Year A – Proper 7 – Matthew 10:24-39

Matthew 10:24–39 – “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Summary – The context is the Two-by-Two sending of the disciples to the “Lost Sheep of Israel.” This the “pep talk” He gives to orient the disciples for their mission: expect to be treated the way they have treated me; do not fear man; God is sovereign over more than just birds; do not be ashamed of Me; do not expect the gospel to immediately be received with peace, it will divide; but those who give up their lives in Me will find themselves. Jesus empowered them to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (10:8). I especially love the spirit of their empowerment: “Freely you received, freely give” (v8). This “Proto-Great Commission” was aimed at harvesting the elect from that unique generation. As we know most of Israel was lost (perhaps a million died in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). But there was a remnant on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Insight – The lesson we must learn is that we should not try to “force” people to believe or to accept our message or our church or our views, etc. God has prepared those who will believe and may still be working on those who don’t or they may suffer from their own hardness of heart. Either way we are just messengers who witness to the Gospel which is Jesus is Lord! Do not fear! After all when people don’t accept that message and its fullest implications, then is it our business to worry and freak out? No. We are just the messengers, we have no power to bring about faith in the hearts of others (or even ourselves for that matter). We must as Bill Bright (Campus Crusade) wisely said, “Leave the results with God.” We can preach and teach and argue and leave tracts and jump up and down on soap boxes all we want, but when it is all done. “The flesh profits nothing, but the Spirit gives life” (John 6). The Holy Spirit is sovereign; our abilities are not.

Discussion – Do you have confidence in the Message or the messenger in your life?

Prayer – O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Lent 2 – Spiritual Disciplines (02) – Prayer

Spiritual Disciplines (02) – Prayer
Sermon notes for March 16, 2014 – for All Saints Church (A Reformed & Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, PA)

Memory Verses
John 15:7 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Philippians 4:6–7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Introduction – This series during Lent will address basic (positive) Christian spiritual disciplines: Scripture Memory (3/9/14), Prayer, Fellowship (3/30), and Evangelism (4/6/14). Today’s word will address the discipline of prayer, first noting the context of our Memory Verses (John 15:7; Phil. 4:6-7).

Three Truths about Prayer – Disciples of Jesus must grow in the Word (e.g., Scripture Memory and Study), but also in prayer. Knowing the Word precedes effective prayer and effective prayer calls us more and more into the Word.  Much could be said about growth in prayer, but for our time, three truths are essential:
1) Prayer is communication with the Triune God (Rom. 8:26; 1Th. 5:17; Eph. 6:18).
2) Prayer is the central act of worship (John 4:22-24; Prov. 15:8; Ps 17:0, 90:0, 72:20).
3) Prayer according to God’s revealed will is effective (James 5:17-18; Deut. 11:11, 17; John 15:7).

Five Steps for Morning Prayer (PCPLP) – Many times our prayer is merely making requests of God. However, supplication is not the problem most people have. Our problem is putting on the full armor of God in preparation to make our requests effective.  Below are five steps to preparation, recommended as a morning prayer routine: PCPLP.

1) P – Collect for Purity – Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
2) C – Confession of Sin – Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
3) P – Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) – See later in the bulletin.
4) L – Lorica – St. Patrick’s Breastplate – I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever. By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river; His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom; I bind unto myself today.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

5) P – Praise – Sing a Psalm, Hymn, or Praise Song.

Year A – Lent 1 – Spiritual Disciplines (01) – Scripture Memory

Spiritual Disciplines (01) – Scripture Memory

Sermon Notes for Sunday, March 9, 2014 – All Saints Church (Lancaster, PA)

Memory Verses – 2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; Joshua 1:8 – “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”This series during Lent will address basic Christian spiritual disciplines: Scripture Memory, Prayer, Fellowship, and Evangelism. Today’s word will address the need to know Scripture by heart. So often churches do a poor job of helping people advance in basic discipleship. Ministries on campus are far better at helping people with personal spiritual growth. If I am effective in this 4 part series, everyone in our church will know the 12 verses of the first section of the Topical Memory System by heart by Palm Sunday.

The Value of Knowing the Word by Heart – Five Benefits
1) Renewal of our minds – You are what you think and so we must take responsibility for our thought life. Romans 12:2 – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
2) Overcoming sin – Remembering the Word of God may keep us from disobedience. Psalms 119:9–11 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. . . .11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”
3) Meditation – Scripture is the best content for meditation and mindfulness. Psalms 119:97 – “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
4) Prayer – To pray aright we must let the Word abide in us. John 15:7 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”
5) Counseling and Witnessing – We need to be ready to speak truth and wisdom to help brethren or outsiders (Col. 4:5). Psalms 138:4 – “All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O LORD, When they have heard the words of Your mouth.”

The Practice of Knowing the Word by Heart – Five Directives
1) Location, location, location – Keep the Topical Memory System (A) in your Bible, your car, your desk, your table, on you smart phone, etc.
2) Repeat, repeat, repeat – Recite the verse you are learning morning and evening.
3) Reference, reference, reference – Say the verse reference before the verse and after.
4) Write, write, write – Write your verse down each day in the form of a prayer.
5) Review, review, review – Review every verse you know from the set (e.g., A pack) each day.

Year B – Palm Sunday – Isaiah 50:4-9a

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.  Morning by morning he wakens–wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.  The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.  I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.  The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.  Who will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.  Who are my adversaries?  Let them confront me.  It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?”

Summary – The prophet here, in context of his preaching to the people about the causes of their national woes and God’s answer to the problem, speaks of his ministry to Israel.  His role is that of a teacher who speaks what he is taught of God (vs 4).  He shows his submission to God’s plan by not being rebellious (vs 5) and taking the persecution that comes his way (vs 6); and he knows that the persecution is not shameful for God is his vindicator (vs 7).  He is secure in knowing that he need not be afraid of man because of this (vss 8-9).  Isaiah in this typifies a part of the ministry that the true Suffering Servant (Jesus) would assume, and we who are in Christ share in this benefit for if God is for us, who could be against us (Rom 8:37, cf. Is 50:8-9).

 Insight – Self-sacrifice for the sake of God’s gospel call is difficult.  Have you ever though, “Boy, it would be easier if I could just do it my way?”  That is the struggle most followers of God have felt for thousands of years.  Jonah found that out the hard way, didn’t he?  When he ran from God’s call, he ended up inside a giant fish!  Isaiah, however, had a different experience in this passage.  He says that he was NOT rebellious and so as his plan was in line with God’s plan, God was his defender.  When Isaiah was persecuted for the things he said to the rebellious Israelites, he didn’t worry about it, because he knew God was on his side.  This Sunday we remember Christ’s “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem.  Generally it has a more festive connotation, but remember that Jesus was entering Jerusalem in order to ultimately die.  He, like a perfect Isaiah, was being obedient to death on a cross (Php 2:8) since He obeyed God’s will (Lk 22:42).  God is on our side through the redemption His Son brought.  So we can feel confident that we are more than conquerors through Him (Rom 8:37) and don’t have to fear those who are against us.

Child Catechism – Who is it that helps you?  The Lord God. (cf. vs 9)

 Discussion – What does it mean for a believer’s life that they are in Christ and “share in His sufferings” (1Pt 4:13)?  What are some things in your life that you are afraid of doing?  How could trusting that you are not put to shame when you are doing God’s will help you in those circumstances?

Prayer – Our Father, you who have richly blessed us in your Son now enable us to serve you without fear.  Though we experience persecutions of various kinds, grant us the strength to focus on you, our protector, defender, and vindicator.  Through you, we are not put to shame.  Amen



Year B – Transfiguration Sunday – 2 Kings 2:1-12

“1Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.”

Summary – Elijah, knowing that he was about to be taken up by God and prompted by the Holy Spirit goes on a journey. He is depicted here as wanting to go off to a quiet place and he is accompanied by his understudy Elisha. He does however ask Elisha if he realizes that his master is about to be taken up. Elisha acknowledges but makes it clear that his loyalty to Elijah will supersede Elijah’s request for him to stay behind and so they press on together passing through the region served. In addition, fifty other men “of the company of prophets” also follow but at a distance as though curious but still showing respect. Elijah when arriving to the Jordan in similar fashion as Moses by the Spirit parts the water and they cross together on dry ground. Elijah asks Elisha if he has a parting request from his master. Elisha’s request is for a “double share of your spirit.” Elijah assures him that if it is to come to fruition it will be of God not him and then states: “yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” They are then separated by the horses and Chariot of fire and Elijah departs to the heavens in a miraculous whirl wind. Elisha then rends his clothes as an expression outwardly of his grief and loss inwardly.

Insight – The miraculous event had been made known to the prophet Elijah. However, unknown to him, it had also been revealed to his disciples and to Elisha who in particular was determined to remain by his side until Elijah’s final departure. Gilgal was near Ebal and Gerizim; a school of the prophets was established there. At Beth-el there was also a school of the prophets, which Elijah had founded. In travelling to these places inspired by the Holy Spirit Elijah would pay a farewell to those institutions. They were also on the way to the place of his ascension. At the same time and from a feeling of humility and modesty Elijah was, wanting to be where there would be no eye-witnesses of his glorification. However, all his efforts to have Elisha remain behind were fruitless. Elisha knew that the time was at hand and at every place the sons of the prophets spoke to him of the approaching removal of his master. Their last stage on the journey was at the Jordan where they were followed by fifty scholars/students who sought to witness the miraculous translation of the prophet. The revelation of this striking event to so many was a necessary part of what would be visible historical proof of the continuation of promised supernatural events that would take place in the fulfillment of the covenant promises and a type of the resurrection of Christ the perfect and final fulfillment of God’s promise to His covenant people for their salvation eternal by grace alone through faith alone and as we hear and read by the Word alone.

Childs Catechism – What promises can we know and trust God for? We can know and trust God for all His promises.

Discussion – How did God translate or change Elijah? Why did God translate Elijah to depart this realm without seeing death?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, thank you Lord for your Word which teaches; gives demonstration and proof of Your miraculous supernatural intervention in Your creation and our lives as we both retrospectively witness with trust and faith the fulfillment of your promised Messiah and the inward testimony we have today by the indwelling of Your Holy Spirits as we now through Christ are temples of You O God, and “the temple of God is Holy,” and that is what we are by grace alone through faith alone according to Your Word alone, O God, AMEN.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Epiphany 3 – Mark 1:14-20

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.”

Summary – John the Baptist was arrested and would soon be put to death. While John’s ministry was soon over the ministry of the Gospel was far from it. After Jesus was rejected in His home town by His own neighbors, He departs to bring the gospel to Galilee. They (His neighbors) rejected Him because they thought they knew Him so well; they were too familiar with Him and with hardened hearts they refused to accept His being the Messiah. But Jesus had more work to do so He continues to the Sea of Galilee. The Lord seems to have chosen this area for several reasons: four or five of the twelve disciples lived there; it had a considerable and mixed population. Also at the times of the annual festivals large numbers of people would pass through it or be near it. He calls Simon and Andrew who were brothers along with James son of Zebedee and his brother John, all of whom were fishermen; He called them to be His Disciples and they left work and family to follow Him.

Insight – We are not Apostles, but Jesus still calls us to follow Him, just as He did these first disciples. Jesus reaches out to all kinds of people, just as He did then: fishermen, tax-collectors, and people just like us. Sometimes we are afraid to commit to follow Jesus more faithfully, because doubts arise. But imagine these men who left the work and families, even though had heard only a little about Jesus. Just as they learned, Jesus was God’s Savior of the world and we will not be disappointed (finally) for following Him.

Child’s Catechism –What did Jesus preach? Jesus preached the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

Discussion – How can we follow Jesus today? What kinds of things should we leave behind in following Him more closely?

Prayer – Dear Lord, we are eternally grateful for what You did on the Cross suffering with your whole body and shedding your innocent blood, dying in our place to pay for our sins that we might know You forever. Help us that we might follow You, being imitators, and living out your will in our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA