Saturday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time, 13 Jun 2020 – 2 Timothy 4:1-22, Psalm 116 ~ Preach the word of God… whether the time is favorable or not.

Saturday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time, 13 Jun 2020

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

Opening:

Merciful and gracious Father, you showed the fullness of your love when you gave your only Son for our salvation and sent down upon us the power of your Spirit. Complete within us the work of your love, that we who have communion in Christ may come to share fully the undying life he lives with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not.
Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

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A Reading from the Pastoral Epistles: 2 Timothy 4:1-22 (NLT)

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Paul’s Final Words

Timothy, please come as soon as you can. Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. Be careful of him, for he fought against everything we said.

The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.

Paul’s Final Greetings

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila and those living in the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed at Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick at Miletus.

Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus sends you greetings, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters.

May the Lord be with your spirit. And may his grace be with all of you.
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Morning Prayer:

Praise the Lord, all nations everywhere. Praise him, all the peoples of the earth.
For he loves us very dearly, and his truth endures. Praise the Lord.

You, Lord God, will someday judge the living and the dead when your Son, Jesus Christ, comes to set up his Kingdom. Prepare us for that Day –

+ that we may be conformed to the truth of your Word – corrected, rebuked, and encouraged by sound and wholesome teaching….

+ that we may reject false teaching that only reinforces what we want to hear – our prejudices, our false narratives, and our selfish desires….

+ that we may willingly suffer the consequences of telling others the Good News of Christ Jesus that has been entrusted to us….

+ that we may finish the work you have given us – fighting the good fight and remaining faithful to the end, eagerly awaiting Christ’s return….

+ that we may stay focused on the prize that awaits us – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give us on the day of his return….

You, Lord God, have stood with us and strengthened us through thick and thin – and you, Lord God, will deliver us from every evil attack and will bring us safely into your heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.

Praise the Lord, all nations everywhere. Praise him, all the peoples of the earth.
For he loves us very dearly, and his truth endures. Praise the Lord.

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Psalm 116 (TLB)

I love the Lord because he hears my prayers and answers them. Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I breathe!

Death stared me in the face—I was frightened and sad. Then I cried, “Lord, save me!” How kind he is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects the simple and the childlike; I was facing death, and then he saved me. Now I can relax. For the Lord has done this wonderful miracle for me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall live! Yes, in his presence—here on earth!

In my discouragement I thought, “They are lying when they say I will recover.” But now what can I offer Jehovah for all he has done for me? I will bring him an offering of wine and praise his name for saving me. I will publicly bring him the sacrifice I vowed I would. His loved ones are very precious to him, and he does not lightly let them die.

O Lord, you have freed me from my bonds, and I will serve you forever. I will worship you and offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Here in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem, before all the people, I will pay everything I vowed to the Lord. Praise the Lord.
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Psalm 116 (You Turned My Soul to Rest) -Robbie Seay Band

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Closing 2 Timothy 4:17-18 (TLB)

“The Lord stood with me and gave me strength… Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom.
All glory to God forever and ever!” Amen.

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

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

Friday, 10 Jan 2020, 2 Corinthians 11:16-13:14 ~ “My grace is all you need. Test yourselves.”

Friday, 10 Jan 2020

The Season of Epiphany

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

Opening –  (Collect for the Season of 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 – 2 Corinthians 11:16-13:14 (NLT)

Paul’s Many Trials

Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little. Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that!

But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.

Paul’s Vision and His Thorn in the Flesh

This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s Concern for the Corinthians

11 You have made me act like a fool. You ought to be writing commendations for me, for I am not at all inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I am nothing at all. When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you. The only thing I failed to do, which I do in the other churches, was to become a financial burden to you. Please forgive me for this wrong!

Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I don’t want what you have—I want you. After all, children don’t provide for their parents. Rather, parents provide for their children. I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.

Some of you admit I was not a burden to you. But others still think I was sneaky and took advantage of you by trickery. But how? Did any of the men I sent to you take advantage of you? When I urged Titus to visit you and sent our other brother with him, did Titus take advantage of you? No! For we have the same spirit and walk in each other’s steps, doing things the same way.

Perhaps you think we’re saying these things just to defend ourselves. No, we tell you this as Christ’s servants, and with God as our witness. Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you. For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior. Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.

Paul’s Final Advice

This is the third time I am coming to visit you (and as the Scriptures say, “The facts of every case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”. I have already warned those who had been sinning when I was there on my second visit. Now I again warn them and all others, just as I did before, that next time I will not spare them.

I will give you all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. Christ is not weak when he deals with you; he is powerful among you. Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. As you test yourselves, I hope you will recognize that we have not failed the test of apostolic authority.

We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth. We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature.

I am writing this to you before I come, hoping that I won’t need to deal severely with you when I do come. For I want to use the authority the Lord has given me to strengthen you, not to tear you down.

Paul’s Final Greetings

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.

Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All of God’s people here send you their greetings.

]May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
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Reflection:

As Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthian church, two themes emerge – our weaknesses, and our faith.

1. Our weaknesses:

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions,
and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 –

It’s helpful to re-read 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (click here) to remind ourselves about the extent of Paul’s sufferings for Christ – taken in aggregate he is not exaggerating when he says he is left physically and emotionally exhausted. The surprise is he remains spiritually strong. How can that be? Because less of Paul means more of Christ, i.e. when Paul is at his weakest, Christ’s power at work through him is strongest.

While most of us have never come close to experiencing anything like Paul’s suffering, believers around the world throughout history certainly have, at least in part. How have they responded? How are they responding now? Some have been crushed by their troubles: and some have remained spiritually strong in the power of Christ, even though they were physically and emotionally devastated.

God’s word to Paul, is God’s word to us today – “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

2. Our faith:

Test yourselves.

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine.
– 2 Corinthians 13:5 –

As Paul’s letter draws to a close, his concern is that the Corinthian believers may have lapsed in their faith and fallen back into their old sinful ways. At times he has boasted of their faith, but he hasn’t seen them for a while and is receiving mixed reports from his companions who have visited them. What will he find when he personally visits them after his long absence?

I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior. Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure. (2 Corinthians 12:20-21)

Paul’s challenge to the church is to make sure their faith and practice align with God’s will as revealed by Jesus Christ through the Apostle.

Questions for consideration:

  • What are some of the weaknesses that affect your spiritual life? Are they external or internal? Please explain.
  • How have you experienced Christ’s power and strength when you were weakest? Please explain.
  • Who were the people that were instrumental in your becoming a believer? Please explain.
  • How do you think they would assess the current state of your faith and practice? Please explain.
  • When you examine yourself, what needs improvement in light of Paul’s concerns? Please explain.

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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.

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear our prayers, and grant that in our faith communities the pure Word of God may be preached and the Sacraments duly administered. Strengthen and confirm the faithful; protect and guide the children; visit and relieve the sick; turn and soften the wicked; arouse the careless; recover the fallen; restore the penitent; remove all hindrances to the advancement of your truth; and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church, to the honor and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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“I SEE GRACE” – New Creation

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, 02 Jan 2020, 1 Corinthians 15:35-16:24, 2 Corinthians 1 ~ We thought we would never live through it.

Thursday, 02 Jan 2020

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

Opening (A Collect for Guidance – Thursday)

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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1st Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:35-16:24 (NLT)

The Resurrection Body

But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
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Ain’t No Grave
– Bethel Music & Molly Skaggs

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The Collection for Jerusalem

Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem. And if it seems appropriate for me to go along, they can travel with me.

Paul’s Final Instructions

I am coming to visit you after I have been to Macedonia, for I am planning to travel through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay awhile with you, possibly all winter, and then you can send me on my way to my next destination. This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me. In the meantime, I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost. There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.

When Timothy comes, don’t intimidate him. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am. Don’t let anyone treat him with contempt. Send him on his way with your blessing when he returns to me. I expect him to come with the other believers.

Now about our brother Apollos—I urged him to visit you with the other believers, but he was not willing to go right now. He will see you later when he has the opportunity.

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.

You know that Stephanas and his household were the first of the harvest of believers in Greece, and they are spending their lives in service to God’s people. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to submit to them and others like them who serve with such devotion. I am very glad that Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus have come here. They have been providing the help you weren’t here to give me. They have been a wonderful encouragement to me, as they have been to you. You must show your appreciation to all who serve so well.

Paul’s Final Greetings

The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings. All the brothers and sisters here send greetings to you. Greet each other with a sacred kiss.

HERE IS MY GREETING IN MY OWN HANDWRITING—PAUL.

If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed. Our Lord, come!

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.
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2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 1 (NLT)

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.

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

God Offers Comfort to All

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

Paul’s Change of Plans

We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.

Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twice— first on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea.

You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” 19 For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.
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Reflection:

We thought we would never live through it.

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure,
and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die.
But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again.
We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.
And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks
because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.
– 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 –

Today’s reading takes us from a discussion of “the resurrection of the dead” to a discussion of the comfort that Paul received from God when he was overwhelmed by affliction. We don’t know the specifics of his suffering, but we do know its intensity – Paul thought he was going to die. Nevertheless, he was comforted by thought that God raises the dead, if it should come to that. What can we learn from Paul’s experience as we face the new year with all its uncertainties?

  • God is our merciful Father, the source of all mercy.
  • God graciously comforts and consoles us when afflicted.
  • God supplies more strength and encouragement  than our affliction.
  • God comforts us so that we can comfort others in their afflictions.

Paul’s experience teaches us that affliction does four things for us.

  1. It makes us more sympathetic to others in their afflictions.
  2. It gives us a greater appreciation for God’s super-abounding comfort and encouragement, which He brings to us with the affliction.
  3. It causes us to trust in God more; in both good and bad times we can be certain that God is with us.
  4. It gives us greater confidence in God’s power and greater hope for the future no matter how uncertain.

Questions for consideration:

  • Have you experienced God’s comfort during a time of great affliction? Please explain
  • Has your experience of God’s comfort made you more sympathetic towards others? Please explain.
  • Is there someone you know that needs your encouragement and comfort? Please explain.
  • As you approach the uncertainties of the new year, where do you need to rely more on God? Please explain.

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Prayer

O God, almighty and merciful, you heal the broken-hearted, and turn the sadness of the sorrowful to joy, Let your fatherly goodness be upon all whom you have made. Remember in pity all those who are this day destitute, homeless, elderly, infirm, or forgotten. Bless the multitude of your poor. Lift up those who are cast down. Mightily befriend innocent sufferers, and sanctify to them the endurance of their wrongs. Cheer with hope all who are discouraged and downcast, and by your heavenly grace preserve from falling those whose poverty tempts them to sin. Though they be troubled on every side, suffer them not to be distressed; though they are perplexed, save them from despair. Grant this, O Lord, for the love of him who for our sakes became poor, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. 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