Thursday, 27 Feb 2020, Philippians 2-4 ~ check your attitude

Thursday, 27 Feb 2020

The Season of Lent

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

Opening: Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian (AD 305-373)

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of laziness, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of sobriety, humility, patience and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

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Philippians 2-4 (NLT)

Have the Attitude of Christ

2 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

+ Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
+ Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
+ When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the tender, compassionate, humble heart of Jesus –

  • that I may consider the interests of others before my own
  • that I may relinquish my position of privilege to serve others

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Shine Brightly for Christ

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
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Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the tender, compassionate, humble heart of Jesus –

  • that I may allow his power to enable me to show my faith and please God
  • that I may hold firmly to the word of life and rejoice in serving God
  • that I may become a bright light in a world of crooked and perverse people

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Paul Commends Timothy

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

Paul Commends Epaphroditus

Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.
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Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the tender, compassionate, humble heart of Jesus –

  • that I may genuinely care for the welfare of others before my own
  • that I may care for what matters to Jesus and take joy in working for him

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The Priceless Value of Knowing Christ

3 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
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Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the tender, compassionate, humble heart of Jesus –

  • that I may rely only in what Christ has done for me and safeguard my faith
  • that I may know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

Pressing toward the Goal

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

4 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the tender, compassionate, humble heart of Jesus –

  • that I may focus on forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead
  • that I may press on to receive the heavenly prize for which Christ Jesus is calling me
  • that I may live as a citizen of heaven and eagerly await the return of Christ my Savior

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Words of Encouragement

Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the tender, compassionate, humble heart of Jesus –

  • that the peace of God may guard my heart and mind as I live in Christ Jesus
  • that my thoughts may be fixed on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
  • that I may keep putting into practice all that I have received from God’s word and Spirit

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Paul’s Thanks for Their Gifts

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.

At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the tender, compassionate, humble heart of Jesus –

  • that I may be thankful for everything I have generously received from the hand of God
  • that I may be content with what I now have whether a lot or little
  • that I may trust in God to care for me and supply everything I need
  • that I may trust in God to strengthen me in every difficulty I face

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Paul’s Final Greetings

Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
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Reflection:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
– Philippians 2.5 –

Questions for consideration:

  • What do you have to give up in order to serve others? Please explain.
  • How can you become a bright light in a dark world? Please explain.
  • Does what matters to Jesus differ from what matters to you? Please explain.
  • What in the past do you need to forget in order to look ahead to the future? Please explain.
  • Where do you need the peace of God to safeguard your heart? Please explain.
  • Where do you need God’s help to strengthen and care for you. Please explain.

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“Press On” – Selah

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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

Tuesday, 25 Feb 2020, Acts 28, Philemon, Philippians 1 ~ Paul’s Imprisonment in Rome

Tuesday, 25 Feb 2020

The Season of Epiphany

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

Opening:  (A Collect for Epiphany)

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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Reading: Acts 28 (NLT)

Paul on the Island of Malta

Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. he people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.

As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.

Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’ father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.

Paul Arrives at Rome

It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days. From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.

The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.

When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.

Paul Preaches at Rome under Guard

Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, because they found no cause for the death sentence. But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.”

They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here. But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”

So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening. Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul:
“The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,

‘Go and say to this people:
When you hear what I say, you will not understand.
When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.
For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.’

So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”

For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.
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Philemon (NLT)

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

Paul’s Appeal for Onesimus

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.

Paul’s Final Greetings

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
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Philippians 1 (NLT)

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.

I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the church leaders and deacons.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Paul’s Joy That Christ Is Preached

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

Paul’s Life for Christ

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Live as Citizens of Heaven

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
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Reflection:

Paul’s Imprisonment in Rome

For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense.
He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.
And no one tried to stop him.
– Acts 28:30-31 –

Paul Proclaims Christ in Rome

News of Paul’s arrival preceded him to Rome where he was welcomed and encouraged by a group of believers – the first Roman Christians that he had personally met. Finally in Rome, Paul was now able to minister in the heart of the Gentile world, as God had promised. Paul has built the vital bridge from Jerusalem to Rome and the Church is now on the march – nothing can stop it

Note: The Book of Acts ends around 62 AD, 29 years after the death and resurrection of Christ and the day of Pentecost.

