Inspiration for Today's World

Category: Snapshots (Page 1 of 45)

Epilogue: Now What?

Revelations 22:51NIV New International Version Translations

5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.


Click the Image to hear the Trans Siberian Orchestra Album: The Christmas Attic 2014

Here it is, another year gone by, Christmas has come and gone. We pulled all those decorations down from our attics, decorated our homes, went to church, passed the candles singing Silent Night, had the big family dinner and shared gifts, most of which we really did not need.  Now it is time to put Christmas back in the attic, or worse yet, put Christ in the attic too. For this study, it is time to reflect on what is a repetitive set of holiday events, year after year but never seem to make our world a better place. Are we moving closer to what the Apostle John foresaw as our hope, a time filled with only Christ’s light? It is interesting to note that our Bible both begins and ends with Light. God first creates light (Genesis) from within the darkness and we end in Revelations with the constant light of Christ eliminating darkness because of His Light (see The Power of Light). The Bible is thick so there must be a few things happening in between the beginning and the end.  Lets see if they can be distilled into an action plan for humanity. By now, we should know that it is all about the “Light.”

Every Christian should know that Light is good and darkness is not. Light, our candle metaphor, can amazingly be passed on without diminishing its original light. In fact, it is that Christmas tradition of candle sharing that shows us how one candle, the Christ Candle of Advent can begin a process of sharing that lights an entire room. Too soon, however, we move on and extinguish those candles. Life in this world marches on. There are still hungry children, unheated homes, people living in their cars, unemployed workers, terminally ill people, and that is probably happening just within your own neighborhood. Christ came to change that, not through grand government giveaway programs but a grander God giveaway program. God is extending the free gift of Grace, His Son would die and remove our gilt and sin, and people’s hearts would pour out generosity like the world has never seen.  Except for one thing, the candles are blown out, Christ is back in the attic and the world’s suffering goes on.

In Revelations, the Apostle John describes a vision of the holy city Jerusalem coming from heaven from God. John uses the image of this city in Revelation 21:10-22:5 as an image of the qualities of life that make up what will be a new heaven and a new earth. In Revelation 18, John had described the Roman Empire, a place that is foul, immoral, and over which a funeral song is already being sung. While many believe we must wait for our new heaven to come, we do have a choice in this world now. Christ is still with us, alive in our world. We can live with Him, we can live for Him, choosing to share His Light.

The new Jerusalem contains only those things that build up community, such as the glory and honor of the nations, and the nations and rulers living in its ways. The things that disrupt community have been destroyed (Revelation 21:27; see Revelation 21:8) in this new community. Revelation 21:5 draws on a traditional apocalyptic notion that, after the apocalypse, the faithful will reign with God. However, John has earlier indicated the nature of this rule: the saints worship God in the pattern of Revelation 4:9-11 by laying their crowns before God. To reign with God, is to serve God’s purposes. My premise is that we do not have to wait until the apocalypse. Christmas, this Christmas season should be a reminder of our Savior, a reminder that we can choose to step into God’s Kingdom any time we like, even now. How one might ask? Confess Christ as our Lord, repent of our sins and never blow the candle out! Keep passing the “Light.”

Items for Discussion

  • What do you do to get ready for the holiday season? Decorations, plans, etc.  
  • There is typically a set up time, a teardown time.  How long does it take you and how long are you “decorated” for the holiday season?
  • Is there any aspect of Christmas that is visible in your home all year long?
  • Christ’s birth, His Incarnation and time on earth, is a story of a special form of Light. What evidence do you see at Christmas of Christ’s Light?
  • The Christmas season is filled with a propensity to be generous. Why is this behavior seasonal?
  • What parts of Christ’s Light would you like to see all year long?
  • Why do you think that it is harder to keep the “Light” alive when we neuter Christmas and start calling it a Holiday Season? 
  • If Christ is not in Christmas, what is Christmas?

Discussion Challenge

  • The role of Christians is to keep Christ alive all year long. What is missing in our world that would help us keep our “Candles” lit and keep on passing the “Light” on to others?


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    NIV New International Version Translations

The Power of Light

John 1:1-51NIV New International Version Translations

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


John 8:12

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.


The New Testament Gospel writers like John, clearly loved the metaphor describing Jesus as Light. As this study is intended to be for the fourth Sunday in Advent, we will look at light, its power and why it is a perfect descriptor for our Savior. Lets take a quick look at a few things about light:

  • In the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is introduced as the Logos; that is, the Word of God by which the cosmos was created and rendered intelligible. It appears that John is responding here, at least in part, to the Greek belief that the universe is a place of reason, beauty, and harmony. In today’s world, many of us may have our doubts about this but it does point us in a direction of hope.
  • Passages from the Bible both Old and New Testaments portray light as a principle of truth, intelligence, creation, and divinity. Darkness covers evil, light exposes evil!
  • Nothing can exceed the speed of light because at that primitive flash of first light, the limits were set for all future states of motion, and it did this by being the defining moment of creation. By this reason of its origin, light frames all future possibilities and bounds. What a great descriptor for Jesus!
  • Light “comes down” from its characteristic speed as it is slowed and blocked by material bodies like glass, water, or any other translucent/transparent substance. The same can be also seen in God’s humanity. God the Son came down from heaven and was bound (blocked) by earthly limitations. This remains a key element of the Christian faith: Jesus was both human and God. If it were not for these earthly limitations, we would have no perspective on who our God really is.
  • The first great act of creation documented in the book of Genesis is “Let there be light.” Although God will later create the lights of the heavens (the sun, moon, and stars), He did not work in darkness. Therefore, light, by its very creation and nature has full power over all else including darkness.

The first verse of John 1, “In the beginning,” re-enforces creation. The next verses (1:2-4) secure Jesus’ role as a creator with God. Furthermore, God has chosen to recreate God’s very self in Jesus. In John 1:14 he states, “the Word became flesh.” The fact that the incarnation of God is first presented as light shining in darkness evokes the creation story in Genesis. Here, God has been reborn into the world (incarnated), now as God’s creating Word in the flesh. The threefold claim, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” reveals the origin of Jesus, His relationship with God, and His identity as God. Christmas, therefore, can be described as the Light shining in the darkness.

