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For November 27, 2022


The four Sundays before Christmas form the season of Advent.  The word advent means “coming”.  We are talking about the coming of Jesus, past, present, and future.


The prophets of old long foretold the coming of the Messiah, God’s anointed one.  During this season, we will wait and watch for the coming of our savior.  We will learn about John the Baptist, who prepares the way for the Messiah.  We, too, will long with Jerusalem for his coming.


When we celebrate Christmas this year, we will do a little pretending.  We will express great joy that on this day our savior is born. During the season of Advent, we prepare our hearts for his arrival.  It is a time for a little house-cleaning; time to examine our spiritual failures, and resolve to serve the baby Jesus better in the future.


We are told, and know that Jesus will return again.  Part of our preparing for his arrival on Christmas Day is to remind ourselves of his second coming.  Our self-examination isn’t just to get ready for his pretend arrival on the 25th, but his promised arrival at some unknown time in the future.


If you’re like me, you want to go straight to the manger, and sing Silent Night and other favorite Christmas carols.  But first, we have some work to do.  We will begin in the future, and work our way backward.  This week, we will discuss his second coming.


ISAIAH 2:1-5


Things are not looking good for Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel has been overrun by the Assyrians.  Many have been carted off to Babylon.  Now, they are knocking on Judah’s door.  In the midst of all the fear, God speaks a word of promise through his prophet Isaiah


  • God gives Judah a glimpse into the future.  In the future, God will dwell once more in His house on a high hill (in Jerusalem).  (vv. 1-2)
  • People from all over the world will come to Jerusalem to learn about God.  (v. 3)
  • God will reigns as their king, and do what kings do—act as a judge in cases of dispute between nations and people.  (v. 4a)
  • God will do this in a remarkable new way—He will do it peaceably.  There will be no need for weapons of war, because there will be war no more.  (v. 4b)
  • “House of Jacob” is another name for God’s chosen people living in Judah.  He encourages them to live their lives with this hope in their heart.  (v. 5)


These words of hope must have sounded strange to those who first heard it, since they were expecting to be wiped out by the Assyrians.  After their defeat and movement into captivity, perhaps they held this glimmer of hope in their hearts.  More hopeful words would be spoken, but these were the first.  That is what it meant to those who first heard God’s Word,  But we Christians now read this passage through our “Jesus Glasses”.  With the coming of His son, all nations do flock to the New Jerusalem, his church, to receive God’s abundant grace.  We are still working on the “war thing”, so the work is not yet completed.  We’ll talk more on that below. 

ROMANS 13:11-14


This letter was written by Paul to the church in Rome.  That church consisted of a mix of Jewish and Gentile Christians.  It was written before he travelled there.  In this section of his letter, he offers some good advice on how to get along together and behave as a Christian family.


  • Verse 11 begins with “Besides that…”, which always makes me wonder what was said previously.  In the previous verses (vv. 8-10), Paul tells them to focus all their attention on loving one another.  That all the laws can be summed up in loving one another.  In this verse, he shifts gears with his “besides that”.  Besides loving one another, he wanted to talk about how to behave as Christians, knowing that Jesus could come at any time. (v. 11)
  • Paul uses the imagery of light and darkness to make his point.  They have turned away from their former religious lives (darkness), and now follow the Light of the World, Jesus.  In the same way, they should put away their former ways of darkness (our bad behaviors), and let their little lights shine, as the song goes.  The text really says to “put on the armor of light”, but that is the same thing, really.  (v. 12)
  • We are encouraged to live honorably, and not follow the desires of our own.  Paul often calls these “desires of the flesh”, which includes not just licentiousness, but jealousy and quarreling, too.  (v. 13)
  • Paul tells us to “put on Jesus”.  Just as we have put on Jesus in our baptism, like a baptismal robe.  We should clothe ourselves with Christ-like actions and attitudes.  In other words, practice the love he mentions in verses 8-10.  (v. 14)


It is all too easy to fall into the trap of all these sins of the flesh.  When someone crosses you, for example, it is easy to forget about the law of love, and get angry.  Here, we are reminded to live each day like Jesus will be here tomorrow.  Let it go.  Love one another.  Live in the light.

MATTHEW 24:36-44


Since we are beginning a new church year, the source of our gospel readings will change.  Last year, most of our readings came from Luke.  This year, they will come from Matthew. Occasionally, every year, readings from John will be used.  Most of the time, the readings cycle through Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in a three year cycle. 

Today’s reading from Matthew focuses on the end times—on Jesus’ second coming. 


  • Jesus makes a bold statement that many like to ignore:  NOBODY knows when he will return.  Not even Jesus knows!  Yet, many preachers make a lot of money claiming to predict this event.  (v. 36)
  • Jesus goes on to give some examples.  His first example is Noah and the Flood.  Nobody knew when that event was going to take place. Even Noah didn’t know when.  It is important to note that the evil people are swept away, not Noah and his faithful few.  (vv. 37-39a)
  • Jesus says that it’ll be just like that when he returns.  (v. 39b)
  • He gives two more examples.  Two are working. One is swept away, and the other left behind. This might sound like the rapture, but I will offer another point of view below, in the takeaway.  (vv. 40-41)
  • Jesus makes his point clear.  He wants us to keep awake, because we really don’t know when the day is coming.   (v. 40)
  • Jesus gives one final example.  It is about a homeowner who gets robbed.  If the homeowner had been alert to the fact that he was about to be robbed, he could have been prepared, and chased them away. (v. 43)
  • So, in case you haven’t gotten Jesus’ message by now, he tells us again—be ready!  He will return when we least expect it. 


Jesus came on Christmas Day a long time ago, and will come again.  The Kingdom of God that Jesus taught us about has already arrived, at least in part. It will be brought to completion when he returns.  We live in the in-between time. 

Christians have been teaching and expecting Jesus’ return for over 2,000 years now.  It is only natural that people have become complacent, and “fall asleep” about Jesus’ second coming.  When they fall asleep, so can their faith also fall asleep.  Jesus wants us to remain constantly alert and engaged. 

Advocates of the rapture warn Christians not to be “left behind”.  At first glance, three of Jesus stories above seem to support this teaching.  But take a closer look.  In the “left behind” concept, the unfaithful or unworthy are left behind, and the faithful are taken away.  But in the first story, Noah and his faithful family are left behind, while the wicked are swept away. In the stories about the field workers and miller women, it does not say whether those left behind were good or bad.  But if the story about Noah is Jesus’ first example, it follows that the good workers are left behind.  This is the exact opposite of what the believers of the rapture teach. Therefore, according to this teaching of Jesus, we want to be the ones left behind!

Whether you agree with me on this or not, Jesus point remains the same—do not become complacent in your faith. Keep awake, alert, and engaged. He just might be coming soon and very soon!


Who do we keep awake and prepare for his return?  Today’s reading from Romans offers a few good suggestions.  Can you think of more?


For November 20, 2022


Christ the King Sunday marks the end of the church year.  We examine Holy Scripture knowing that Jesus is our Messiah-king.  Next Sunday will be the first Sunday in Advent, which is the beginning of a new church year. 

For thousands of years, people were very aware of what a king was—they lived their lives under one for their entire lives. We Americans have been freed from the burdens of a ruling king for about 250 years.  We know what one is, and find it easy to say that Jesus is our king. But do we really know what that means? Before we begin our study, let’s reflect on this whole concept of kings and kingdoms.

A king:

  • Is an absolute monarch
  • He is not chosen—it is a birthright
  • He does what he wants, and asks no one for permission
  • Obedience to the king is not an option, it is obligatory

A good king:

  • Is just, and cares for his subjects 
  • He can be trusted to look out for his subjects’ best interests
  • Is a comfort and a treasure to his subjects
  • Loyalty and obedience come easily


A bad king:

  • Is selfish and cares little for justice or fairness
  • Is an awful tyrant—a dictator
  • Life is a misery under the rule of a bad king
  • Loyalty is expected from all, and it is enforced with a heavy hand




Jeremiah lived during a very troubled time.  He lived during a time when a series of bad kings ruled in Israel and Judah.  He witnessed the wealthy and powerful neglecting or abusing the poor and powerless for their own gain.  He also saw the strength of the Babylonian army building, and knocking at Judah’s door.  He realized that God was about to take corrective action, and upset Judah’s apple cart.  God sent him to proclaim this message.  He was the bearer of some bad news.


  • The proclamation begins with the word “woe”. This is not going to be good!  But this message is not directed at the agricultural community.  No.  It is directed at the spiritual and political “shepherds” of Judah.  Judah was a theocracy—the leaders were supposed to execute God’s will to His chosen people.  Theoretically, the court prophets were there to advise the king on God’s will for the people. But the king had his own agenda, and if a prophet wanted to remain in his court, he told the king what he wanted to hear.  The transgressions of these “shepherds” are detailed in chapter 22.  Suffice it to say that they took advantage of the poor and powerless to line their own pockets with gold.  God has had enough!  (vv. 1-2)
  • God is going to take matters into His own hands, and shepherd his flock Himself.  He will gather them up, and care for them.  He will give them a Good Shepherd, who will care for them.  (vv. 3-4)
  • God then promises to restore the reign of the Davidic line, raising up a king who will rule righteously over everyone.  (vv. 5-6)


Here begins the promise of a Messiah to God’s people.  They are about to experience much anguish at the hands of the Babylonians.  But God’s promise is that this is not the end, but a new beginning.  That all the corrupt and unjust kings that have been ruling their land are going to be replaced by one chosen by God himself. 

Christians have long seen Jesus as this promised one, the Messiah; our king.



Immediately after Paul’s letter of greeting to the church in Colossae, he jumps into some heavy statements about the essence of Jesus.  Paul paints a very clear picture of who Jesus really was.


  • This section begins by Paul wishing them to be made strong—ready to endure the hardship that they will surely faced because of their faith.  (v. 11)
  • They should “joyfully give thanks” to God for the inheritance [of life and faith] they received.  He calls them all “saints of the light”.  “The Light” is a reference to their devotion to Jesus as their savior-king.  (v. 12)
  • He goes on to say that God has rescued us from “The Power of Darkness”, and transferred them to the kingdom of his Son.  The darkness here refers either to the Roman Empire or to the religious order of the day. Either way, this is a strong statement. If Paul is referring to Roman Empire, this is a treasonous statement.  If it refers to the Jewish authorities, it is “merely” blasphemy, which is punishable by death.  (v. 13)
  • Next comes a description of Jesus and life in his kingdom:
    • We have redemption and forgiveness of sins (v. 14)
    • He was present at the creation of our world (vv. 15-16a)
    • Jesus actually created the kings and lords of our world, and they are all subject to him. (v. 16b)
    • Everything is subject to him.  Not only that, but he is the glue that holds it all together.  (v. 17)
    • Now, we switch from politics to the church.  He is not only the head of our church, but the first human to be raised from the dead to eternal life.  (v. 18)
    • And God really likes the end result.  Through His son, He has reconciled our checking account—there is no longer a discrepancy between His expectations of us and our sinful actions.  (vv. 19-20)


This not only clearly describes our Jesus, but it describes the ideal righteous king promised in Jeremiah 23.  

LUKE 23:33-43


In today’s gospel, we fast-forward to the crucifixion, and focus on the verbal exchange between the three men hanging on their crosses.  Earlier this year, we studied his trial, crucifixion, and resurrection.  Today, we will focus on the words which relate to Jesus’ kingship.


  • The first verse sets the scene.  Three are being crucified, with Jesus in the middle.  (v. 33)
  • True to the nature of Jesus and his Father, he prays for his Father to forgive his perpetrators for crucifying him.  [This alone could be a whole sermon!]  Then, the soldiers cast lots for the clothes they had stripped off those being crucified.  See Psalm 22:18.  (v. 34)
  • He is mocked by the crowd and by the soldiers. The soldiers unwittingly call him “The King of the Jews”, which is what Pilate had written on the sign hung above his head.  (vv. 35-38)
  • One of the criminals even joined the crowd with his mocking Jesus.  (v. 39)
  • The other criminal, however, recognized Jesus for who he really was.  He asks Jesus to remember him when he reigns in his kingdom.  Jesus, of course, recognizes the man’s faith, and assures him of his salvation.  (vv. 40-43)


Many on that day either recognized Jesus as their true king, or proclaimed him as such through their ignorant mocking.  Let us also proclaim Jesus as our king!


In the passage from Jeremiah, God promises us a king who is righteous—one whose actions are just and right.  We are promised a good king.

In Colossians, we see the attributes of Jesus.  He truly is our right-acting king.

Shall we join the second criminal being crucified with Jesus, and put our trust, faith, and loyalty with him? Jesus truly is our king!

For November 13, 2022



The end is near!  The church year, that is.  Advent marks the beginning of the church year, and that is only two Sundays away.  But this was also Malachi’s message.  He called for God’s people to change their ways, because the day of the Lord was at hand. He spoke of the return of Elijah, to call God’s people to repentance.  Christians would identify John the Baptist as the new Elijah. Let’s take a look at this very short passage.


  • We are warned, through Malachi, that God is about to take action.  This action is likened to a fire; a fire which burns all the evildoers. (v. 1)
  • The good news is that those who revere God’s name will be spared.  We should not fear this day—we will leap like caves from the stall.  (v. 2a)


Just a few weeks ago, we learned that God loves the humble heart.  What is the opposite of humility?  One answer could be arrogance.  In fact, Proverbs 16:5 states that “All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the Lord.”  This passage from Malachi also tells us that if we love the Lord, we need not fear God’s actions in the final days.  We can put our trust in Him, knowing that He will save us.




Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica is a sort of follow-up note to the first letter. It addresses one issue specifically. This church was especially keen on Jesus’ return.  In fact, some were preaching that he had already returned!  (See 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2.)  It appears that some were so convinced of this that they quit their jobs, knowing that the end was near.  This letter was written to urge them not to be deceived by false teachers, but to keep working, and be patient.   


  • This is the beginning of Paul’s advice to those who knew people who had quit working because the end was near.  He says to keep away from them; isolate yourself from them, and keep working. (v. 6a)
  • He then reminds them of the example they gave them, while they lived and preached among them. Even though Paul and his crew had the right to ask for pay without working, they chose to hold down jobs. This was to give them a good example of the Godly life.  All those who are able to work, should work.  (vv. 6b-11)
  • So, while we wait for Jesus’ return, we should keep working, and not be weary in our waiting for his coming.  (v. 12)


A long time ago, I would organize whitewater rafting trips for my friends.  We would all go, and have a good time rafting and camping together. Oftentimes, they would invite their friends to tag along.  One friend of a friend really wanted to go rafting with us, but declined.  He said that he expected the end of the world to come before our camping weekend, so it was not worth making those plans.  We all had a great time, except for him, since he stayed home waiting.  That was 30 years ago.

Many modern day preachers owe their success to preaching an end times message that is connected to current events.  Paul and Malachi tell us to keep our noses to the grindstone.  They tell us to beware of teachers with sensational claims.  Instead, we should keep the faith, and keep working. It will happen when it will happen. We can put our trust in Him, knowing that we are saved.  This will happen whether Jesus comes here first or we go there first.  Our job is to remain faithful, and keep working until that day comes. 

LUKE 21:5:19


In this part of Luke’s narrative, Jesus and his apostles have entered the holy city of Jerusalem. Here, they will celebrate the Passover meal, and Jesus will complete his earthly mission.  Chapter 22 is the beginning of this part of the story we call the Passion Narrative.  Jesus has some last words to say to his apostles.


  • As this passage begins, they were in the temple that Herod had restored.  It was a beautiful place with gold-plated doors, white marble, and beautiful tapestries from Persia.  These country-bumpkin Galileans were appropriately in awe.  (v. 5)
  • Jesus tells them to take a good look because it won’t be long before it will all be destroyed. (It occurred about 35 years later!) (v. 6)
  • They all respond with a typical question—WHEN???  (V. 7)
  • Jesus doesn’t give them the date, but turns this question into a teaching moment instead. He tells them to beware of people who will say that the end is near, and that they claim to be the returned Jesus. Jesus says to ignore these people. (v. 8)
  • Jesus then says that a lot of bad stuff is going to happen first.  (vv. 9-11)
  • Worse yet, “they will come and get all of you, and persecute you… because of my name.”  (v. 12)
  • He assures us that he [through the Holy Spirit] will give us the strength, the words, and the wisdom, when we have an opportunity to testify. (vv. 13-15)
  • Worse yet, we might even be betrayed by friends and family for being followers of Jesus. (vv. 16-17)
  • But Jesus assures us that if we have strength (endurance), we will be saved.  (vv.  18-19)


It is appropriate for Jesus to talk like this at this point in his life journey.  After all, he is about to be tried, tortured, and crucified for his obedience to the Father.  Those who follow him will encounter resistance from their families and friends, as well as those in authority.  We, too, can sometimes suffer for our faith in Jesus.  We need to focus our energy on strengthening our faith, and let God work out His plan to his own timetable. 


For November 6, 2022

DANIEL 7:1-3, 15-18


In modern times, many bible teachers like to use this book as a prediction of future times.  I do not ascribe to this crystal ball theology.  I have been taught that God speaks to His people in times of need.  He provides them with the strength and wisdom they require to get them through a difficult time.  When I read the bible, I try to keep this in mind.  This is why I try to understand what was happening to God’s people when His Word first came to them.  I strive to find this meaning, which was (and still is) God’s intent for His people. At the time that the book of Daniel was written, His people’s faith was being challenged.  The government was forcing them to worship other gods.  God steps in and speaks through his prophet. Let’s find out what God said.  In Daniel’s time, dreams were considered to be windows to divine thought or intent.  Dreams were a message from God, and needed to be interpreted.


  • In this story, the prophet Daniel has a troubling dream, which he writes down.  The details of this dream are spared us; they are the omitted verses 4-14.  Look them up, if you wish.  Basically, four beasts come up out of the sea, each one different than the other. It is important to note that to the writer and his audience, the sea was an ugly chaotic place.  Beasts that came out of the sea were not a good thing. (vv. 1-3)
  • This dream and these four beasts rattled Daniel.  He was scared.  (v. 15)
  • Apparently, in the dream there were attendants.  Daniel approaches one of them for an explanation.  (v. 16)
  • The attendant explains that the beasts are evil kings that come and go, but in the end, the “holy ones of the Most High” will reign forever.  (vv. 17-18)


Bible historians can identify the kings alluded to in these verses and the ones that follow.  (Yes, the gory story goes on.)  At the time this was written, horrible fates awaited those who refused to denounce their faith and adopt the religion of these evil kings.  But the point is clear.  Evil rulers will come and go.  Our job is to remain faithful to the Most High God.  In the end, a righteous ruler will prevail [Jesus], and rule the earth forever.  Whether you believe this book in its historical context or that it is a book predicting the end times, the message is clear.  Keep the faith!  Resist evil! God will triumph in the end.



Many believe that this letter to the church in Ephesus was intended for a wider audience.   This is good. It means that it is intended for you and me as well.  Today’s passage starts out in the middle of chapter 1.  Some key verses to grasp are verses three through five, which help us understand today’s passage:

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,…”

So, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, including adopting us as His children.


  • As God’s children, we have received an inheritance.  We receive this precious gift so that we “might live for the praise of his glory.”  We’ll discuss the hope that is mentioned when we look at verse 18.  (vv. 11-12)
  • Next, we are reminded of how we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. This is when we pledged to become one of God’s own people, and follow Him.  (vv. 13-14)
  • The Spirit must have been doing some fantastic work in Ephesus, because their reputation was well-known.  Nevertheless, the writer offers prayers to God for their continued growth in wisdom and the revealing of God’s will for them in their place.  (vv. 15-17)
  • When the Holy Spirit opens our hearts, we can gain a clearer understanding of the hope of the resurrection.  This is the inheritance we receive.  Just as our brother Jesus was resurrected, we too shall be resurrected, according to our adoption by God.  (v. 18)
  • It is this power that God used when he raised Jesus from the dead, and placed him at His right side.  From there Jesus will rule the earth until that day when he returns to rule here on earth. (vv. 19-23)


It takes a lot of ability and power to raise someone from the dead.  If fact, I know of only one instance—the resurrection of God’s Son Jesus. As adopted sons and daughters of God, we inherit this precious gift as well.  Praise be to God our Father!  

LUKE 6:20-31


This passage comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain.  Matthew’s gospel contains a details account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  In some ways they differ, but in many ways these sermons are similar.  Each gospel only includes one of these sermons.  It is my hunch that Jesus did not speak these things only twice, but spoke variations of these messages wherever he traveled.  After all, one of his missions on earth was to write the Law (of love) on our hearts, as we read in last week’s Old Testament lesson.  So, what is Jesus telling us about the way God values things?  In this sermon, he contrasts woes with blessings.  When you read this sermon, look for all the ways that God’s wisdom differs from ours. 


  • When Jesus looks up, he sees the crowd who came to be healed, the disciples (followers) who came to learn, and the apostles who dedicated their lives to continuing Jesus’ work after he was gone.  Jesus directs this sermon to the followers who came to learn.  (v. 20a)
  • Jesus begins by saying that poor people are “blessed”, or happy.  (v. 20b)
  • Jesus next says that hungry people are “blessed”.  (v. 21a)
  • You are also blessed, if you weep.  (v. 21b)
  • You are blessed if people hate, exclude, revile and/or defame you “on account of the Son of Man.”  (v. 22)
  • If we suffer in these ways, we should rejoice and leap for joy, because this is how the famous prophets were also treated.  (v. 23)
  • Now come the “woes”. They are for those who: are rich, have full bellies, laughing, are spoken well of.  Jesus basically says that they have received their reward. (vv. 24-26)
  • The second paragraph is Jesus’ (and God the Father’s) instruction for how we should respond. I’ve made a table of them, and included a list of human wisdom as a contrast.


God's Wisdom

Human Wisdom


Love your enemies Hate your enemies, and get even


Do good to those who hate you Protect your household, protect your country


Bless those who curse you Give them a dose of their own medicine


Pray for those who abuse you Go toe-to-toe with them.  Never give up.


Turn the other cheek Strike while the iron is hot


If they steal your coat, give them your shirt If you break into my house, you're going to get shot


Give to everyone who begs Many beggars are professional scammers-- don't fall into their trap


If they steal your goods, let it go Track them down, and get your stuff back


Do unto others… Look out for #1.  Forget about everybody else



As you can readily see, God’s wisdom is pretty much the opposite of human wisdom.  As Christians, we are the adopted children of God.  We are inheritors to the promise.  Jesus begins this last paragraph with “But I say to you that listen…”  That sounds more like a commandment than a suggestion.  As children of God, we need to reorder our thinking from human ways to God’s ways.  It won’t be easy, but this is what we are expected to do.

For October 30, 2022

JEREMIAH 31:31-34


Last week, we thoroughly discussed the situation in Judah.  Through Jeremiah, God tells His people that He is fed up.  It is time to take action.  It is nicely summarized for us in Jeremiah 30:14b.

“I have dealt you the blow of an enemy; the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are so numerous.”

But right in the middle of Jeremiah’s gloom and doom prophecy, there is a change of tone.  Chapters 30 and 31 are called The Book of Consolation. In ancient times, when conquering armies carried people into exile, they never returned to their homes.  They faded away, assimilating into the culture of the victors.  Here, God offers a glimmer of hope.


  • God tells His people that the day will come when he makes a new covenant with His people. A covenant was the Old Testament equivalent of a binding contract.  (v. 31)
  • The new covenant will be different.  This time, it will be written on their hearts.  It is interesting that God’s anger surfaces here, right in the middle of this promise.  Yes, He is definitely angry with His beloved people.  (vv. 32-33a)
  • In the latter part of verse 33, He sheds His anger, and His love shines through—“I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
  • Verse 34a indicates that their relationship will be so close, so tight, that we won’t even need to teach one another about God; we will all just know Him. 
  • The second half of verse 34 is the key verse.  God will not only forgive our sins, but He will forget them!


To “forgive and forget” is one of those catch phrases that we use, but also abuse.  Oftentimes, we forgive, but we do not forget.  In this passage, God tells us that when He forgives us of our sins, not only are they wiped clean, but He forgets them!  If we were to go to the pearly gates, and bring up one of the sins that have burdened our hearts all those years, Saint Peter would say “Hmm, I have no record of that.”  

NOTE: The readings are in an unconventional order, since the best Good News comes from the second reading, from Romans.

JOHN 8:31-36


At this point in John’s narrative, Jesus is zig-zagging between Jerusalem and Galilee.  Along the way, he does and says enough to agitate some of the devout Jews we call Pharisees.  Other Jews, like his apostles and many other disciples, believe in him.


  • Jesus is addressing the Jews who have chosen to believe in him.  He says something that he knows will challenge their thinking. He says that if they are truly his disciples, they will know the truth. Not only that, but this truth will set them free.  (vv. 31-32)
  • These disciples are taken aback.  They live in a time where about a third of the population was slaves.  But they were Jews, and not slaves to anybody—ever! (Apparently, they had forgotten about Egypt and Babylon.)  They had taken the bait that Jesus had laid out for them. (v. 33)
  • Here is the teaching moment that Jesus was waiting for.  He tells them that if they are sinners (which we all are), then they are in slavery to their sins!  (v. 34)
  • Next, he says something which was a well-known fact.  In his day, slaves had no rights of inheritance.  Only the master’s son could inherit the master’s wealth.  So, if the son decided to free a slave, it would be effective immediately. (vv. 35-36)


Many of us have some bad habits.  (May we call them sins?) These habit-sins are nearly impossible to break.  Others carry the burden of past sins with them their whole lives.  Sure, we often forgive, and have been forgiven, but we do not forget.  We carry the scars with us forever.  When we lay all these at the foot of the cross, they are forgiven.  And not only that, God forgets them.  We should forget them, too.

ROMANS 3:19-28


At the time when Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome, it consisted of two ethnic groups. There were ethnic Jews who believed in Jesus.  There were also many Gentile (Greek) Christians in this church.  They all worshipped together.  There was, of course, a degree of tension between the two. The main question that is being addressed here is how the Law (of Moses) interacts with the “Righteousness of God” as presented in the gift of His son. 

I would like to define two words, to help with our understanding of the text:

  1. “Justified” is a legal term, which means to be absolved of a crime.
  2. “Righteousness” means “right actions”.  Therefore, the righteousness of God refers to the right actions that God does for the people he loves.


  • The passage starts out talking about those “under the law”, or the non-Christian Jews. The law silences them, because it makes them aware of their failure. They are accountable to God for their actions. And we all know that “no human will be justified in His sight”.  (vv. 19-20)
  • But now, God takes action—He performs a righteous act. This act has been mentioned by the prophets in times past.  But now, God has chosen to disclose it.  (v. 21)
  • This right act is nothing less than the gift of His son for all who believe.  (v. 22a)
  • It doesn’t matter if you are an ethnic Jew, a Gentile, black or white, or an Asian Christian; there is no distinction.  (v. 22b)
  • There is no distinction, because we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. We cannot justify ourselves by obeying the Law, or any church rules.  (v. 23)
  • Instead, our justification comes as a free gift from God!  Why is this?  Because He has shown His love for us by sacrificing His only son as an offering for our sins.  All we do to receive this free gift is to believe in Jesus.  What a deal!  (vv. 24-25)
  • Why would God do such a thing?  It was to prove to us that He is righteous, and does this good act to prove it to us. (v. 26)
  • So, we’ve got no business bragging about being a Christian.  God gets all the bragging rights.  All we did was take the free gift!  (v. 27)
  • We are free from the Law.  Our sin-crime is absolved because of our faith in Jesus, and not by our actions. (v. 28)


God’s loving grace is clearly evident in this passage.  We need to know that we cannot save ourselves by obeying the Law of God.  The Law was provided as a mirror, so that we can recognize the ways in which we do not measure up to God’s expectations.  But our salvation comes to us as a free gift from God. We must simply believe in Jesus to receive it.


Does that mean that we are off the hook for obeying the Law, and don’t have to do good things?  Of course not!  God still has expectations of us.  He wants us to show our love for Him in our actions.  He expects us to love and forgive one other.  These actions are not things we do to earn God Brownie Points.   They are actions we take to show our love and gratitude back to the righteous God who saved us in the first place.

FOR OCTOBER 23, 2022

JEREMIAH 14:7-10, 19-22


It seemed like a good and simple plan.  God created our world.  Then, he created us.  He gave us some guidelines for living our lives.  He did all this so we could be in a loving relationship with him.  The people of God in Jeremiah’s time claimed to love Him, but did not show it in their daily lives.  I did a quick scan of chapters 1-13.  Several verses popped out, showing the situation:

Jer. 3:1  If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her?  Would not such a land be greatly polluted? “You have played the whore with many lovers, and would you return to me?” says the Lord.

Jer. 3:19-20  I thought how I would set you among my children, and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.  And I thought you would call me My Father, and would not turn from following me.  Instead, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the Lord.

Jer. 7:8-10   Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”— only to go on doing all these abominations?

The book of Jeremiah is not a happy book.  Last week, we studied how God listens to our prayers, and is willing to change his mind to lovingly grant our petitions.  In today’s reading, God is fed up.  He is tired of seeing His people run off and do anything else but be in a loving relationship with Him.  He has turned a deaf ear to their pleas.


  • This reading begins with a confession by the people that they have sinned against God.  The word “apostasy” means the act of refusing to follow God’s path.  (v. 7)
  • The people call out to God.  They beg Him not to be a stranger, and not forsake them.  (vv. 8-9)
  • God acknowledges their philandering ways.  “They love to wander.”  Don’t we all know someone who is like this in their marital relationship?  Don’t they always come back, begging for mercy, and professing undying love, only to repeat the cycle?  God does not accept their empty words.  He’s fed up.  It’s time to take action,  (v. 10)
  • In the next verses, God uses the word “we” to refer to Himself.  We Christians quickly to jump to the conclusion that He is referring to the Holy Trinity.  But this was written hundreds of years before Jesus and before the concept of the Holy Trinity was formulated.  God was using what is called the “Majestic Plural”.  Kings and queens use “we” instead of “I”, when making proclamations.  It seems weird to us, but it was a common practice.  When God uses the Majestic Plural, he is ascending to his throne to make a proclamation.  Verse 19 is full of “we” and “us” referring to our Lord as our king. 
  • The dialogue shifts back to the people in verse 20, so the “we” here is the wayward people of God, begging for forgiveness once again.  In the end, God says no.  It’s too late.  It is time to do something about it.  (vv. 20-22)


Sometimes, things go haywire, in the world of computers. The first thing you should try, when you have a problem is to turn the computer off, and restart it.  We call it hitting the reset button.  Quite often, that is all it takes.  I like to say that when God created the Flood in Noah’s time, he was hitting the reset button.  Things had gotten bad on earth, and He wanted to start over.  In Jeremiah’s time, things had gotten out of control again.  It was time for God to hit the reset button, and send His people into exile.

Fortunately for us, God has taken a new direction. Since then, He decided to send His only Son to us, to clarify the Law of Moses, teach us The Way, and die for our sins. There will be no more reset buttons, at least until Jesus’ second coming! 


We no longer worship the Canaanite god named Baal. But many other things threaten to crowd God out of the #1 spot in our lives.  What other “gods” interfere with our relationship with our Lord?

2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8, 16-18


Paul is concluding his letter to his beloved friend Timothy.  Paul is writing this from a Roman prison cell.  Increasingly, it appears that he will not survive imprisonment this time, and will be put to death soon.


  • Paul calls himself a libation—a sacrificial drink-offering.  He knows that his time has come.  He offers his life’s work as a sacrifice to God. (v. 6)
  • He lists his accomplishments three ways in verse 7.  Let’s look at each separately.  He has:
    • Fought the good fight. Being an evangelist in Paul’s time was a constant struggle.  Because of his work, he had been beaten, imprisoned, and thrown out of towns.
    • Finished the race. His work is complete.  He does not say “won”, but finished.  There is still much work to be done, but it must be left for others like Timothy to do.  For us, to do, also.
    • Kept the faith. Paul has stuck to the basics of the faith.  While other evangelists of his day have strayed into the weeds with their preaching, Paul has remained true to the teachings of our Lord. 
  • Having thus summarized his life’s work, he is ready for his crown.  Not only does he get one, but all those who long for Jesus’ reappearing.  (v. 8)
  • In the second paragraph, Paul appears to be talking about the first hearing he had, due to his current imprisonment.  Even though others came to support him, it did not matter—the Lord stood by him the whole time.  He vows to continue putting his trust in the Lord, focusing on the promise of Jesus. (vv. 16-18)


We, too, are called to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.  We can finish the race, trusting in the promises of Jesus.

LUKE 18:9-14


In the following parable, Jesus contrasts the attitudes of two people.  In order to gain the full impact of the message, it is good for us to understand how society in Jesus’ time regarded these two figures.

  • A tax collector was local person, who was a government employee.  In other words, they were a local Jew, employed by the Roman government, whose job it was to exact taxes from the local Jewish populous. Often, they would exact more than required, and keep the difference for themselves.  They were considered dishonest traitors to the Jewish community. 
  • We often have a distorted perception of Pharisees.  Because they clashed so many times with Jesus, we think of them as the villains of the story.  In some ways, they were the villains.  But in fact, Pharisees were considered the cream of the crop, religiously speaking. In Jesus’ time, there were several special religious sects, for those who wished to set themselves apart from the common religious community—Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. All three followed a stricter faith walk than the average lover of God.  Some theologians even suspect that Jesus came from a Pharisee family.  This might explain why Jesus was extra critical of their ways.  He knew all too well the pitfalls of that faith-walk.  He had insider information.


  • Jesus notices that some of those around him “trusted in their righteousness, and regarded others with contempt”.  They had an attitude problem.  Jesus tells them this parable to challenge their thoughts and actions. (v. 9)
  • So, a tax collector and a Pharisee come to the temple to pray.  (v. 10)
  • The Pharisee prays first.  He has worked hard in his faith-walk.  He is proud of his accomplishments.  “Other people” have not worked as hard.  He is confident that he has pleased God with his hard work.  (vv. 11-12)
  • The tax collector, on the other hand, is keenly aware of his failure to live up to God’s expectations.  He stands “far off” in the back of the temple.  He displays penitent body language, and pleads for God’s mercy.  He knows that he is a sinner.  (v. 13)
  • Then, Jesus turns conventional thinking on its ear.  He says that the sinful, traitor of a tax collector is the one to go home forgiven (“justified”), not the holy man!  (v. 14a)
  • Jesus summarizes why this is.  It’s all about attitude.  Humility is to be treasured.  If you want to exalt yourself, you can expect to be humbled by God.  (v. 14b)


I have heard people say things like “I’ve been a Lutheran my whole life”, or “I’m Baptist to the bone!”  God knows and treasures our hearts.  He is looking for us to walk humbly, rather than proudly.


For October 16, 2022

GENESIS 32:22-31


After The Flood, God chose to work through one faithful man, Abraham.  Abraham’s son Isaac begat the twins Esau and Jacob.  Their stories fill the latter pages of the book of Genesis, beginning around chapter 25 and continuing on past today’s reading.  This family and their stories are full of deception and the lust for power.  Jacob in particular was eager to be the top dog of the family, even though Esau was the firstborn.  As firstborn child, Esau is entitled to inherit all of Isaac’s property.  But while they were still in their mother’s womb, God told their mother Rebekah

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other;
    the elder shall serve the younger.”  Gen 25:23

So, right from the start, Jacob was destined and blessed by God to be the leader of the family.  But Jacob, through many power moves, strove to guarantee this position nevertheless.  Today’s story is just one example of Jacob’s struggle for power.


  • Jacob, his family, servants, and livestock are all fleeing for their lives.  Jacob has tricked his brother-in-law, and is fearful of reprisal.  They are headed towards the home of Esau, who is angry about Jacob tricking him out of his birthright.  Upon reaching the Jabbok river, he sends everybody across the river, and he stays behind.  (vv. 22-23)
  • During the night, Jacob dreams that he is wrestling with a man.  Or is it not a dream?  As they wrestle, Jacob becomes aware that this is no ordinary man, but God himself. In the course of the struggle, God dislocates Jacob’s hip.  Unfazed, Jacob wants to know God’s name.  God does not respond.  Jacob won’t release God until He gives Jacob a blessing!  (vv. 24-26)
  • God renames Jacob; he is now to be called Israel.  Naming will be discussed in The Takeaway.  Jacob asks for God’s name.  God doesn’t answer this question, but blesses Jacob.  (vv. 27-29)
  • According to tradition, seeing God’s face brings certain death.  Yet, Jacob saw God’s face as he wrestled with Him.  In honor of this event, he named the place “Peniel”, which means “face of God”.  Penuel is an alternate spelling of Peniel.  Jacob/Israel now walks with a limp, because of his God-encounter.  (vv. 30-31)


In Hebrew, the name “Jacob” means “heel-grabber”.  At his birth, Jacob was clutching his brother’s heel.  Even at birth, the power struggle had already begun!  God renames Jacob “Israel”, which means “wrestles with God”.  Naming or renaming something is a sign of ownership.  Adam named all the animals in the Garden of Eden as a sign of his dominance over them.  When we bring a rescue pet home from a shelter, we often name it, even if it had been given a name at the shelter.  Jesus renamed Simon as Peter, and Saul as Paul.  It is a way of signifying the beginning of a new relationship.  In spite of Jacob’s incessant power-grabbing actions, God lives up to the promises he made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. He wrestles with and blesses this less than honorable man.  He wants to be in relationship with Jacob, in spite of Jacob’s behavior.

Even though we are less than perfect beings, God wants to be in relationship with us, too.  God continues to send the Holy Spirit to us, to wrestle with us in matters of faith.  Wrestling with God is OK, as long as we are faithful.  Just keep in mind that something might get thrown out of joint in the process.

2 TIMOTHY 3:14-4:5


This is the second to last week that we will study the letters of Paul written to his beloved follower Timothy.  In the first part of chapter 3, Paul talks of a host of deceitful preachers who are leading Christians astray.  A good conclusion is given just ahead of today’s reading, in verse 13:

But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 


  • Paul turns the discussion away from those people, and focuses on Timothy.  This is excellent advice for all of us today.  Paul tells Timothy (and us) to get back to basics. Remember the teachings that Paul gave Timothy.  He summarizes them in last week’s reading in 10 words: 

Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David…

  • He encourages us to use Holy Scripture as our reference point.  (vv. 16-17)
  • Next, in verses 1-2, comes a directive from Paul that is so serious, that he calls upon the name of Jesus.  We are urged to:
    • Proclaim the message
    • Be persistent, convince, rebuke, and encourage [others]
    • Be patient in teaching
  • We are cautioned to be aware that people’s “ears are itching” to hear what they want to hear, rather than what God wants them to hear.  (vv. 3-4)
  • We, on the other hand, need to keep focused, doing the work of an evangelist.  (v. 5)


Most workshops have some sort of reference point.  It is called a benchmark.  Sometimes, it is a yardstick that is attached to the bench.  It is a place where one goes, to ensure that their work measures up. Holy Scripture is our benchmark. We must still distinguish between the bible users and the bible abusers.  That is not easy.  But if we use Paul’s basic 10 word benchmark, it is a good start.

LUKE 18:1-8


Jesus has just given his disciples a glimpse of the end times.  He has also told them that the kingdom of God is already amongst them. They must have been a little perplexed, because he tells them this parable.


  • Oftentimes, to understand why Jesus told a certain parable, we must dig around and read the verses preceding it.  Then, we must figure out what it means.  Here in verse one, the work is done for us.  (v. 1)
  • Jesus paints the picture of a judge who is corrupt—one who does not respect the justice laid down in the Law of Moses, nor does he respect justice for the people’s sake. (v. 2)
  • A widow comes to him, seeking justice.  In that patriarchal society, widows had no influence, power, or authority.  Society was supposed to grant widows an extra measure of compassion and charity.  Her chances of getting either of these from this corrupt judge were pretty slim.  (v. 3)
  • But she was persistent, and kept on pleading here case.  In the end, she received the justice she came for, merely because she had worn this judge down!  (vv. 4-5)
  • Jesus brings the story home.  How much more will our God who loves us listen to our prayers than this widow to the judge?  God will answer our prayers, especially those prayers that are said “day and night”. (vv. 6-8)


Sometimes, I find it hard to believe that a mere mortal like I can persuade God to see things my way. Yet, here is God the Son telling me to go ahead; pray night and day, and God may be persuaded. 


God is able to be swayed by our prayers.  Could this be one sign of his love of us?