Wednesday Morning: 24 Jul 2019 – 1 John 4:7-21 ~ God’s children: live in God’s love.

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 – 1 John 4:7-21 (NLT)

Loving One Another

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
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Morning Reflection:

God’s children: live in God’s love.

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.
Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
– 1 John 4:7-8 –

Have you ever wondered why there are so many conflicts and divisions among professed believers? Could it be that we are more interested in fixing one another (doctrinally, or behaviorally) than we are in loving one another? But how can we love people with whom we disagree?

“The love which the New Testament enjoins involves a consuming passion
for the well-being of others, and this love has its wellspring in God.” (Bruce)

Loving other believers is our response to God’s own love, and his loving activity in Christ and in the the Church.

+ God’s love expresses the nature and character of God; God creates in love, God rules in love, God judges in love.
+ God’s love was revealed to us by sending his Son to die that we might receive eternal life.
+ God’s love is produced in us by God’s Spirit; through whom we are born of God, and know God.

“Since no one in all humanity is beyond the reach of our Savior’s sacrificial death,
no brother or sister should be beyond our sacrificial love.” (Hodges)

Questions for consideration:

  • Have you ever experienced conflict, or division, in the Church? How was it resolved? Please explain?
  • How could the conflict, or division, have been mitigated by sacrificial love? Please explain.
  • What part did you play (if any) in the conflict? Is there anyone with whom you need to be reconciled? Please explain.
  • How can you grow closer to God and, in so doing, “grow more perfect” in love? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: For Daily Growth (Richard of Chichester) –

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me, and all the benefits thou hast given me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother: Grant that I may see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.

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“How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” – 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

Wednesday Morning: 17 Jul 2019 – 2 Peter 3:1-18 ~ Look forward to the Day of the Lord.

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 – 2 Peter 3:1-18 (NLT)

The Day of the Lord Is Coming

This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him — speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

Peter’s Final Words

You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.
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Morning Reflection:

Look forward to the Day of the Lord.

On that day, he will set the heavens on fire,
and the elements will melt away in the flames.
But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised,
a world filled with God’s righteousness.
– 2 Peter 3:12-13 –

Peter concludes his second letter by responding to the question: “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?” Peter then warns believers to live with the Day of the Lord (Jesus’ return) in mind – and with it the promise of a new heavens and earth.

“A scoffer is someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously.”
(Warren Wiersbe)

+ God is patient – The delay in Christ’s return is to allow unbelievers to be saved and believers to grow in faith. Further, God is Lord over all of creation – by his Word he created the heavens and the earth, and by his Word he sustains all things. Time itself is in God’s hands; God will do what  he will do in his own time – at just the right time.

+ Judgement is certain – The Day of the Lord will usher in a time of judgement of unbelievers and destruction of the heavens and earth as we know it. But just as certain is the creation of new heavens and a new earth, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

+ Live with the end in mind – Live looking forward to the promise of the new heavens and earth where righteousness dwells. In the meantime, we are to be at peace with God, and work out our salvation by living godly lives (spotless and blameless).

While you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort
to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

-2 Peter 3:14 –

Questions for consideration:

  • If you knew that the “Day of the Lord” were to come tomorrow, would you do anything differently? How would it affect your relationship with God and others? What would you do to get ready? Please explain.
  • As we wait patiently for Christ’s return, do you know an unbeliever who needs to repent and turn to Christ to be saved from destruction? What part can you play in their reconciliation with God? Please explain.
  • What would it mean for you to “make every effort to live a peaceful life? Who comes to mind when you think of being a peacemaker? Please explain.
  • When you think of living a “pure and blameless life,” where does your life need work? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: For the Unrepentant –

Merciful God, you desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to you and live; and through your only Son you have revealed yourself as the God who pardons iniquity. Have mercy on the unrepentant and those who do not believe. Awaken in them, by your Word and Holy Spirit, a deep sense of their sinfulness and peril. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of your Word. Grant them to know and feel that there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved, but only the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so bring them home and number them among your children, that they may be yours for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

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“O Zion haste” – Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church

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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: 10 Jul 2019 – 1 Peter 3:1-22 ~ Be prepared to explain your hope in 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 – 1 Peter 3:1-22 (NLT)

Wives

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands. For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.