In John 8:12, we learn that there are two types of light in the world. We can perceive one, or both, or neither! When we are born into this world, we perceive physical light, and by it we learn of our Creator’s handiwork in the things we see. However, although that light is good, there is another Light, a Light so important that the Son of God had to come in order to both declare and impart it to mankind. The allegory used by Jesus in this verse speaks of the light of His Truth, the light of His Word, the light of eternal Life. Those who perceive the true Light will never walk in spiritual darkness.

We take a candle into a room to dispel the darkness. Likewise, the Light of Jesus Christ has to be taken into the darkness of sin that engulfs the hearts and lives of those who are not following Him. That’s the condition behind having this Light—that we follow Him. If we do not follow Him, we will not have this Light, and this simple truth is this is the only path to eternal life.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we surmise that Jesus had in mind a specific city on a hill, Jerusalem. Jerusalem was known as the mountain of the temple of the Lord and it was the seat of King David, a man whose dynasty God had entrusted with revealing divine judgements to the world. God had promised David that he would always have a lamp in Jerusalem, so, especially at night, the light from the great fire on the Temple’s altar was a visible reminder of the cities role in world affairs. Those entrusted with God’s words were therefore likened to lights and poetically compared to the stars. As small towns were formed and began to dot the countryside, the first Century Jewish homes began casting their light across the land. Because of ancient Israel’s belief in its “light giving role,” the menorah style lamp stand, with its seven lamps, became forever associated with the Jewish nation. Jesus here was reminding His disciples that they are to to be like those Jewish lamps and reveal the Truth before men. When they do, then good things will happen and these good works will bring glory to God.

Items for Discussion

  • Have you ever been in total darkness, lost so that you had no perception of where you were or the dangers around you?
  • There are many people that seem to be happy in their dark place. Why do you think that is?
  • God gave us physical light so we could see His hand in Creation. What do you see? This would be the evidence of God’s existence.
  • God gave us the Light of Christ (Spiritual Light) so we could see God Himself. What do you see? This would be the evidence of God’s existence too.
  • Using the term, Power of Light, what power does light really have?
  • How does the statement, “God literally had to turn on the lights before creating,” help you with understanding Christmas?
  • How do you typically “Share the Light” on Christmas?
  • Lasers amplify light. They do so generating power to cut steel, even shoot down incoming missiles. How would you use the laser concept do describe what our world would be like if all humanity could focus itself on Jesus?

Discussion Challenge

  • How has this Advent Study Series helped you re-connect with Christmas during these times?
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    NIV New International Version Translations

Emmanuel Has Come

Matthew 1:20-231NIV New International Version Translations

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).


This study represents the third week of Advent. In it, we will spend time looking at the name “Immanuel,” what it means, what it meant to the Jewish nation when Christ was born and what it means to us today, in the middle of both a pandemic and political chaos.

Our study begins with Joseph giving serious thought, contemplating the events that are unfolding in his life. His fiancé is pregnant! He does not act hastily and, although permitted by law, does not take the course which the law would have permitted him to do. In this, we see a minor but important lesson, when faced with even clear choices, God calls us to reflect carefully on our decisions. If Joseph had been hasty, violent, or unjust, he could have permanently affected his own happiness and his personal reputation along with that of Mary’s too. As Psalm 25:9 tells us, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

The word “angel” literally means a messenger and is typically given to those invisible holy beings who have not fallen into sin and who live in heaven (1 Timothy 5:21; Jude 1:6), Scriptures tell us that they are sent forth to minister to those who are destined for God’s favor and salvation. Angels are those unfallen, happy spirits that are in heaven already, whose dignity and pleasure it is to do the will of God. We find them communicating to mankind through dreams, visions, and human appearances.

It is not uncommon for God to communicate His will with people through dreams. We find some examples in Genesis 20:3; Genesis 30:1, Genesis 30:11, Genesis 30:24; Genesis 37:5; Genesis 41:1; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 7:1; Job 4:13-15; just to highlight a few. In this dream, Joseph is told, reassured, that he should not hesitate, or have any apprehensions about Mary’s virtue and purity. God’s direct will as told by the angel is for Joseph to take Mary as his wife. Most importantly, he is to treat her as his wife. This is to be a “no compromise” relationship. Why was this happening? Because her pregnancy is that of the Holy Spirit, a creation of divine power, God’s perfect will. This child was then prepared to be pure and holy, and free from the corruption of sin. Why again? Because in order that this Child might be qualified for His great work, it was necessary to be free of sin. This speaks to one of the great standards of belief that Christians have, the belief in Mary’s immaculate conception. The other standard is that Jesus was and is without sin.

Joseph was given very specific instructions to name this child Jesus. No Joe junior here. The name “Jesus” comes from the verb meaning saves. In Hebrew it is the same as Joshua. While the angel does not share with Joseph or Mary the full story, we know that Jesus will save people by dying for their redemption and by giving them the Holy Spirit to renew them (John 16:7-8). Through the gift of the Cross, people will be able to overcome their spiritual enemies. Jesus will defend them from danger, guide them in the path of duty,  sustain them in trials and even unto death. But the best news is that on that “Last Day” Jesus will raise them up and lead them to a world of purity and love forever.

Jesus had a specific purpose for coming that was created along with our universe itself.

  • Because of our free will and our exercise of it, Jesus had to come to save us, a design created at the moment of the “Apple’s First Bite.” Just check out Genesis chapter 3, it is all right there.
  • To take part in being “Saved,” people, all people, must overcome sin. Unless we give up our sins, unless we renounce the pride, ceremonies, and pleasures of the world, we have no evidence that we are children of God. (1 John 3:7-8)
  • That all who profess Christ as their savior, need to understand that there is no salvation unless it is from sin. Until we are sinless, we can never be admitted to a heaven hereafter. The only way to remove sin is through the blood of Jesus. the Cross.

Our study verses end with a prophecy recorded in Isaiah 7:14. The prophecy was delivered about 740 years before Christ, in the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah. The land of Judea was threatened with an invasion by the united armies of Syria and Israel, under the command of Rezin and Pekah. Ahaz was alarmed, and seems to have contemplated calling in aid from Assyria to defend him. Isaiah was directed, reluctantly, to go to Ahaz, and tell him to ask a sign from God (Isaiah 7:10-11). It is what we might say an appropriate story today during our time of COVID-19 and the pandemic. Isaiah said look to God rather than to Assyria for aid. The king refused to do this because he had no confidence in God.  Isaiah answered that, in these circumstances, the God would Himself give a sign, or a pledge, that the land should be delivered. The sign was, that a virgin would have a son, and that Son would save the land taken by these hostile kings. It will not be vaccines, one specific political party or even specific leader(s) that save us. Our response must always be to turn to God first!

