Posts Tagged ‘Encouragement’

If anyone therefore does not eat of the Word of God, the same shall not live; for as the human body cannot live without earthly bread, so the soul cannot live without the Word of God. A word is said to proceed from the mouth of God when He makes His Will known through the Sacred Scripture.

(From a sermon by St. John Chrysostom, on St. Matthew 4: 4;  from The Sunday Sermon of the Great Fathers,Volume 2)

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New Testament Reading for Today:  Hebrews 13: 1-21

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Introduction:  The New Testament reading is the pastor’s encouragement to the Church in times of persecutions from without and within.  The meditation below is by Pastor Scott Murray (Pastor, Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston, TX) from his book  A Year with the Church Fathers: Meditation for Each Day of the Church Year (I am not paid by Pr. Murray to so advertise but gladly do so!)  The meditation is on the verses cited above.


We presume that something is better than nothing. This truism is not always true. It is better to be without a leader than to have one who teaches us into hell. If we are to imitate the faith of those who lead us, we need someone leading us who has sound teaching, someone who is faithful to Christ the Word and His Holy Scripture. Without that faithful instruction, we are being led into misbelief, which is the worst vice. It is the worst evil, because it has such horrible results. We are all sinful, even and especially our Church leaders. If we wait until the Church leader arrives who has no fleshly weaknesses or spiritual peccadilloes, we will be waiting forever. Such a person ministered visibly only once among men.

So what should we look for from leaders? The faith. We need them to teach us Christ, His death, His life, His sacrifice for our sins—all that He has done “for us men and for our salvation.” We should imitate the faith that leaders teach. The substance of what is taught, of what is to be believed, should be the outcome of their lives. Like us, our leaders are imperfect clay pots. The excellence of what is preached should commend them to us. Let’s expect neither more nor less.

“When should we obey an evil leader? What kind of evil do we mean here? If he isevil in regard to faith, flee and avoid him. Not just if he is a man, but even if he is an angel from heaven. But if his life is evil, do not pry. This case I am not arguing from my own opinion, but from Holy Scripture. Hear Christ say, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat’ (Matthew 23:2). Having previously spoken many fearful things concerning them, Christ says, ‘Practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice’ (Matthew 23:3). They have the dignity of office but have an unclean life. Pay attention not to their life but to their words. As regards their character, no one would be harmed by it. Why? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because, although they might be ten thousand times as evil, they will never teach what is evil. But in regard to the faith, the evil is not apparent to all, and the leader with a wicked faith will not decline to teach it” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews, 34.1).

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well

St. John 4: 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Intro:  The appointed Gospel lesson for 11 February is St. John 4: 7-21, a selection of the meeting between the Lord and the Samaritan Woman at the well.  Pr. Scott Murray, in his book of daily meditations, A Year with the Church Fathers, cites the quote below from The Confessions of St. Augustine.  St. Augustine’s Confessions is a first in literature, an autobiography, but an autobiography set as a prayer to the Lord.  It is very much akin to St. Paul’s several accounts of his conversion (see Acts 22: 1-21) .  Christian autobiography is not to set the record straight, or to boast in the self, but to show in writing the way the Lord came to a man and saved him:  to boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).   The Confessions  is not about religious enthusiasm but the actuality of His mercy in our misery and sinfulness. St. Augustine’s Confession is eminently quotable, such as, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee”.  In the quote below, I have italicized another great quote for memory.

“When I shall cleave to You with all my being, then shall I in nothing have pain and labor, and my life shall be a real life, being completely full of You. But now, since he whom You fill is the one You lift up, I am a burden to myself, as not being full of You. Joys of sorrow contend with sorrows of joy, and on which side the victory may be I do not know. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. My evil sorrows contend with my good joys, and on which side the victory may be I do not know. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. Woe is me! See, I do not hide my wounds. You are the Physician; I am the sick. You are merciful; I am miserable. Is not the life of man upon earth a trial (Job 7:1)? Who is he that wishes for troubles and difficulties? You command them to be endured, not to be loved. No man loves what he endures, though he may love to endure. Although he rejoices to endure, he would rather there was nothing for him to endure. In adversity, I desire prosperity; in prosperity, I fear adversity. What middle place, then, is there between these, where human life is not a trial? Woe to the prosperity of this world, once and again, from fear of misfortune and a corruption of joy! Woe to the adversities of this world, once and again, and for the third time, from the desire of prosperity; and because adversity itself is a hard thing and makes shipwreck of endurance! Is not the life of man upon earth a trial, and that without pause?

“My whole hope is only in Your exceedingly great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will. You impose self-control on us; ‘I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, unless God gave it. This was also a matter of wisdom, to know whose gift it was.’ (Wisdom8:21, author). By self-control are we bound up and brought into one, from which we were scattered abroad into many. For he loves You too little who loves anything with You, and which he loves not for Your own sake, 0 Love, who burns forever and is never quenched! 0 Love, my God, kindle me. You command self-control; give what You command, and command what You will” (Augustine, Confessions, 10.28-29).

Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

While the hope of endless glory

Fills my heart with joy and love,

Teach me ever to adore Thee;

May I still Thy goodness prove.

—Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (LSB 686:1)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You have called Your Church to worship Your Son in Spirit and truth. Through the Spirit of Jesus, keep us faithful to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, so that we may be partakers of His divine life and inherit the kingdom promised for those who drink from the water of life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

Some of you may have seen the 2000 movie, “Pay It Forward” about a young boy, with a troubled family who is given an unusual assignment by his social studies teacher.  Instead of  “paying someone back” for a good deed or favor done, “paying it forward”:  matching good deeds with good deeds to new people and in the movie the young boy begins a revolution in the lives of his family and those around him. I have not seen the movie.  Doing good deeds out of faith is a good thing but notice the premise of the movie is not doing good deeds out of faith in Jesus Christ, but PAYING it forward. 

How much does one pay?  If one is paying then one is buying something.  What is the person buying? In  a word:  salvation. How much does one pay for salvation?  We can’t pay it forward.  How much does one pay? We have the answer in today’s Gospel, how much.  ““Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29)  How much did salvation cost?   “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”  (1 Peter). Our silver and gold can not buy salvation, neither can our deeds. but the deed of His blood has bought us. He has paid the price of our sin, backwards and forwards with His priceless blood, the blood of the Lamb of God, because you and I can not pay it forward or backward.

            The Lord’s solution to the sin of the world is a lamb. His solution is our Savior.  It’s foolishness to the world. Salvation is not in government sponsored programs, or church sponsored programs for that matter, nor good intentions, nor again, paying it back or  “paying it forward”, not in men’s wisdom, or the great signs and works  of human religions, but a lamb.  Not just any lamb, it is this Lamb, the perfect Passover Lamb, not 50% man and 50% God, but 100%/100%: Behold!. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.  When the Lord in His Law finds us out, we can not bear the sin and it is the sin of the world, heavier than the mere world Atlas bore.  In so many movies about army basic training, we hear the drill sergeant screaming, Can you take it!  I can take it, drill sergeant, yells the recruit.  They can…but sin and sorrow? No.  Even a tough Roman centurion could not take the illness of his beloved servant and he knew that in Jesus Christ pure holiness dwelt (and still does), and he sought the Christ (Matthew 8:  5-10). the Lamb of God is with us, the One has takes  away the sin of world. When in His Law He finds us out, then in His Christ, His beloved Son, He finds us.

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Revelation 7

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The photo is of the pulpit above the Altar (!)  in the city of  Erlangen‘s Neustaedter-Kirche.  The first time I saw a similar pulpit suspended above an Altar was in a mid 20th century Lutheran sanctuary in Berlin.  I worshiped in a late 20th Century Lutheran sanctuary in the USA in which  the pulpit, altar and font are all connected,  As the pastor in Berlin commented:  They wanted to emphasize the centrality of the Word of God!  Yes, Amen!  Orthodox priest and professor, Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote the Word is sacramental as the sacraments are of the Word.  I think that is a very orthodox Lutheran understanding of Word and Sacrament.  Tomorrow is All Saints Sunday and the Gospel is the beginning of  the Lord’s  Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes.  Where Christ is proclaimed for the blessing of the poor  in spirit, and His Sacraments for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is Mount Zion and the angels support the Word for us, for faith to take hold of again, for our salvation.  Give thanks for all His saints in your lives tomorrow,  in joyful remembrance of those who have died who shared the pilgrimage.

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“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)


“Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.  Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”—Ecclesiastes 7: 21-22

In the daily lectionary, today’s Old Testament readings are from Ecclesiastes at this time of the year and the verses above are from today’s reading, May 30th.

It is hard not to take to heart lots of the things that people say!  Pastors are especially prone to such as someone may come up and say those deadly words, “Pastor, some folks are saying…”   Given the verses, the “things that people say” are cursing, that is, defaming and dishonoring your name, your good name. It is related to the 8th Commandment. When it is taken to heart, that means, I am hurt, dismayed, angered.  .  So first, this first half of verse 21 is good advice but the result is interesting, “…lest you hear your servant cursing you.”  For instance, we live in an age in which what people say about public figures is polled  daily, and it seems, even hourly.  What happens when a servant’s master (read here, leader, father, mother, official, boss…well, anyone) does take to heart all the things that people say? You might get really depressed and then your servant (read, son, daughter, student, co-worker, friend, etc.), those who need you, will curse you because you become ineffectual. You might get really angry, then those who need you will curse you because you’re always “in a lather”.  You might hear all the gossip, and decide to bend with public opinion and this can even worse as one is tossed to and fro by every wind of gossip.  Then those who need me will curse me because I have wimped-out. Those who love you need your leadership.

But then comes the punch line of God’s Law:  Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. All that time I was feeling wounded, betrayed, etc., I forgot how many times I have cursed others!  “Oh, not to their faces!”  “But, your heart, your mind, knows how many times you have thought so!”  (James 3:8-10) Then verse 20:  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.  I guess I have not been as righteous as I thought…I was looking to me, and not to Thee, Dear Savior!  I have licked my wounds and not sought Thy wounds.  Your heart knows.  But rejoice! 

  By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; or whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God-1 John 3: 19-21

 When my heart knows it’s cursing, be assured,  it’s sin, God is greater than our heart! Be reassured in His Promise to you.  He knows everything and from Him no secrets are hid.  His Law shows His condemnation and upon the Cross His salvation.  The other response per Eccleciastes 7: 21 is I won’t take what people say to heart and just “buck-up” and let that roll off like water on a duck’s back, in other words, stoicism. Natural man, that is the Old Adam, can do that for awhile…but not day by day, let alone forever.  That’s for awhile as the Law accuses always: who are you fooling?  Not stoicism, but His forgiveness, His death for people who cursed and mocked Him…folks like this “righteous man”. (Galatians 3:13) When by faith we know His Cross and our forgiveness, our hearts do not  condemn us, we have “confidence”, literally “with faith”, before God on account of His Son in His Incarnation. Then in Christ, in Him alone, we can do  what under the Law we could never do:   bless those who curse us, that is pray for them. Romans 12:14.

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.(Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

“…The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth”   (Exodus 34:6, KJV)

“Love is longsuffering…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Introduction:  The Word matters, words matter, and a faithful Biblical scholar and commentator knows both as Rev. Lockwood demonstrates in his Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians.  Below is part of  his commentary on one word from 1 Corinthians 13: 4.  The verse is usually rendered, “Love is patient…”.  The translation,  “patient”,  from the Greek, makrothuma, does not convey the meaning of the Greek.  Rev. Lockwood renders makrothuma, “long-suffering”.  Here is encouragement for today:

makrothuma:  When the Christian is longsuffering, “long-tempered” rather than short-tempered, he reflects and imitates God’s makrothumia (Romans 2: 4; 9: 22) and the example of Jesus (see Matthew 11 29)

Whereas English translations generally resort to adjectives in translating many of these verbs, the Greek has a dynamic quality well suited to the way love expresses itself in actions for the benefit of others. To love means to be (in Bonhoeffer’s words) the “one … for others.” Christian love expresses itself in outgoing, self-forgetful activity.