Husbands

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

All Christians

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

Suffering for Doing Good

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.
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Morning Reflection:

Be prepared to explain your hope in Christ.

“You must worship Christ as Lord of your life.
And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”
– 1 Peter 3:15 –

Today’s reading refers back to Chapter 2, in the same way, re: the discussion of respecting authority and doing good, even in the face of injustice. The general idea is that believers should live such good and exemplary lives that their neighbors, and even their oppressors, would see how they live and ask, “What makes you different?”

What sort of behavior does Peter have in mind?

+ Believers should exhibit unity, sympathy, love, tenderness, and humility.
+ Believers should bless those who insult and oppress them.
+ Believers should be honest, speak the truth, do good and work for peace.

These facets of Christian living are straightforward enough when life is good; but what about when our lives turn sour – at home, at work, at church, or in our communities? But that’s Peter’s point; expect suffering as a believer and when you experience it, here’s how you should behave in order to honor Jesus Christ whom you serve.

Look at the contexts that Peter identifies.

+ Wives: Respect husbands even when it’s difficult because they’re unbelievers.
+ Husbands: Respect and honor wives as equal partners in God’s gift of new life.
+ Enemies: Love them and bless them, even as God has loved and blessed us.

In sum: It’s because of our exemplary lifestyle as believers tat people will ask us about our faith.

Questions for consideration:

  • Has anyone ever asked you about the hope you have in Jesus Christ? Please explain.
  • As you review the positive facets of Christian living that Peter cites, which ones do you think you exemplify? Which ones need work? Please explain.
  • In your experience, what context is most difficult to love and bless an oppressor, or enemy? Please explain.
  • What would you say is the reason for your hope in Christ? Can you explain it in less than 5 minutes? Try it.

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Morning Prayer:For Families –

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you set the solitary in families: We commend to your continual care the homes in which your people dwell. Put far from them every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and true godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy matrimony, have been made one flesh; turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be joined to one another with bonds of loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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“Glorious Day (Living He loved me)” – Casting Crowns

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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: 03 Jul 2019 – James 4:1-17 ~ Faith comes close to God.

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 – James 4:1-17 (NLT)

Drawing Close to God

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Warning against Judging Others

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

Warning about Self-Confidence

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
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Morning Reflection:

Faith comes close to God.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts,
for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

– James 4:8 –

What prevents us from coming close to God? Divided loyalty – we want to be friends with the world and with God at the same time. But that’s not possible, as James points out –

If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

So what should we avoid as believers living in the world?

+ Conflict and quarrels with other believers
+ Desiring personal pleasure over closeness with God
+ Praying to gratify our desires instead of aligning them with God’s will
+ Excluding God from our daily life, instead of relying on him in every aspect of our lives

God gives help (grace) to those who put God first in their lives. How do we do that?

+ Humble ourselves – Surrender of our will to God; ordering our priorities in harmony with his priorities.
+ Resist Satan – Refuse to give in to doubt, denial, disregard for God’s Word, and disobedience.
+ Purify ourselves – Confession and repentance removes our sins and cleanses our hearts so that we can live for God’s glory.

Questions for consideration:

  • In today’s reading, James assumes that believers have an ongoing battle with sin creeping into our lives. Is that true of you? Please explain.
  • We live in a time when “the world” with it’s values and priorities are paraded before us 24/7. Can you identify any “world values” that are preventing you from coming close to God? Please explain.
  • Where do you need God’s mercy and grace to resist the influence of Satan in your life? Please explain.
  • What role do confession and repentance have in your life? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: Collect for Purity

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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“Nearer, My God, to Thee” – Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute

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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