faith in something else? Please explain.
  • Do you consider yourself a stable, or unstable, believer? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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“Is He Worthy?” – Chris Tomlin

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Wednesday Morning: 26 Jun 2019 – Hebrews 13:1-25 ~ Live honorably by faith in Jesus Christ!

Wednesday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (A Collect for Grace – Wednesday)

O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us safely to the beginning of this day: Defend us by your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin nor run into any danger; and that guided by your Spirit, we may do what is righteous in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Hebrews 13:1-25 (NLT)

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.

We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat. Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. And especially pray that I will be able to come back to you soon.

Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to pay attention to what I have written in this brief exhortation.

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.

Greet all your leaders and all the believers there. The believers from Italy send you their greetings.

May God’s grace be with you all.
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Morning Reflection:

Live honorably by faith in Jesus Christ!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
– Hebrews 13:8 –

In this last chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we are instructed on how to live honorably by faith in Jesus Christ. The instructions are pastoral in nature, addressing the issues that believers face in every generation. We are pilgrims in a constantly changing world, but Jesus Christ never changes – “He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”  He is the beginning and the end of our faith.

So, how then can we live honorably by faith in Jesus Christ?

+ Stay connected with other believers – loving each other as brothers and sisters.
+ Show hospitality to strangers – welcome them as sent from God.
+ Remember those who are persecuted and imprisoned for their faith – it could happen to you.
+ Honor and remain faithful to one another in marriage – avoid sexual temptation.
+ Cultivate contentment – God will supply your needs; he will not fail you.
+ Remember the godly leaders you have known – follow their teachings and examples.
+ Do good and share with those in need – consider it an offering of praise and sacrifice to God.
+ Follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ – by grace Jesus saves us, sustains us and strengthens us.

“This, I think, is the key message of Hebrews:
‘You can be secure while everything around you is falling apart!’“

Warren Wiersbe

Questions for consideration:

  • As you consider what it means to live honorably by faith in Jesus Christ, in what areas are you most successful? Please explain.
  • Where do you need help to grow In faith? Where can you find that help to grow in Christ? Please explain.
  • Where do you need to grow in contentment? Do you believe that God knows and will supply your needs? Please explain.
  • Where do you need to hold onto your security in Jesus right now? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: 

Prayer for Honorable Living: – Hebrews 13:20-21

Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

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“Is He Worthy?” – Chris Tomlin

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen