If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Summary – Following on the heels of chapter 12’s final verse, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way,” chapter 13 unpacks the more excellent way. Commonly called the “Love Chapter,” the translation above uses the word “love” 9 times in only 13 verses! Three major sections of the chapter break up into (1) Action Without Love = Nothing, vss 1-3, (2) What Love Is, vss 4-7, and (3) Maturity in the Faith will be Accompanied by Greater Love, vss 8-13. Of note, section (2) is often read at weddings. Certainly, these characteristics apply to marital/spousal love; however Paul is really getting at love among Christians! That really changes the perspective. Finally, verse 8 comes with a classic debate: when do tongues cease (or do they at all, as Pentecostals would ask)? Some say the “perfect” that comes is the Bible, meaning the gift of tongues has been silent for nearly millennia. Others say, more rightly, that the “perfect” is the advent of Christ, or our going to Him. When in the presence of the Savior, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge which all deal with the knowledge of God, will be swept away for our knowledge of God will be complete and full in the consummation of our salvation. Nevertheless, as a Christian grows closer to Christ in maturity, the importance of the “revelatory” or “higher gifts” (12:31) shrinks to almost nothing. Beyond a ministry of spectacular ministry of tongues, healing, and prophecy, a life of consistent and self-sacrificial and patient love is the “greatest” and “more excellent” way.
Insight – Jesus tells the story of two sons, perhaps named Yolev and Elias. Their father, Abinadab, tells Yolev something like, “Go plow the field today, please.” Yolev says to his dad, “Ah sorry, I’m going fishing in the creek with Shemuel later. Not going to be able to plow.” So their father goes to Elias and asks him the same thing. “Sure Dad, I’ll do it this afternoon after I finish cleaning the horse barn.” A couple hours go by and their father sees Elias sleeping on the couch with a copy of ESPN the magazine on his chest! Abinadab goes out to the field to see what’s going on and finds Yolev, who was supposed to be fishing, happily plowing the field. “What happened to fishing?” Abinadab asked. “Well Dad, I decided that fishing could wait: helping you out was more important,” Yolev said. So which son actually pleased his father? Yolev did, even though he originally said he couldn’t do the work. You see, saying “I’m sorry” if you don’t mean it is like going fishing without tying a hook on your string. St. Paul tells us that we can do the greatest things, the nicest things, or believe things strongly, but if we don’t love those around us, those things are pointless! God calls us to be people who really love one another, rather than just pretending to.
Child Catechism – What is patient and kind? Love.
Discussion – What is the relationship between Paul’s analogy of the “child” and the role of prophecies, tongues, and knowledge in verses 8-13? Discuss the difference between looking at someone in a mirror versus seeing them face to face.
Prayer – Our Loving God, we know what love is because your Son laid down His life for us. We desire your love to be spread throughout the world through our service to those around us. Destroy in us, we beseech you, the pride which causes us to do good things for our own glory, and replace it with a spirit of rejoicing in the Truth, so that great things would be done for your glory. And prepare us for that moment when our dim knowledge of you is stripped away and we will be like you for we will see you as you are. Through your Grace, Amen.
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
Summary – Jeremiah prophesied from the time of King Josiah to the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC. God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet to tell Judah that she was going into exile into Babylon because of her sins. Jeremiah did not think he could speak the powerful words of a prophet because he was still a young man. A prophet is a person who can destroy and create worlds with God’s Word. He plucks up and pulls down, destroys and overthrows, builds and plants kingdoms and nations (Jer. 1:9-10). That is a very big job to do. No wonder Jeremiah thought he could not do it. But God gave Jeremiah the words to say, and promised to be with him.
Insight – Telling people bad news is never fun. Doctors have to tell people bad news, they tell people that they are sick or even worse, dying. But doctors also tell people how to get better. Jeremiah was much like a doctor in this way. He told Judah that they were so sick from their sins that they were going to die in exile in Babylon. But since Jeremiah was a good doctor, he also gave them good news. God was going to bring Judah back to life, by returning them back to their land (Ezek. 37)! God was rebuilding His kingdom. Judah’s story is much like our own. Because of our sins our spirits were dead in sin (Eph.2:1). But Jesus is the great doctor who brings us back from the dead, and builds us into a beautiful kingdom that will one day fill the whole earth (Matt. 13:31-33).
Catechism – What is a prophet? A prophet is a person who can destroy and create worlds with God’s Word.
Discussion – How is Jesus the greatest prophet of all? What does Jesus use to build His kingdom? How can we be like the prophets?
Prayer – Almighty God, you created Heaven and Earth with your powerful word. Please grant to your Church the wisdom to build your Kingdom though out the earth by the power of your word, the Bible. In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, Amen.
Submitted by Michael Shover
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
Summary— The fall of Adam into sin made a break between the relationship of human beings to God. God was not “God” to the wicked that perished in the flood. God was “Judge” to them. In order to bring restoration, God graciously approached pagan Abram. God put Abram into covenant with Him, and promised him many things: God promised him land, offspring, and a unique role in global blessing. But these weren’t the only things that God promised Abraham; they weren’t the greatest thing that God promised Abraham: the greatest thing that God promised Abraham was Himself. “I will be God to you and to your offspring after you”—this was the centerpiece of God’s kindness. In fact, God said as much back in 15:1, “I am your shield, your very great reward.” God Himself was Abraham’s reward. And He would be the same to Abraham’s offspring if Abraham “commanded them to keep the way of the Lord” (18:19).
Insight— In Psalm 63:1, David cried, “O God, you are my God!” How did he know that? Why could he say it? Because he knew his Bible: God had promised to be God to Abraham and to his offspring, and that meant him. It means you, too, according to St. Paul: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29). You may, indeed you should, draw from God’s covenant with Abraham the same comfort that David did: God is your God. Because of this covenant, you are not “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11-13). God has chosen you, loves you, and by your baptism has promised to be yours. And if God is your God then God is for you, and if God is for you then who can be against you (Rom. 8:31)? If God is your God, then He Himself is your portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26).
Child Catechism— What is the greatest thing that God promises us? To be our God!
Discussion— Could God have born you to an unbelieving family? If He had done so, would this covenant relate to you in the same way?
Prayer— Everlasting Father, none but Yourself compelled You to make Yourself Abram’s God; none but Yourself compels You to make us his offspring. Because of these great kindnesses, O God, You are our God. Whatever else fails, You are our portion forever: You are our very great reward. Grant that we might treasure You as Your greatest gift, and that we might lead our children to do the same so that You may bring to us what You have promised, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Contributed by Scott Cline
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),
Summary – The book of 1 Peter is all about suffering. Peter wants his hearers to endure suffering for doing good, not for doing evil. In this rich passage he summarizes the sufferings of Christ. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” He explains that Christ proclaimed His work to those imprisoned spirits who were disobedient in the time of Noah. The disobedient in that day suffered (in the flood), but deserved great judgment. Just as Noah and his household were saved in the ark, now baptism is the ark of salvation from judgment. So baptism like other covenant signs refers to blessing and cursing. The first baptism of the world was a judgment which brought salvation to Noah and his household, but now baptism is the saving flood. Through it we are united with Jesus in His resurrection. If we are in Christ, then we should be like righteous Noah, not disobedient like those who mocked Noah, but perished.
Insight – When is the last time you were punished? Did you do it? Were you guilty? There is a kind of suffering when you are found guilty and must be punished. But this kind of suffering is deserved. Suffering for doing what is right and good, being punished for something you did not do, that is very hard. But how much harder if you were to be punished or hurt simply because you believe in Jesus! This was the context of 1 Peter. Believers received harsh treatment and persecution because they confessed through their baptisms that Jesus was Lord. Today we can see the same thing in the Islamic world. Talking about Jesus is one thing, but if a Muslim is baptized then it may mean (in many Islamic countries) that he or she will be killed or imprisoned. Suffering for our faith is, however, preparation for glory. After Christ suffered He went “into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” He promises that we too will reign with Him if we suffer with Him.
Child Catechism – Why did Christ suffer? Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.
Discussion – Have you ever been hurt because you were doing what was right?
Prayer – Almighty God, we come to you in Christ’s name asking that you would relieve the suffering and persecution of Christians in the world. We pray that you would bring gospel peace to countries where Christians are persecuted. Open the eyes of those that would harm baptized Christians for their faith and grant them forgiveness. Give us strength to be bold in our faith. In the name of the Lord Jesus who ascended to Your right hand. Amen.
Psalm 111 – Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 2 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. 3 Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. 5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. 8 They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.
Summary – From A to Z, our Psalmist has no difficulty finding reasons why we should praise the Creator. Each poetic line begins with and then runs through an acrostic of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Our Lord deserves whole-hearted praise and thanks simply because he is who he is: the Creator of the universe. His great works certainly include the making and sustaining of this amazing universe; but this Psalm focuses on his redemptive works as an example of God’s upstanding and mighty character.
Insight – Whether as a community or together as a family, each of us should strive for a personal and genuine worship of God. Connecting our hearts with praise seems only natural. This Psalm connects worship with wisdom as well. Biblical wisdom is not so much about how knowledgeable you are, but how well you make decisions. One key skill when making decisions is what the Army calls situational awareness, understanding where you are. Each one of us are a part of God’s covenant people. Each one of us are connected to the stories found in Church history and the Bible. And each of us have our own stories to tell. This Psalmist says that as we reflect on all these stories, and share the great things God has done with one another, we will better understand the Lord and how he operates. And together with his Spirit, we will find a new found respect for our Lord God. This kind of the fear of God will not only improve our decision making in life, it will improve our worship as well.
Child Catechism – What is the beginning of wisdom? The Fear of the Lord.
Discussion – How does wisdom help us make better choices in life? How could the fear of the Lord give us wisdom for better choices?