Paul intercedes for Onesimus

Paul wrote to Philemon from Rome. Onesimus may have been a runaway slave, or he may simply have been involved in some domestic trouble with Philemon in Colossae. Nevertheless, he eventually made his way to Rome. There, as God would have it, he came into contact with Paul and became a Christian – becoming a valuable helper to him. But Onesimus had to make things right with Philemon whom he had wronged. Paul appeals to Philemon to receive Onesimus back with kindness as a brother in Christ, not simply as a runaway slave. Christ Jesus has changed their relationship forever.

Paul Lives for Christ

Paul also wrote his letter to the Philippians from prison in Rome. Paul wanted to thank the Philippians for their generous support, and explain to them how God was using his imprisonment to advance the Gospel. The letter is positive and personal, reflecting Paul’s joyful spirit.

I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.
But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.

– Philippians 1:20-21 –

This affirmation succinctly summarizes Paul’s philosophy of life. For him, regardless of the decision about whether he would continue to live or die or the opinions of other people, saved or lost, his whole life revolved around Jesus Christ.

Historians debate the exact date or manner in which Paul died, but it is almost universally accepted that he was martyred. Based on historical events of the day, it is likely that Paul was beheaded, possibly around the same time that Peter was crucified. Given the political turmoil of the day, both apostles could have been caught up in a wave of attacks on Christians following a great fire in Rome. (Christianity.com)

Questions for consideration:

  • Given the limitations of your own personal situation, what opportunities do you have to witness to your faith in Christ? Please explain.
  • Have you ever worked with a person over a period of time, only to find out later that he/she was a  believer? How did that change your relationship? Please explain.
  • For me to live is…. How would you complete that sentence – family, fame, fortune, career, sports, something else? Please explain.
  • What would you have to sacrifice in order to live or die for Christ?  Please explain.

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Prayer: Of Self-Dedication (William Temple}

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
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“To live is Christ” – Sidewalk Prophets

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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

The Last Sunday of Epiphany, 23 Feb 2020, Ex 24:12-18, Ps 99, Phil 3:7-14, Matt 17:1-9 ~ The Transfiguration

The Last Sunday of Epiphany

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

Opening Prayer:

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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“He Sits Enthroned” (Psalm 99) – Sons of Korah

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:1-9 (NLT)
(NLT)

The Transfiguration

Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
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“Be Not Afraid” – John Michael Talbot

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Intercession:

Almighty and everliving God, Inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord; and grant that all who confess your holy Name may agree in the truth of your holy Word, and live in unity and godly love. We pray especially –

+ That you lead the nations of the world in the way of righteousness; Grant that our leaders may impartially administer justice, uphold integrity and truth, restrain wickedness and vice, and protect true religion and virtue.

+ That you give grace to all Church leaders, that by their life and teaching, they may proclaim your true and life-giving Word, and rightly and duly administer your holy Sacraments.

+ That you give your heavenly grace to our worshiping congregations, that with reverent and obedient hearts we may hear and receive your holy Word, and serve you in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives.

+ That you prosper all those who proclaim the Gospel of your kingdom throughout the world, and strengthen us to fulfill your great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that you have commanded.

+ That in your goodness, you may comfort and sustain all who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness  of body, mind, or spirit, or any other adversity especially those suffering persecution for their faith.

+ Almighty and everliving God, grant these our prayers for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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“We Have Seen His Glory” – Praise And Harmony Singers

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Closing: Philippians 3:9-11(NLT)

“God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”
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+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, 17 Feb 2020, Acts 26-27 ~ Paul: acquitted, transported, shipwrecked, and protected.

Monday, 17 Feb 2020

The Season of Epiphany

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

Opening:  (A Collect for Epiphany)

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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Reading: Acts 26-27 (NLT)

Paul Witnesses to King Agrippa

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”

Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!

“As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”

But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”

Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left. As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”

And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

Paul Sails for Rome

When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a ship whose home port was Adramyttium on the northwest coast of the province of Asia; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province.