Love’s first and greatest characteristic is to be longsuffering (13:4).  In contrast to the feverish emotionalism of the heathen cults (12:2), Christian love is marked “not so much in the expression as in the extension of emotion, the drawing out, taming, literally the ‘lengthening’ (makro-) of emotion.  The Christian is not short-tempered, but longsuffering with others. In this he imitates God, who has always displayed longsuffering in his dealings with his people.  Paul was deeply conscious of how much he owed to the perfect patience (makrothumia) Christ Jesus had shown in his case (1 Tim 1:16). God’s longsuffering with his people is to be reflected, then, in the longsuffering Christians are to show one another.  Such longsuffering does not come naturally, nor may it be produced by “an arbitrary cultivation of the virtue of self-control.”   It is a gift from God, a fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal 5:22).

 In the fast-paced, achievement-oriented world entering the third millennium, when the spirit of the age tempts churches to look for quick and impressive results, it is salutary to reflect on the priority Paul accords to the love which expresses itself in being longsuffering, a love that can wait (cf. 1 Cor 1:7; 11:33; James 5:7-8).

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Introduction to Hebrews:

About our study: Hebrews is the appointed Epistle lesson this Sunday, Pentecost 19 and for 4 more Sundays in the three-year Lectionary.

Hebrews is part of the General or catholic (universal) Epistles.  These are all addressed to larger church/churches and not individuals.  Hebrews heads up this section.   The following is from the introduction to Hebrews in  The Lutheran Study Bible, page 2103, published by Concordia Publishing House.

 “The Epistle to the Hebrews is actually a sermon (“word of exhortation”; 13:22) with a brief  letter attached (13:20-25). The writing describes the temple sacrifices as though they were still in use (cf 9:6-10) and describes a persecution, which may be Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians at Rome (cf ch 12; 13:24). The sermon-writer’s name was not provided, nor was his name recorded by early Christian historians…

The writer of Hebrews, or his scribe, had an excellent education in classical oratory. Recent study of Hebrews has demonstrated that it is written in high Greek style, which distinguishes it from Paul’s more common Greek style. The writer’s doctrine depends on the apostles (2:3) and has important connections to Paul’s use of the OT (cf 10:38; Rm 1:17; Gal 3:11) and John’s theology of the Word (cf Jn 1:1- 2; 10:30; 14:11; Heb 1:3; 7:3; 13:8). But the writer includes many unique insights and shows an interest in the priesthood that is not found in other apostolic writers.”  

I think Hebrews demonstrates itself as a thoroughgoing Christian sermon also in these ways:

1)      The preacher puts himself in with his congregation by the use of “we” and “us”, e.g. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”  As Jesus Himself  shared our flesh and blood ( Hebrews 2:14), to make holy sinners by faith in Him, the Preacher is the same as his congregation.  Since Jesus is not ashamed to call them “brothers” (Hebrews 2:11), the preacher should not be as he is part of the brethren for whom Jesus died and rose again, the pioneer of Faith. Using cliché verbiage: the preacher identifies with the Lord’s people in their suffering and resultant flagging zeal for the Gospel and knows the inherent dangers in the possibility of even more severe persecution: see Hebrews 12:4 .

2)      He uses questions to engage his hearers in the sermon, e.g. Hebrews 3: 16-18. 

3)      A preacher quotes Scripture to attest to the truth of the message, as a preacher should.  The Preacher of Hebrews has copious Biblical citations: some 27 quotations in 13 chapters. Note that the 1st chapter employs many of the Scripture quotes as questions!