Prayer – Father, we are so thankful for who you are and what you do we hold fast to your promises give us wisdom to make good choices and to glorify and honor your awesome name in all that we do we praise you in Spirit and True with our whole hearts and minds may we study your ways in the power of your Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus. Amen.
Contributed by Malcolm West
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 – The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”
St John’s Gospel (33): A Troubled Heart (John 14)
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 “And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip *said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. . .
John 14: X Chiastic Outline
Troubled Heart (1)
Going to the Father (2-9)
His Words and Works (10-14)
My Commandments (15)
The Spirit (16-20)
My Commandments (21)
His Words and the World (22-24)
Going to the Father (25-26)
Troubled Heart (27-31)
This passage is a chiastic dialogue (i.e., series of parallel thoughts that circle a center). It begins with Christ’s encouragement to not have a “troubled heart” (v1) and it ends with the same idea (v27). At the center is the promise of the coming Spirit. More than any other Gospel, John reveals the emotions of Jesus through his dialogue with others. In revealing His departure to the Father, Jesus is both pastoral and critical to Thomas and Phillip who question Him. He has both a sinking heart and a commanding voice calling forth faith. He makes plain the “way” to the Father is through Him (v6). Jesus is in the Father and Father is Him, such that to “see” Jesus is to see the Father (v9). Believe this from the words of Jesus, or believe on the basis of the works of Jesus. Those who believe will do even greater works that Jesus did (v12). This means that the works that flow from abiding in the Father will be greater in the apostles and finally the body of corporate believers (i.e., the Church) than even the works in the earthly ministry of Jesus. The works flow from asking in His name (vv13-14). If you love Him you will obey Him in doing His commandments.
The result of this prayerful obedience is that Christ will ask the Father to send the Spirit (another Helper v16). So the Spirit of truth will be sent to the disciples and through this we will know that Christ is in the Father and we are united to Him (v19). In all of this, Judas (not Iscariot) is still concerned about announcing Jesus as Messiah to the world (v23). But Christ makes clear that the task of the disciples is to keep His word, rather than worry about Christ’s publicity. The coming of the Spirit is necessary so that they may be properly taught. The Spirit will bring to their remembrance Christ’s word. Finally, Christ encourages them to not lose heart at His death (going to the Father), but to have His peace.
29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Summary – In this passage, Paul is offering the Corinthian church some advice based on their current situation, as well as reminding them of their ultimate destination. To understand this passage correctly, we should understand that Paul is referring to a troubling situation that was happening to the Corinthian church at that time. Most likely it was a famine that was happening in Greek world the time Paul wrote this letter. Because of the present struggle the church was facing, Paul urges caution in making drastic changes in their lives. If someone is having a hard time providing for themselves, it might be wise to postpone getting married. But Paul reminds the church that even though things may look bad, our ultimate destination is with God. In the new creation things that trouble us in this world will no longer matter.
Insight – Imagine living in the Great Depression. You were not sure when your next meal would come; you or your parents would find work. How would you feel? How would you and your family react? Imagine if you wanted to get married but weren’t sure if you could afford it. But if something like this were to happen, we as Christians should not be troubled. We know that life in this world is not the end. In Christ we will receive new lives, new bodies, a new world. Ultimately it does not matter if you were able to marry, or live lives according to how people think that you should. No matter what hardships or trials you may face in this life, what will ultimately matte is that you remain faithful to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Catechism – What is the one thing in this world we can always count on? The Love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Discussion – If you were in a situation like the Corinthians, or the Great Depression, would you be able to keep looking to Christ?
Prayer – Merciful Father, We thank you for all the good gifts that you give to us, and we are most grateful for the gift of your Son. We ask that you would keep us, and that we would remain faithful to you, through whatever trials or hardships this world may give to us. Amen
Contributed by Jared McNabb
5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah 9 Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 10 Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. 11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 12 and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.
Summary – David is confidently expressing his heart felt trust and dependency on the Lord, while encouraging us to do the same. Indeed, God is our only reliable source of protection in this world. He alone is fully committed to us. And he alone has the power to effectively defend us. God’s active defense has the strength of a mighty fortress. Everyone and everything else are described as but a single, passing and thoughtless breath of air in comparison.
Insight – Having a silent soul like David does not mean the lack of noisy struggles, it simply means the lack of noisy souls. Neither does a silent soul stop praying; Instead we are confident in the one who hears those prayers that we speak. You should always be pouring out your heart before him (v8). That is, we should always bring our honest and utmost concerns before; but we should do this because we are already trusting in God. If our hearts are set elsewhere, relying on worthless and false hopes, we will continue to be disappointed, restless and anxious.
Child Catechism – Who do we rely on for all of our needs? The Lord God.
Discussion – Have you ever been disappointed? What are some false hopes we rely on?
Prayer – Father, you alone care and protect your people,
You alone silence our souls.
You alone are our hope.
Give us a confidence and a boldness that could only be from you,
in the power of your Spirit,
and in the name of your Son,
Contributed by Malcolm West