The prophecy was therefore designed originally to signify to Ahaz that the land would certainly be delivered from its calamities and dangers, and that the deliverance would not be long delayed. The land of Syria and Israel, united now in confederation, would be deprived of both their kings, and thus the land of Judah would be freed from the threatening danger. This appears to be the literal fulfillment of the passage in Isaiah. That a virgin shall be with child some 740 years later was not envisioned. However, in Matthew’s Gospel, he clearly understands this and is applying it literally to a virgin, this virgin, Mary. In Luke 1:34, he also implies that the conception of Christ was miraculous, or that the body of the Messiah was created directly by the power of God and that is why they call His name Immanuel.

The word “Immanuel” is a Hebrew word literally means “God with us.” The name can be spelled with either an I or E as its first letter, depending on whether you use the Hebrew or Greek word. Matthew understands this and is emphasizing that the Messiah was really “God with us,” or that the divine nature was united with the human Jesus. Matthew intends more than noting just a name here. He had just given an account of the miraculous conception of Jesus,  of His being begotten by the Holy Spirit. God was therefore His Father. Jesus was divine as well as human. His appropriate name, therefore, was “God with us.” And though the mere use of such a name does not prove that Jesus had a divine nature, to Matthew it does, and he meant to use it here,  Jesus is God as well as man.

Items for Discussion

  • How do names influence your opinion of people?
  • Do you know what your name means or how you were given your specific name?
  • Do you believe in angels? Why or why not?
  • To what extent do biblical prophesies influence your faith?
  • Do you think that COVID-19 or the threats of political turmoil are a punishment from God or a gift from God? Explain?
  • To be a Christian, is to accept the virgin birth of Christ – How do you think about it and incorporate the virgin birth into your beliefs and opinions and your faith?
  • Isaiah’s prophesy was that a virtually impossible thing would be shown to the world to prove God is in control – Do you think that the world is so hardened to sin that the only thing it can respond to is the “impossible?”
  • We are given numerous examples in our Bible of problems, like political turmoil or pandemics, that affected people. If you were to recap history, what turned around those bad times? In other words, what did the people do to change course and direction for the better?
  • What signs would you expect to see in a country or State, or city or church or home that it was responding the correct way to God’s call to us?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we help each other remain faithful in a faithless world?
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    NIV New International Version Translations

Who Needs a Savior?

Romans 7:21-251NIV New International Version Translations

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.


To be overly simplistic, the answer to our sermon title question is of course US!. We need a Savior.  To do justice to this question, one needs to answer some other questions first.

  • What is a Savior?
  • Why do we need a Savior?
  • Who is a Savior?
  • How do I find this Savior?

We could also entitle this passage in Romans “The War Within.” Paul says in verse 21, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” In other words, for the great Apostle Paul, he could not escape the temptations of sin or even the commission of sin. This is hardly encouraging. If one of such historical stature as Paul was constantly fighting sin, what hope do ordinary Christians like us have in conquering evil within us? In verse 23 Paul says, “but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” In verse 24 Paul says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Over and over again, Paul, the mature, godly, believing apostle indicates that he still sins.

The dictionary defines a savior as “One who saves, rescues, delivers, or redeems from danger, death, or destruction; a deliverer; a redeemer.” Paul is reiterating a basic Biblical principle, mankind is separated from God. This makes sense in that we cannot directly hear God, see God nor even begin to understand God. God sits in a Realm, a Throne beyond our vision and understanding. Why? We are sinful and that sinfulness brings with it pain and suffering not only to us but to everyone around us. Sin blinds all things good.

Why we need this Savior is because the gap, the distance between our God and humanity is a chasm so large that there is no hope for us to build a bridge across it. Not only do we lack the “engineering knowledge” but we do not have sufficient “materials” to tackle the task. This seems a perfect opportunity to find a Savior, someone who is up to the task, someone who knows what both sides of the chasm looks like, the “Engineer,” who can construct a bridge to carry us over from where we are now, among the sinful, to a place without sin. We all should seek this bridge because to spend eternity on the wrong side is a risk no one should ever take.

However, here comes our answer to who is up to this task, someone who will save us from the fatality of sin. In verse 25 Paul says, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Jesus Christ is our Savior!

Our recap says that we need a Savior because we all fall short of God’s standards for humanity. If left to us, we all would remain separated from God for eternity. It seems that only a cruel God would create us in His own image and then leave us to languish for eternity, void of His love and suffering in pain. But Paul quickly sets the record straight, we have a God that will deliver us through His Son! While this in itself is not overly complex, we come to the final and hardest of our questions: How do I find this Savior?

Advent, on this Second Sunday, it part of a journey. We first celebrated that Mary would give birth to an “Incarnate God,” Jesus. Next, we must recognize that we all need Jesus as if our “eternal lives” depended upon it (By the way it does!). The bonds of sin that bind us to this place called earth are about to be broken forever by the birth of Jesus. Oh but there is a catch, we need to place our faith and trust in God that He sent His Son (incarnate) to us and who ever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Items for Discussion

  • Why don’t people seem concerned over whether there is an eternal existence or not?
  • Is there evidence in our world that all people, everyone, may not be saved and exist in an eternal world?
  • Our faith tells us that without Christ, there is no Savior – Why is that a struggle for some to believe?
  • Our world happily celebrates a baby being born and Christmas with all of its pageantry – What single family tradition do you have that celebrates the birth of a Savior?
  • How would you explain to someone that it is not possible to be “Saved” without Christ?
  • Paul tells us that he not only saw sin everywhere, he could not stop himself from sinning – How do we honor the call to repentance under these circumstances?  Should we just give up and not worry about sin or try harder to remove it from humanity?
  • What does it say about one’s faith if their belief in Christ has no impact on their morality?

Discussion Challenge

  • Where do you see Christ in Christmas this year?




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    NIV New International Version Translations

The Anointed One(s)

Exodus 30:22-301NIV New International Version Translations

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, 23 “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 24 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil. 25 Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. 26 Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, 27 the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, 28 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. 30 “Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.


Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in most Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming.  Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity. The name was adopted from Latin adventus meaning “coming; arrival”, translating the Greek parousia.  This study looks at the anointing of kings, the purpose and the process.

The origin of anointing may have come from a practice followed by early shepherds. Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep’s head, they could burrow into the sheep’s ears and kill the sheep. So, ancient shepherds poured oil on the sheep’s head. This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep’s ears because the insects would slide off. From this practice, anointing may have grown to become symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment. From shepherds, this evolved into anointing one’s body or head with oil and became a common practice with the Jews, as with other Oriental nations. ( 28:40 ; Ruth 3:3 ; Micah 6:15 ). Anointing the head with oil or ointment seems also to have been a mark of respect sometimes paid by a host to his guests. ( Luke 7:46 ) and Psalm 23:5.

What we know about anointing:

  • Anointing became a rite of inauguration into each of the three typical offices of the Jewish commonwealth.
  • Prophets were occasionally anointed to their office, ( 1 Kings 19:16 ) and were called messiahs, or anointed. ( 1 Chronicles 16:22 ; Psalms 105:15 )
  • Priests, at the first institution of the Levitical priesthood, were all anointed to their offices, ( Exodus 40:15 ; Numbers 3:3 ) but afterwards anointing seems to have been specially reserved for just the high priest, ( Exodus 29:29 ; Leviticus 16:32 ) so that “the priest that is anointed,” ( Leviticus 4:3 ) is generally thought to mean the high priest.
  • Anointing was the principal and divinely-appointed ceremony in the inauguration of the Jewish Kings. ( 1 Samuel 9:16 ; 10:1 ; 1 Kings 1:34 1 Kings 1:39 ) The rite was sometimes performed more than once. David was anointed three times.
  • Inanimate objects also were anointed with oil, in token of their being set apart for religious service. Thus Jacob anointed a pillar at Bethel. ( ( Genesis 31:13 ; Exodus 30:26-28 )
  • We still find anointing with oil in use in churches today. Anointing with oil was prescribed by St. James to be used for the recovery of the sick. ( James 5:14 ).  The Apostles anointing with oil. ( Mark 6:13 )
  • However, for Advent we will rely on the Old Testament promise that a Deliverer would come under the title of Messiah, or Anointed, ( Psalms 2:2 ; Daniel 9:25 Daniel 9:26 )

Lets look at some of the terms used in our verses for clarity:

shekel – The earliest shekels were a unit of weight, used  for trading before the advent of coins. (11 grams (0.39 oz)). Later, the term stood for a denomination of silver coinage.

hin – A liquid measure  equal to about 8 quarts.

cinnamon – A spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used mainly as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive.

calamus – Acorus calamus (also called sweet flag or calamus) is a species of tall wetland flowering plant. It was used in traditional medicine over centuries to treat digestive disorders and pain (however, it is banned in the US because it is toxic).

cassia – There are hundreds of Cassia species, but it is unclear just how many. One estimate stands at 692. It is one of the principal spices of the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:24 ), and an article of commerce ( Ezekiel 27:19 ). Biblical Cassia is from the inner bark of a tree resembling the cinnamon and was probably imported from India.

myrrh – A natural gum or resin extracted from a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora. Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. Myrrh mixed with posca2Posca was an Ancient Roman drink, made by mixing vinegar, water, and perhaps herbs. It was the soldiers, the lower classes, and the slaves who drank posca, a drink despised by the upper class.or wine was common across ancient cultures, for general pleasure and as an analgesic.

olive oil – A liquid fat obtained from olives (the fruit of Olea europaea), a traditional tree of the Mediterranean Basin. Its quality can vary and for anointing, only the best and first pressings were used to produce the oil.

While anointing and the use of Anointing Oil had its roots in the Old Testament, we should note that oil has symbolism also linked to the Holy Spirit’s presence. When someone consecrates and sanctifies something with anointing oil, they set it apart for God’s use.  This symbolism is still relevant to us today. On this first Sunday of Advent, we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. We see the importance of oil through the word “anointed” and its associations with Jesus. Anointing oil was used on priests and kings for important purposes. In the same way, Jesus is our High Priest and our King. This practice used in Israel and throughout the Ancient World merely foreshadowed God’s work through his Son, the Messiah (anointed), our King.

Items for Discussion

  • To what purpose do you think God went through such detail to define the formula for anointing oil? Why so complex?
  • Why is setting someone or something apart from others such an important part of our culture?
  • Where else in our culture do we still anoint, set apart, people or things?
  • To what benefits does an anointing bring to the anointed and to the witnesses?


Luke 7:36-48

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”


There is much in this story but let’s focus on our message from the season of Advent and the topic for this study, the anointing of kings. Here we have a story that moves us to the heart of Christ’s mission on earth. Only those who understand their separation from God through sin, enough to be broken-hearted, can fully perceive the full scope of the mercy shown by Jesus. In fact, it is the very message within our Gospels that are written to encourage repenting sinners. The Pharisee, instead of rejoicing in the woman’s repentance, confined his thoughts to her former bad and sinful character. If our God was like this Pharisee, without free forgiveness, none of us could escape the wrath fairly due to us.

Instead, we have a gracious Savior who has purchased a full pardon with His own blood and then, moving against all typical human responses, freely gives it every one that believes in Him. Christ, by this simple parable, forced Simon to acknowledge that the greater sinner this woman had been, the greater love she ought to show to Him when her sins were pardoned. Our important point of learning is that sin is a debt, and all debts must be fully paid. We are all sinners, debtors to Almighty God. Some sinners may be greater debtors but whether our debt is great or small, it is more than we are able to pay. We do not have the “currency” to repay God. Instead, God is ready to forgive that debt. Why, because His Son has already purchased a pardon for those who believe in Him and used His own life as currency. This is the simple message of Jesus and His Gospel message; repenting sinners are forgiven. The more we express our sorrow for sin, and our love to Christ, the clearer evidence we have of the forgiveness of our sins. What a wonderful change can grace make on a sinner’s heart and life, as well as their position before God, when the full remission of all their sins through faith in the Lord Jesus have been removed!

Items for Discussion

  • Why does the concept of a debt appear to be so appropriate for the concept of a sin?
  • In a typical “anointing” a special person, a priest typically would do the ceremony, Here, a sinner anoints our Savior. To what purposes do you see in this act?
  • We typically anoint someone to confer title, position, power, authority, duty, etc. – How does the anointing of Christ by a sinful woman define the responsibilities of humanity toward Jesus? In other words, now that Jesus is anointed King by a common sinner, how should we view Him?
  • To much of the world, we will be the only Gospel that people will know and see. Why then is it so important to live a life that demonstrates our servanthood to an anointed Savior King?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we take what appear to be old and may be archaic practices like anointing and keep the relevant in today’s world?
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    Posca was an Ancient Roman drink, made by mixing vinegar, water, and perhaps herbs. It was the soldiers, the lower classes, and the slaves who drank posca, a drink despised by the upper class.

A Thanksgiving Frame of Mind

Luke 17:11-211NIV New International Version Translations

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” 20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”


The Thanksgiving holiday’s history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurred well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated. The  holiday tradition is traced to a well-recorded 1619 event in Virginia and a sparsely documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest, which the Pilgrims celebrated with Native Americans, who helped them get through the previous winter by giving them food in that time of scarcity. In our study verses for this week, the Apostle Luke recalls the story of Jesus who heals ten men with leprosy. Only one appears thankful.  In this time of year, what is it that causes some to be thankful for the day off and the food and others to fully appreciate the salvation and grace provided freely by our God?

Luke’s story draws attention to two important themes:

  1. Jesus’ care for the outcast in society (there are ten lepers and one of them also carries the burden of being a Samaritan)
  2. The appropriate response to Jesus should always be a response of faithful recognition and gratitude. Here in this story, both responses appear together.

We are first reminded that Jesus is set to go to Jerusalem (9:51). He will arrive in chapter 19. Jesus is in the area between Samaria and Galilee, an area He frequents. He is about to cross both a physical land boundary and a  social boundary because of His association with lepers and with a Samaritan. As required by Jewish law, as Jesus enters s a village, ten lepers approach calling out to Him but keeping their distance because they are unclean. He is called “master,” a term used in every other instance in Luke by the disciples.  After Jesus heals them, He immediately tells them to show themselves to the priests to confirm their healing. This was part of Jewish law and required before the lepers could reenter society.  This story like so many others is about paying attention to outsiders and marginalized people. The story, however, quickly shifts to one leper, a Samaritan, who alone turns back glorifying God and prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet thanking Him. The Greek verb used by the leper for thank you is the one used when Jesus thanks God for the bread and cup at the last supper (22:17, 19; see also Paul in Acts 27:35).

Only after the now cured leper prostrates himself in thanksgiving do we learn that he is a Samaritan. Samaritans were the hated outsiders of Jesus’ day. They were unappealingly, different, and unwelcome outsiders. We see this most notably in the parable in 10:25-37, in which it is a Samaritan, and not the respectable religious people, demonstrate love for their neighbor by showing mercy to a wounded stranger.

The heart of our study verses have three parts:

  1. the healing
  2. the turning back and praising God (literally glorifying God)
  3. the prostration and thanksgiving at Jesus’ feet.

Each of these three steps are interpreted by Jesus in ways that highlight His care for those shunned by society and demonstrates God’s expectations for our behavior with this group:

  •  “Were not all ten cleansed?” Jesus asks. “But the other nine, where are they?” Is there an expectation of gratitude?
  • “Has no one returned to give praise [literally give glory] to God except this foreigner?” Those who claimed to be close to God were the least thankful for their miracle. As people celebrate a full table and a gathering of loved one’s in relative peace, does God see the praise for what He has given us?

A sense of our spiritual leprosy should make us very humble whenever we draw near to Jesus. On this special day called, we need to look for God to meet us with the same expectations as He had for the lepers. Only one of those who were healed returned to give thanks. It is our purpose on this celebratory day  to be very humble in our thanksgivings, as well as in prayers. Jesus noticed the one who distinguished himself and was a Samaritan. The others only got the outward cure, while the Samaritan alone got the spiritual cure. And finally Jesus’ response to the Samaritan prostrate with thanksgiving at his feet: “. . . your faith has made you well [literally saved you].” Jesus uses this statement other times after He heals. As people gather on our Thanksgiving Day, is it food, football, family, or God’s Grace and Salvation that is the centerpiece at the dinner table?

Items for Discussion

  • Who are the unappealing and unwelcome outsiders in today’s society?
  • What are the things that God expects us to do to show we too are “Thankful?”
  • How do we, during times of “quarantine,” still celebrate thankfully?
  • While the other nine lepers were no doubt pleased to be cured, thankful for their healing, what did they miss out on?
  • What is the “Spiritual Cure” that the Samaritan received from Jesus?
  • How does the “Spiritual Cure” differ from a physical cure?
  • What are your “Thanksgiving Traditions” that demonstrate your thankfulness to God?

Discussion Challenge

  • How would you keep Thanksgiving alive every day? In your home? in your church? In your community? In your country?


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Yes You Can

Philippians 4:13; 12:91NIV New International Version Translations

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.


The “Little Engine that Could”

There are really several parts to this positive, “Yes I Can” message. To set out with any objective, the first step is to identify our weaknesses, those things that may keep us from successfully reaching our goal. We can also conclude that when objectives include God as a partner, a positive outcome is easier to achieve.  But that is where the second part, our Corinthians verse points. To receive God’s help begins with humbly admitting we need the help.

From this comment from the Apostle Paul, it would be easy to conclude that he was strong; there was no task or hardship beyond his strength. Paul could bear any trial, perform any duty, subdue any sinful weakness of his own nature, and meet all the temptations and adversity that life could throw at him. However, the exact opposite was true. Through his own experiences in life, Paul arrived at a different conclusion. First, Paul was confident that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to handle. His declaration was not based on vanity or self-reliance. It was not even based on experience. Paul learned where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and  it was that knowledge that was sufficient to uphold his confidence.

Paul’s source of strength was Christ. It would be Christ who was his provider. Paul had abundant experience but even this would not be enough to either carry him through his trials or to achieve the successful growth of Christ’s church. It would be his faith in Christ that enabled him to bear cold, fatigue, hunger, temptations and persecutions. And what exactly did his faith and belief in Christ bring to us?

  • One does not need to sink under any trial; there is One who can strengthen us.
  • We do not need to yield to temptation. There is One who is able to provide a way for our escape.
  • Sins of the mind need not  torture us with improper thoughts and unholy desires. There is One who can enable us to banish such thoughts from the mind, and restore the right balance to our lives.
  • We do not need to fear what is to come. Trials, temptations, poverty, want, persecution, may await us; but we do not need to sink into despondency. We have One to place all hope in.

Paul had learned that for every step and circumstance of life, Christ was able to strengthen  him, and bring him triumphantly to Him. Paul saw that to be a Christian was a privilege.  Paul would say that to feel, in the trials of life, we have one unchanging and most mighty friend who can always help us was truly God’s gift to humanity. With God’s Son, Christ, we now can cheerfully engage in our duties, and meet the trials that are before us, leaning on the arm of Christ Himself. When we has such a friend, no one needs to shrink from their duty or dread persecution, even death itself. In all circumstances, Christ, our unchanging Friend, can and will uphold us.

Items for Discussion

  • Do you think the world views Christianity today as a obligation, a crutch or a privilege? Why?
  • How would you go about identifying your own weaknesses?
  • Why should we know what our weaknesses are?
  • If you could honestly create a list of weaknesses, what would you do with it?
  • Paul learned that he could do all things with Christ–How do we learn the same thing?


2 Corinthians 12:9

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.


In the verses before our study verse, Paul is praying for relief to emphasize how desperately he wanted God to remove an affliction. We do not know what the affliction was but it had plagued Paul for a long time. In Paul’s moment of desperate prayer, Christ answers him. “But he said to me, My grace (Greek word is charis) is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect (teleo) in weakness.” The key word here is grace, a significant word in the New Testament. The use of the Greek word charis in the New Testament has its roots in the Hebrew word hesed, used in the Old Testament to speak of God’s lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness. Christ Himself (God), was telling Paul that His grace would help him to overcome his affliction.

Paul prayed that the affliction might be taken from him, but Christ answered that prayer as He answers so many prayers–He did not take the thing away but gave Paul strength to bear it. That is how Christ (God) works. He does not spare us things, but makes us able to conquer them. Was Christ’s promise of all-sufficient grace enough?

  • It was sufficient for physical weariness. It made him able to go on. 
  • It was sufficient for physical pain. It made him able to bear the cross for himself.
  • It was sufficient for opposition. All his life Paul was up against it and all his life he never gave in. No amount of opposition could break him or make him turn back.
  • It made him able, as all this letter shows, to face slander. There is nothing so hard to face as misinterpretation and cruel misjudgment. 

The glory of the Gospel’s message is that in our weakness we find His wondrous grace. God’s opportunities can usually found at man’s wit’s end.

Items for Discussion

  • Virtually all “self-help” programs begin with admitting you need help–Why?
  • Are people really open to someone boasting about their weaknesses? Why or why not?
  • What happens to a society when too many live in an “Asking for a Friend” kind of world–Where we never really admit we have a problem?
  • There are great “Influencers” in our world, Internet, media, entertainment, sports, advertising, etc. Why would most people NOT add churches to the list of influencers? Why?

Discussion Challenge

  • What do churches have to do today to change the way we view weaknesses in each other?
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To Worship Rightly

Matthew 11:28-301NIV New International Version Translations

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


Before we begin our study, it might be helpful to understand the definition of the word “rightly.” Merriam-Webster’s definition is – in accordance with right conduct : fairly, justly. Our verses are some of the most loved passages in the New Testament. In these passages, Jesus was addressing the people of Israel who were burdened and weighed down with the externalism and the legal do’s and don’ts of the Pharisees. All of this generated guilt,  frustration, and dissatisfaction. In Matthew 23:4, Jesus further warned the people of the oppressive and legalistic ways of the Pharisees when He said, “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Here, Jesus was speaking about the way the Pharisees had hidden the true meaning of the Old Testament Law with all the religious rules and regulations as the way to God, to true spirituality, and as a way to receive God’s blessing in life. The Pharisees had added to the Mosaic law an additional 365 prohibitions and 250 commandments. Those who were under the Mosaic Law were said to be yoked to Moses. Those who were under the authority of the Pharisees were said to be yoked to the Pharisees.

It is in this setting that the Lord makes a very gracious invitation to all who would want to experience the relief, joy, and the blessings of His life through a grace/faith relationship with Him. This is an invitation aimed at all, at the curious and at the convinced to bring them to a place of a deeper level of commitment in which they are to take His yoke and learn from Him as committed disciples. “Come” is the Greek word “deute,” means a strong appeal on the will of another. It expresses the desire and compassionate heart of Jesus and is His appeal for people to come to Him as a relief from their oppression. It is a call to turn from whatever they are presently depending on and depend on Him. For those without Jesus, it is equivalent to a call to believe in Him. For those who are already believers, it is a call to follow him as a committed disciple. It is a call to completely turn their lives over to Jesus.

Jesus is using this opportunity to drive home one of the great concepts of Christianity that must be taught and grasped. Christianity is a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. This is not a call to a program, a system of religion, to a church,  to a denomination, and it is certainly not a call to follow one specific human leader or even a group of people. Discipleship is not about cloning subordinates to be like the leaders, but instead, developing Christlike people. While God uses churches, people, and theological systems, Christianity is an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus.

  • “All” points to the universal significance of this offer. We are never to be partial to one group, or class, or nationality. In Christ, God reaches out to the whole world.
  • “Take” is “airo” and means “to take up, lift up.” Here it is used in the sense of “to take upon oneself what has been lifted in order to carry it.” It  represents a decision, sometimes in a crisis, to submit to Jesus. It is undoubtedly equivalent to “take up one’s cross.”
  • “My yoke” is of course the key phrase. Jesus did not say, “come to me and I will remove all yokes.”  He said, “take mine on.”
  • “And learn.” This verb is in the continuous present tense and describes a process of discipleship, of the journey in growth and Christlike change. It is lifelong. “Learn” is “manthano,” the verb is from which mathetes, “disciple,” comes from. It means “to learn by inquiry, but also by use and practice, to acquire the habit of, be accustomed to.” It means “to learn, less by instruction than through experience or practice.”

Items for Discussion

  • What have the most effective ways you have experienced actually learning who Jesus was?
  • We are comparing experience learning here against “book” learning. Why is experience a better teacher?
  • Where does today’s Christian find “experience?”
  • Why would “lock downs,” the separation of people from each other be destructive to Christianity? How might this be different for other religions and faiths?
  • What do you think the secret is in leading a “rightly” life?


Luke 10:29-37

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


In prior verses, a lawyer answers Jesus by stating that two things are necessary to inherit eternal life—loving God, and loving your neighbor (v. 27). Several scholars have noted a link between the parable of the Good Samaritan (vv. 29-37) and the story of Martha and Mary, which follows it (vv. 38-42). The parable shows what it means to love one’s neighbor, and the story of Martha and Mary shows what it means to love God. On the surface, the lawyer is asking who he must love. However, at a deeper level, he is asking Jesus to define the boundaries so that he will know who he is not required to love. If he can determine who is his neighbor, he will also know who is not his neighbor.

Jesus could have simply answered, “Everyone is your neighbor.” Instead Jesus tells a story that encourages us to change our focus from the fence that separates us to the neighbor on the other side. When our eyes are focused on the fence, we cannot see our neighbor clearly. However, when we look at the neighbor, we hardly see the fence. Jesus’ story might have its roots in 2 Chronicles 28:5-15. In that story, Samaritans rescued Judeans who had been defeated in battle, fed them, clothed them, anointed them, and brought them back to their home in Jericho, much like the Samaritan will do for the traveler in Jesus’ parable.

The road described here affords thieves opportunities for ambush and easy escape routes. Travelers of those times were well-advised to travel such roads in a convoy. Traveling alone, this man took a risk and paid dearly for his decision. The Samaritan, however, does not ask whether the victim brought trouble upon himself, but simply stops to help. Our society today still sorts needy people into deserving and undeserving categories, which allows us to excuse ourselves from helping those who are not deserving. Christianity, however, is about help for the undeserving (Romans 5:8).

Both the priest and Levite pass by the injured man. They are from the tribe of Levi, but priests are also descendants of Aaron (Exodus 28:1). Priests serve as mediators between humans and God, and perform sacrifices and other rituals. Levites assist the priests with these duties (Numbers 3:6). We expect compassion from clergy and assume that the priest and Levite will help, but they pass by on the other side. Jesus does not tell us why they fail to stop. Whatever their reasons, Jesus’ story highlights that observing the letter of the law which we may assume the priests did, falls short of loving God and our neighbors. Even the lawyer had outlined that point to qualify for salvation.

Jews consider Samaritans to be half-breeds. They intermarried with pagans, were considered defiled and unfit for God’s service. Jews avoided contact with Samaritans whenever possible, and considered them worse than pagans. After all, Samaritans were people of the promise who did not value the promise enough to keep themselves pure. Furthermore, Samaritans opposed the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 4:2-5 and Nehemiah 2:19), and established a rival temple on Mount Gerizim.

We know little about the victim, and we know even less about the Samaritan. We know only that he is willing to help even though he is traveling through Jewish territory among people who would not be inclined to help him in similar circumstances. The Samaritan’s actions reverse those of the robbers. They robbed the man, left him to die, and abandoned him. The Samaritan pays for the man, leaves him in good hands, and promises to return, leaving a deposit worth two days wages as a down payment for care. Conclusion: Jesus leads us to define neighbor, not in terms of boundaries, but in terms of relationships and human need.

Being a good neighbor comes, not from without, but from within. We can be neighbor to anyone who will accept us as neighbor. The person in need is the best candidate to be our neighbor, because the person in need is most likely to accept us. The Samaritan is willing to be a neighbor to the wounded man, and the wounded man is willing to accept his help. That might not be the case had he not been wounded.  The concern for religious purity prevents the priests and Levites from acting as neighbor to the fallen man, but the Samaritan, considered by Jews to be unclean, fulfills the requirements of the law to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). The one question we are left with through this parable is who do we identify with? Some people feel like the wounded man in the parable, and would be delighted to have a Good Samaritan bring them relief. Others identify with the Samaritan. To the staunch Christian, they may identify with the priest or the Levite. Jesus tells us to do the right thing even when our human needs are so overwhelming that we are tempted to pass by on the other side.

Items for Discussion

  • Is this a parable for “today?” If so, how? If not, why?
  • Who are today’s Samaritans, priests/Levites and victims?
  • Mission programs often remove the givers from the victims —  Why is this not as effective as being directly involved?
  • What is the most effective way to honor what Jesus is telling us to do?

Discussion Challenge

  • In what ways might a church act more like the Samaritan than the priest and Levite?


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Our God Who Gives, and Gives, and Gives

2 Corinthians 9:7-81NIV New International Version Translations

7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.


Our lesson for this Sunday is about Stewardship. From these two verses, we can look at an outline of the principles of generous giving from the Apostle Paul. Much of this study material was taken from the Commentaries of William Barclay.

Paul would insist to us today, that no person was ever a loser because they were generous. Giving is like sowing seed. The man who sows with a sparing hand cannot hope for anything but a meagre harvest, but the man who sows with a generous hand will in due time reap a generous return. Paul is quoting from Psalms 112:3 and Psalms 112:9. In verse 6, he is describing a good and generous person. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” This is a consistent theme through the Bible. There is a slight shift in the rewards, however, that the New Testament envisions for us, They are never material, never the promise of “things,” but rather the wealth of the heart and of the human spirit.  What then are the rewards we can claim today?

  • We will be rich in love, Christ’s kind of love.
  • We will be rich in friends. Generosity typically instills in the hearts of others, endearing emotions.
  • We will be rich in help. Some day, each of us will need the help which others can give, and, if we have been sparing in our help to them, the likelihood is that they will be sparing in their help to us. Use a large measure here.
  • We will be rich towards God. Jesus taught us that what we do to others, we typically also do for God.

The Apostle Paul insists that it is the happy giver who God loves. We can find this in Deuteronomy 15:7-11. Here is defined our duties with regard to generosity to the poor. Deuteronomy 15:10 says, “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” 

Paul insists that God can give a person both the substance to give and the spirit in which to give it. In 2 Corinthians 9:8 he speaks of the all-sufficiency which God gives us.  Hence, God Gives, and Gives, and Gives. The Greek word Paul uses is autarkeia. This was one of his favorite words. It does not describe the sufficiency of the person who possesses all kinds of things in abundance. It means independence. It describes the state of a person who has directed their life, not to amassing possessions, but by eliminating needs. It describes a person who has taught themselves to be content with very little. What can a God-directed life then do? 

It can do something for others:
  • Relieve their needs. 
  • Restore their faith in their fellow men.
  • It can make them thank God. 
It can do something for ourselves:
  • It assures our Christian profession, to live the Gospel.
  • It wins us both the love and the prayers of others.
  • It does something for God.

In this chapter, Paul turns the thoughts of the Corinthians to the gift of God in Jesus Christ,. He reminds them that this Gift, whose wonder can never be exhausted, whose story can never be fully told, tells them that it was because of God’s generosity through His gift of Jesus, that we now have an example of how to achieve joy in our world. The Greek word Paul used “hilaros” is translated “cheerful” and means pretty much the same today, cheerful, joyous. But it also contains a sense of readiness. It means to be ready to act at a moment’s notice, to be prepared.

Items for Discussion

  • How can we become more cheerful givers?
  • What does Paul mean by being ready?
  • With today’s economy, it can be difficult for even the most faithful to give to the church cheerfully, either joyously or readily. There are some things we can do, however, that might help change our attitude and get us ready. Please share your ideas?
  • Are there a basic biblical principles for Christian giving? What might some of them be?
  • Paul in chapter 8:12 talks about proportional giving. What do you think this means?
  • Giving benefits the one who gives the gift and the one who receives the gift. Where do people get this concept wrong?
  • List all of the benefits you can think of associated with giving?

Discussion Challenge

  • If the issue of “needs”, “money”, “poor” are not solvable problems, what should we do about them?
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Our God of Surprises!

Matthew 22:15-221NIV New International Version Translations

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

A Silver Coin also called a “Tribute Penny” – Wages for a 10 hour day – With one Denarius, you could feed yourself for only a day.


The Pharisees pose Jesus a question that they hope will put Jesus between a rock and a hard place: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” (verse 17) If Jesus answers that the taxes are lawful, He will offend the Pharisees and the many in the crowds who hate the Roman Empire’s constant meddling in Jewish affairs.  If the answer is “unlawful”, Jesus gets in trouble with the Roman emperor. It may also be helpful to understand that at this time in history, the tax was a “flat tax.” Everyone paid the same amount including the poor who could afford it the least. The tax in question is the poll tax or head tax, first imposed when Judea became a Roman province in 6 A.D. 

We know little about the Herodians. They are mentioned only here and in Mark 3:6 and 12:13—and nowhere in other literature. Their name implies that they support King Herod and his alliance with the Romans. That puts them in conflict with the Pharisees, whose relationship with Herod is less comfortable and who share the general resentment against the tax. The Pharisees and Herodians are brought together, in this instance, by their opposition to Jesus. If Jesus speaks out against the tax, the Herodians (loyalists to Rome) would consider this treasonous and report Jesus to the powers to be. It is a well-laid trap. Our story begins with flattery, complimenting Jesus’s reputation for always telling the truth and not ever being politically motivated. (verse 16).

Jesus isn’t fooled and agrees to answer the question. But first, He changes the issue slightly by asking to see the coin normally used to pay the tax. Jesus is being put on the spot. However, His questioners are really the ones who are more deeply entangled and complicit in taking advantage of the Romans. Jesus’ pockets are empty, He has no such coin but His opponents have no trouble coming up with a denarius on demand. When they produce the Roman coin, Jesus doesn’t answer immediately, He moves to make one more important point: “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” The Pharisees’ answer, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus says, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (verses 20-21).

The consensus at the time seems to have been that Jesus managed to wiggle out of the trap (verse 22), but it’s not clear that anyone even figured out yet exactly what Jesus was getting at. Some people point to this passage as proof that God and politics should be kept separate. This interpretation would state that things like taxes have absolutely nothing to do with one’s theological beliefs or even commitments. Others might say that this story proves that religion is a matter of the heart, and that Jesus doesn’t really care about minor things like what you do with your money. And some have even used this passage as proof that Jesus taught that the law is the law, and our duty as Christians is to support the government no matter what. All three of these interpretations are too simplistic.

Like a lot of things Jesus said, these words are hard to pin down to just one meaning. Jesus intended the generations to reflect on His wisdom and from it gain insight to live by. First, lets remember that Matthew’s Jesus has already spoken on the subject of money and divided loyalties: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (6:24). Jesus’s point here is different than describing a compromise between human loyalties, He is talking about God and the emperor.

By highlighting the physical features of the denarius coin used to pay the tax, Jesus gives a number of things to think about.

  • First, the image of the emperor stamped into the coin’s surface, along with the blasphemous inscription with the emperor’s claim to divinity. Remember the prohibition against images in (Exodus 20:4).
  • Next, Jesus points out that His opponents possess and display such an object within the Temple grounds (21:23), Jesus seems to raise, not lower, the stakes of the conversation about money and human loyalty. The issue at stake here is nothing less than idolatry. Jesus is pointing out that it is not as simple as printing different words on money,  even words that confess our trust in God. The Torah forbids graven images. The Pharisees and Herodians are questioning Jesus within the precincts of the temple—holy ground—and yet they have no problem producing the offending coin with its graven image, presumably from their own pockets. That act exposes their hypocrisy, because no truly observant Jew would carry a graven image in his pocket. 
  • Finally, the coin is man-made, stamped out by human hands for human purposes, and the image of Caesar is imprinted on it. It is hard not to compare the connection to those words from the beginning of Genesis and about what God said the first time God stamped out a human being. God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, …..” (Genesis 1:26).

If ever there was a good metaphor for the human heart, it is this one.  Who’s image does one’s heart bear? This is the real question that Jesus is trying to answer. To those who pursue wealth and treasure, it will be “Caesar’s Image.” To all who pursue God, it will be the image of our Savior, Jesus. This simple story in Matthew is meant to define the very character of each person.  Whatever we surrender to “Caesar,” or to the retirement fund, or to the offering basket at church, we can never change this simple fact. We belong entirely to God. Because of necessity, adversity or even abundance, we all divide our budget. However, Jesus tells us that we must never divide our allegiance to Him. The coins of our world today bear the images of dead presidents, historical places or even important historical events.  But is was God who said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” That is why each of us must never forget to render to God the things that are God’s.

Items for Discussion

  • Jesus is telling us to keep focused on Him. How does one keep the image of their heart focused on Jesus during “hard times?
  • How do you feel about the government taking more of your money? Is it really theirs to take?
  • How do you feel about your church asking for more of your money? 
    • It is often difficult to reconcile the prior two questions – How do you think our God would like you to handle conflicting requests?
  • What does it mean to “trust in God’s provision?”
  • Is Stewardship, the support of your church, always about money?
  • What is the role of the church when financial times get tough?
  • What is our responsibility to the poor, especially when times are tough?
  • What does a re-imaged human heart look like if it is patterned after Jesus?

Discussion Challenge

  • How does a church move itself from the constant need for money to a church focused on the re-imaging of human hearts?
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    NIV New International Version Translations
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