The next day when we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul and let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs. Putting out to sea from there, we encountered strong headwinds that made it difficult to keep the ship on course, so we sailed north of Cyprus between the island and the mainland. Keeping to the open sea, we passed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, landing at Myra, in the province of Lycia. There the commanding officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board.

We had several days of slow sailing, and after great difficulty we finally neared Cnidus. But the wind was against us, so we sailed across to Crete and along the sheltered coast of the island, past the cape of Salmone. We struggled along the coast with great difficulty and finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it.

“Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.” But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. And since Fair Havens was an exposed harbor—a poor place to spend the winter—most of the crew wanted to go on to Phoenix, farther up the coast of Crete, and spend the winter there. Phoenix was a good harbor with only a southwest and northwest exposure.

The Storm at Sea

When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale.

We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.

The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.

No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”

The Shipwreck

About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria, the sailors sensed land was near. They dropped a weighted line and found that the water was 120 feet deep. But a little later they measured again and found it was only 90 feet deep. At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight.

Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship.  Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.

Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said. “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.” Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat— all 276 of us who were on board. After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.

When morning dawned, they didn’t recognize the coastline, but they saw a bay with a beach and wondered if they could get to shore by running the ship aground. So they cut off the anchors and left them in the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail, and headed toward shore. But they hit a shoal and ran the ship aground too soon. The bow of the ship stuck fast, while the stern was repeatedly smashed by the force of the waves and began to break apart.

The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore.
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Reflection:

Paul: acquitted, transported, shipwrecked, and protected.

Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left. As they went out,
they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”

And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

– Acts 26:30-32 –

Sometimes God gets us where he wants us by a circuitous road that we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves.

In today’s reading Paul begins his journey to Rome in Caesarea where he is brought before King Agrippa for an informal hearing of his case. Paul recounts the story of his conversion, and explains his appointment to proclaim the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ as foretold by the prophets – “that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.” Agrippa was clearly moved, but not yet persuaded.

And so, because Paul has appealed to Caesar, he is transported to Rome for trial under the guard of Roman soldiers. But that is easier said than done. The travel requires sailing across the Mediterranean Sea under unfavorable weather conditions, eventually ending in shipwreck on an island. Still, Paul is not deterred – trusting in God’s purpose and protection – to safely deliver him to “stand trial before Caesar!”

Questions for consideration:

  • Can you think of a time when God worked in your life in a round-about way? Please explain.
  • Has God ever taken you someplace that you didn’t want to go? How did it work out? Please explain.
  • Has God ever encouraged you with dreams or visions when you were under stress? Please explain.
  • Consider where you are in life today. How did you get here? Is this where God wants you to be? Please explain.

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Prayer: For Trustfulness in Times of Worry and Anxiety

Most loving Father, you will us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on the One who cares for us. Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested unto us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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” Not Afraid “ – Jesus Culture

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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

The Sixth Sunday of Epiphany, 16 Feb 2020, Matthew 5:17-37 ~ Kingdom righteousness

The Sixth Sunday of Epiphany

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

Opening 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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“Only A Holy God” – CityAlight

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:17-37 (NLT)
(NLT)

Teaching about the Law

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

Teaching about Anger

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

“When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.

Teaching about Adultery

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye]—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Teaching about Divorce

“You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.

Teaching about Vows

“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
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“Psalm 119:33-40” – The Corner Room

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Intercession:

Wise and Gracious  God: Hear your people’s cries for help and mercy in these times of trouble. We pray especially –

  • That all who follow Jesus may make wise choices that not compromise with evil…
  • That all who follow Jesus may seek you all our hearts and walk only in your ways …
  • That all who follow Jesus may live godly lives and not wander from your commands..
  • That all who follow Jesus may be guided in every decision by your Word and Spirit…
  • That all who follow Jesus may live forgiven, shame-free lives, transformed by your grace…
  • That all who follow Jesus may live generously, giving to others as freely as we have received…
  • That all who follow Jesus may speak peace and healing, with Kingdom authority, into the lives of others…
  • That all who follow Jesus may be bearers of Kingdom life and light, dispelling this world’s darkness…

Gracious God, you lead your people along paths of righteousness; hear our prayers and help us stay the course you have laid out before us – we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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“His Mercy Is More” – Shane & Shane

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Closing: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NLT)

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

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