4)      The Preacher makes comparisons.  This is a clean rhetorical device for a speaker to make his case.  So in Hebrews these are the comparisons: 

      (a)  Angels and Jesus: Chapters 1-2: 4

     (b) Angels and Jesus and humankind: 2: 5-16

     (c)  Jesus and Moses: 3:1-4: 13

              1) rest in the wilderness wanderings/rest in Christ

     (d) The Sermon’s Central Sermonic Comparison: Old and    New Covenants: 4:14-10:16                                           

  1. Jesus the Great High Priest/priests:  4:14-5:10

  2. Melchizedek, the priest/Levitical priests: 7:1-8: 13

  3. Temple/tabernacle of Israel/heavenly Temple:  9:1-10

  4. Blood of sacrificial animals/Blood of Christ:  9: 11-20

Repetitive sacrifices in the Temple/One and For all Sacrifice: 10:1-16

Interspersed in the comparison sections  above are the exhortations.  He prefaces each with the “indicatives” of  “such a  great a salvation” (2: 2), then exhorts.  It is like a father saying to his child, “I love you” and she knows it.  Then, “You can do better in school”.  It never should be or implied to be by a mother or father the following: “Do well in school, then I will love you.”  

The word translated “exhortation” in this verse is in Greek, paraclesis.  Paraclesis is normally translate “encouragement”.  Please note it is related to a Name for the Holy Spirit:  Paraclete which is variously translated as Advocate, Counselor.  Paraclesis flows out of the Gospel of “so great a salvation”.

The Epistle for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost:  Hebrews 2: 1-18

Note:  These study questions are cited and adapted from a downloadable Bible Study from Concordia Publishing House:  A Longer Look at the Lessons: Year B – Pentecost II (Downloadable)

Study Questions

  1.  What is an angel?  Take the new and improved Angelic Quiz below!
  2. Which verses are the first exhortation section? Which verses is the basis of this first exhortation? What is the Preacher’s encouragement to the congregation?
  3.  What was the message declared by angels? How seriously binding was it?
  4.   Why is response to and faithfulness to “such a great salvation . . . declared at first by the Lord, and . . . attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will” of far greater importance? (See John 3:34–36.) The writer quoted Psalm 8, applying its statements about mankind to Jesus.
  5.   For what surprising purpose was the Son made “lower than the angels”?
  6.  How was “the founder of their salvation [made] perfect through suffering”?To emphasize the Son’s full identification with our humanity as Jesus, the writer said that both Jesus and we have one ___, and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us ___. To back this up, he quoted from Psalm 22: “I will tell of Your name to ___” and “in the midst of ___ I will sing Your praise.”
  7.  As the author of Hebrews used these quotes from the Old Testament, who did he say said them?   We might expect the text to read, “He shared our flesh and blood humanity to live with us.” Instead, it focuses immediately on the supreme evidence of His complete, redemptive identity with us, His death.
  8.  What is it about the death of Jesus that destroyed the one who holds the power of death? How does the death of Jesus free us from slavery under the fear of death? (See 1 Corinthians 15:50–58; 2 Timothy 1:8–10.) For what does the death of Jesus free us? (See 2 Corinthians 5:14–15.)
  9. The  emphasize that the destruction of the one who holds the power of death and the freedom of those who were slaves under the fear of death is not just some spiritual imagery, the writer states that it is not ___ that the incarnate Son of God helps, but it is ___.
  10.  Why did Jesus have to be made like us in every respect to be our merciful and faithful high priest and make propitiation for the sins of the people? What comfort is there for us when tempted in the fact that Jesus shared the full human experience, including temptation, and overcame? What encouragement does it give us?

 Angelic Quiz

  1. The most reliable source about angels is Jewish folklore. 
  2. The word “angel” literally means a woman with wings.
  3. Angels are created.
  4. Angels sing.
  5. Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve us.
  6. Human beings can “earn their wings” and become angels.
  7. Angels are dumb.
  8. There are ranks of angels, kind of like in the army.
  9. Lucifer, or the devil, is a fallen angel.
  10. We are to pray to angels because they are heavenly beings.
  11. Angels are spiritual beings.
  12. There was war in heaven.
  13. We know the name of some of the angels.
  14. There are guardian angels.
  15. Angels usually provoke fear in people.
  16. Jesus was made lower than the angels yet He is superior to them.
  17. The angels’ favorite musical instrument is the harp.
  18. This is the best quiz on angels I have ever taken!

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