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Jeremiah

In a recent conversation online the question came to me about Jeremiah 1 and a devotion that I had posted on The Shepherd’s Voice Blog. In that I had taken the words to Jeremiah about God’s knowing him in his mother’s womb and reflecting on how God knows us that way also. In writing that I had never thought how that might sound strange to those that are not believers. The idea of being known before you were born is something that Jews and Christians assume to be true and self-evident. If you believe in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God that has created everything the thought of being known prior to your birth or even your conception is assumed. Of course this text applies to Jeremiah in the calling, but the knowing applies to all of God’s creation.
Not everyone of us are called to be prophets, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and so on and that does not change when faith is revealed to us and given as the free gift. God created everything and knew each of us before we were born. He knows us inside and out, he knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He also knows that in each and everyone of us is born sin. It is the force that, a disease, that separates us from our true calling and our Lord and creator and the only way that it can be succumbed is by killing us. “For the wages of sin is death” is what we read in Romans 6:23, but it does not stop there for the verse ends, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin is what brought death and disease in this world and we will all eventually die, but when we die, for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, have eternal life. God foreknew the gifts that He gives us to do His work and His purposes, but some of those gifts are to be used beyond the work of the Church, His Holy Bride, and to be used in a world that is dying. Those gifts are given to all of His creation. Jeremiah was given a special gift, a supernatural gift, a spiritual gift of Prophecy and with this he was given discernment and knowledge and wisdom. It was a gift that pained Jeremiah greatly because he knew God’s desires, he knew God’s heart, he knew what the people needed to do to prevent disaster, but he also felt the wrath of their rebellion. People don’t like to be told that they are doing wrong. They don’t like to hear that the paths they follow are not “good”. If you want to feel a little of the pain that Jeremiah felt go out into the city and try to witness in a positive way (i.e. not screaming out “Repent! The End is Near!” or “You Evil Sinners!”) and tell people about what God has done for them, give them a hope in the way that they may have never heard. You will find people hungry to know and hear it, but you will find those that will fight to keep them from hearing you because you are threatening their livelihood.
The truth is that we are all sinners in need of our saviors redemptive power and that should put things in a positive perspective. As an African Lutheran Pastor once said, “We are just one beggar telling another where the food is.” We aren’t there to tear down people who have been downtrodden, but to show them the greater hope that is Jesus Christ. He loves everyone and He disdains the sin in each of us, but through His grace and through His Word, He redeems and renews us. That is the glorious thing because God knew us before we were born, he knows the heart that truly ticks down deep inside, but He also knows that over time our hearts become hard because of sin and just like a heart that dies because of heart attacks and damage a heart that is clogged with sin can become hard against God’s Word until it spiritually dies. That is the work of those of us who believe to be proclaiming God’s Word not only with our voices, but in how we live our lives. Unfortunately there are those that do this with great toxicity and that is what the world sees in the media and the news. If more of us live our lives with the centrality of God’s Word being the guide of our lives, we can bear the burdens like Jeremiah, aka the Lamenting Prophet, and instead of screaming out words that do not reflect God’s love we can weep and pray for those that we love that God’s Word may break into their hearts and reveal God’s Truth. We have a God who loves you so greatly that He entered into His own creation as His Son, Jesus, and died upon the cross to bear our sin and our shame, rose from the dead, and sent us His Holy Spirit that we may all come to know God as Lord!

John 4:5-42

This is my favorite section Scripture, the imagery, the beauty, the raw revelation. How many of us would like to have our sin revealed to us open and on the table nothing held back? I don’t believe that many of us would, but that is exactly what Jesus Christ does to the Samaritan woman. A woman who had had five husbands and now was living with another man which she was not married too. How uncomfortable of a revelation. Jesus reveals and she responds in joy! What a strange response! Yet, it is what we all need and should be prepared for. Jesus didn’t wag His finger at her or shame her, He just spoke plainly and openly unafraid and certain. Of course, He is God, so that gives Him the advantage, but I don’t know that many of those who consider themselves to be believers would react the same way. Here’s a test, when a sermon is preached that hits on some sore areas of your own life, how do you feel?
If honest, many in the church react in anger, or disgust. Often trying to drum up feelings again the pastor. I know that has been what I have experienced. Most want to blame instead of taking responsibility because the mirror that our Lord holds up for us is not the most flattering. The reality is that when we look in and face the reflection then the real work of our Lord can begin. He renews and takes those things that we don’t like about ourselves, that sin, He removes it to reveal the beauty that is created within. When sin is surrounding your heart and mind, beautiful is the last word that someone can often say, because what is beautiful about negativity, what is beautiful about loathsome behavior, what is beautiful about a begrudging attitude? Nothing. Quite honestly it is gross.
The woman at the well was ashamed of her sin and when it was revealed and the gift was still offered, she celebrated and told those whom she probably could not look in the face before because of her shame. She became attractive to those who heard her that they went to find out the truth for themselves and came to Jesus Christ. They came to believe. Are you attractive in your life that others desire to know more about your Lord? If not, it may be that you are needing to let go of some of that ugliness that you may think you are hiding, quit blaming others for your sin, but claim it and give it to God that it can be taken away and let the true beauty be revealed from within. Be blessed and drink deeply of the Living Waters that you may be renewed. Amen.

Change is coming

To whom are we called? Often it may seem that there are those voices that act as if the Church is meant to serve it’s members. Is this the purpose of the Church? Our Lord, Jesus Christ, said in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45, that He did not come to be served, but to serve and yet we find the challenge that many act as if the Church was here to serve them. That is not the faith that we profess, that is not the faith to which we are called. That is the faith of the world which is only out to serve itself. The act of works does not save us, but we, that are in the Spirit, are called to serve creation, not out of obligation, but in response. Yet we find the desire is that the pastor is called to serve the members and not to challenge those to whom he/she has been called to serve. As pastor my desire and calling is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which turns this upside down. We are called to a different calling. A calling which is not to serve our own interests, but to seek out those to whom God sends us that they may come to know the truth.
This will bring about change and evoke a different spirit, the Spirit of our Lord.

God’s Love

A prayer that I have been praying for some time is that my heart be after God’s own heart and that He reveal a portion of that to me.  In the time that I have prayed this I have felt my own spirit change and some of the sharp edges have softened.  Since I reentered into the Christian faith and then followed the Call to ordained ministry God has shown me many interesting things.  Broken people have come to me and my wife and have given us great opportunities to minister in strange places, Fort Lauderdale Beach and a Bar, to name a few (these two in particular come to mind because of the interesting aspects of them and the stories are quite unbelievable if I hadn’t been there I would not think they would be true either).

Well, I feel compelled to share an experience yesterday.  In the morning, as I was dropping my wife off to work at the hospital, I saw a man come out with a woman.  The man was so distraught, I could see the pain in his eyes, he looked inconsolable.  My heart went to him and instantly I was overcome with his grief.  I had my son in the van, so I had to bring him to school and thought if he was still there I would pray with him.  I dropped my son off and as I was passing the hospital a part of me thought, “Well, he wouldn’t want me to intrude,” and I started to drive by, but was pulled back and turned back to the hospital and pulled in.

The man was still there and I, again, was overcome by the grief in this man’s heart.  I parked, walked up, and introduced myself.  I told him that I felt that I needed to pray with him is that would be alright and I asked him what was going on.  He told me that his wife was dying of cancer and her time was soon.  His grief was so overwhelming and as I prayed with him I just felt it come upon me in waves and in the prayer I called on all the promises that we find within Scripture, all the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, I called out in praise that we are not left alone, and prayed for comfort in this time.  As I was praying I felt the love that God had for this man.  I felt the love that God has for all of His creation.  It reminded me of how he cares for us all.  I understood in some small part, how our pain and our grief feels to the Lord.  He hears it all, He knows it all, He feels it all, and He stands by us.  In our greatest times of need we are not alone.  I did not know this man, but I felt connected to this man, I felt his pain as if his wife were my own.  What would the world be like if we all felt the pain of our brothers and sisters?  Would we bear each others burdens?

Peace be to you!  Amen!

Christ is in control!

God is in control, Christ is in control! It’s all the same and as we move forward in this time it is good to remember that! The economy is horrible and we all know that! We hear the news and often times we cry out, “God, why!” What can we do? Well, in reality NOTHING! We can not make the markets get better, we can not make the gas prices go down, we can not make food prices go down! We can not make it one degree warmer or cooler! We are not in control! That’s the point! So, what can we do that will in and of itself evoke change, NOTHING. What we can do, however, is pray! Now some of you may be thinking, “OK, pastor, great! That is what I have been doing and it is still difficult, it is still hard!”

Not to sound glib, but the answer is again PRAY! Pray not only for the things to be as you hope or you wish, but pray that God will work within you to see that those things that you hope for or those things that you wish to be a certain way are truly in line with what God desires. Our God has said, “Your ways are not my ways!” So, why not believe that He means what He says!

We are not called to look out to God and search for the responses and actions that we desire, but we are to seek after His heart! That is why the imperfect David was still beloved by God! So much so that He established the lineage of His only begotten son, Jesus the Christ, to be in the line of David. David was by no means perfect, but is called by God to be a man “after His own heart.” Isn’t that just amazing that God would so love one that was murderous, adulterous, lustful, deceitful, greedy, and the like to be “after His own heart.” Because when confronted with the reality of his sinfulness, David repented.

God is a God of wonder and awe. He is a provider and when we cede our control to Him, it is amazing! So in this day let Christ be in control and let Him guide your actions and see what happens.

Heterosexism: An “ism” in an attempt to shame Biblical Truth

A movement has arisen within the LGBTQ activism that is very insidious in it’s presentation.  I received as a note from a person for my thoughts and thought I would share it with edits to keep identities confidential other than names, places, and other identifiers this is the entire email:

Hi you guys!

I am writing to let you know how much I miss you all – and send some important information your way.  I saw the link I am including at the end of this e-mail and I knew I had to share it with people I love, as it has affected me in the past.  Please watch it.  Recently (in the past few weeks or so) there have been 4 teen suicides that have resulted from bullying.  All of these teens killed themselves because they were constantly berated or had been “outed” by their bullies.  All of these teens were gay, or questioning, or just different.  They were living a world that constantly told them that they were inferior, disgusting, unnatural, against god, and hated for differences (or supposed differences).  Growing up, during my teen years, I was lucky to have been only bullied a few times.  But then again, I made sure to hide who I was discovering myself to be.  LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Questioning) teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.  I remember in my middle school years, praying to god nightly to change me – make me straight or if that wasn’t possible, to kill me, I am so happy neither of those things happened.

I moved to NYC to attend NYU because I knew it was a LGBTQ friendly city.  Who knows, maybe one-day XXXXXXXX could be just as friendly.  We are living in a time of great change and progress in LGBTQ civil rights.  And those who would like to keep us from attaining equal rights will be on the wrong side of the history books (just as those who opposed the Civil Rights movement for people of color are today).  That said, just as it was during that period of time – visibility of those who are different/advocating for themselves is increasing, and so instances of violence (verbal or physical) is son the rise.  I know that some individuals who believe that LGBTQ folks are doing just fine.  That we are becoming more accepted into society.  While we are gaining more equality (slowly but surely), this high visibility creates a backlash.  Bashing is on the rise again.  Just last year, at a movie theater in NYC tow men (a gay couple) were cut by a group of teens after their movie as managers and employees looked on doing nothing.  The men, cut because they were cuddling up & holding hands (something straight couples do without fear), had to phone the police themselves.  (My friends & I have since stopped seeing films at this theater).  This world is still a  dangerous place for us – but to have allies, to have the government say “LGBTQ people should not be treated this way” this is my hope for the future.  A future without blatant heterosexism that currently is accepted across the nation.

heterosexisma term that applies to attitudes, bias and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships.  It includes the presumption that everyone is heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the norm and therefore superior.  It is the belief that everyone is or should be straight.  Heterosexism is a broader term than homophobia in that it need not imply the fear and loathing the latter term suggests.  It can describe (but is not limited to) seemingly benign statements or questions, such as asking a young woman if she has a boyfriend, or asking a manwhat his wife does for a living based on the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm (personal note: I like to ask people if they have a partner/someone special).

My hope begins with you.  As the family of a gay man, you all have impacted my life in wonderful ways – as I am sure I have impacted yours.  Perhaps you have become more tolerant, and ideally, accepting of LGBTQ people.  I am asking more of you now.  Not only am I asking you to accept me (and others like me), I am asking you to advocate, to speak up when you see heterosexism and bullying.  I feel responsible to share this activist side of me with the people I love most and am hoping that because I am in your life, you find a responsibility to share as well.  In the summer of 2009, Mom shared a few DVD’s with me that have shaped how I feel about homosexuality and the Christian faith.  When I cam out to her in 2004, she immediately began seeking resources to balance her faith and her love for her son.  She took classes, shared with my Father – and together they made steps toward accepting their son for who he was.  Mom was such an amazing ally to have.  She taught me that all to often the bible is not looked at within its context, and all too often Christians get it wrong.  The bible frightens me (I wish it didn’t) because it is often used as a weapon**-if you search through history, you will see that people used it to oppress people of color as well (one can always use biblical literalism/fundamentalism to harm others).  To me, Christianity is and should be centered around love, Jesus would have a ton of LGBTQ friends if he was around today.  Faith is a personal experience – and while you have every right to believe however you believe, I ask that you question what you know and what you have been raised to know.  It is my belief that God is every changing, ever present – and God is love, God does not judge/condemn love.  God celebrates it.  I am hoping that you will all choose to do the same.

I know I must speak up – and I am asking you to do the same, I am not asking for flag waving or parade marching.  I am asking that you support me and all LGBTQ people in their search for equality.  All of you can have a wonderful impact on someone’s world.  Stand up as an ally, become a mentor, teach/show love and acceptance – share your story, share my story – our story.  I am asking you to please speak out when you see or hear the slightest message of heterosexism, transphobia, or hate.  Somewhere there is a teen who, living in the sound of ignorance and disapproval, desperately needs to hear that they are loved for whoever and however they are.  They need to hear that it gets better.  I hope that all these teens stay alive, and that you might be the one to reach out if they need it.  Tell them the world is better and far more interesting for having them in it.  Tell them they are loved.  Give them hope.

Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)  **When used properly the bible can be used to spread hope and love too. 🙂

Thank you so much for reading this and for loving me.  I know this was a long message, but it is such an important one.  I hope it becomes important to you as well.  Feel free to share this as you see fit (I hope you send this to many people).

The youtube link to Ellen’s message: click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br7nbQSIyhg

With love, hope, and much gratefulness,

Your XXXXXXX

The spelling and capitalization is as it was in the email.  The note I received said this, “When you love someone who is gay, it is easy to want them to have the happiness of marriage and family happen to him as it happens to a straight person, if that is what he wants.”

Since receiving this I have pondered the implications of this stance and view.  As a pastor, I am against bullying or violence perpetrated against anyone for any reason.  The greater danger I see is the use of this term “heterosexism” which ties biblical truth on the definition of marriage as being a relationship set apart for a man and a woman and the like to be “hate speech”.  It also makes it difficult to minister acceptance when what is truly being asked for with this mindset is approval.

As the Church, I agree that we have engaged in shameful behavior in the name of God.  Of concern is this, is it a loving to response to approve of what makes one happen even though it is unhealthy and life-endangering, not to mention the harm to the soul?  I am sure that Jesus would be with modern LGBTQ people just as he was with the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other fringe people because that was how he ministered.  Like the woman at the well in John 4 he did not speak approvingly of her sin, but still offered her the promise as He does to each and everyone of us.  The normalization of LGBTQ is also dangerous since by statistics it is not the norm, most numbers place it at most two to three percent of society and the ten percent figure often given refers to the Kinsey studies of the 60s and postulated that ten percent of society has experimented in their sexual relationships with people of the same gender (this study has been discredited by most scientists because of a tainted pool).  How do we give the loving truth of our Lord that speaks against fornication because of the spiritual damage that it does?

It is sad to lose anyone to suicide for any reason, bullying or otherwise.  I have lost gay friends to suicide for reasons other than bullying.  The reality is that we are called to speak not this Law of Love that is being spoken of which is based more on the “worldly love” which is more focused on what brings one pleasure for themselves, but we are called to be in the Gospel which extends a love that comes with the truth and the revealed God as found within Scripture.  As a father, I want my sons to always know that I love them and will always love them unconditionally.  My love is not based on what they do, but on who they are.  This is the love that God gives.  It isn’t a love that ties together acceptance and approval.  I will always accept my sons, but I don’t and won’t, I can be sure, approve of everything they do or will do.  Just like my wife accepts me, but doesn’t always approve of me.  If we were to approach the “whatever makes them happy” in every aspect of our children’s lives what would we approve of?  Drugs, heavy drinking, serial dating, the list could go on and on and yet we do set standards and we do make judgments.  To love is to establish boundaries, to love is to set standards, to love is to teach, and to love is to be able to say “No”.  To love is also to be available even when things are being done that you know to be wrong, not to enable, but to be there to help out without judgment but truth.  It is not something to be utilized as abuse, but it is to be utilized as a method of shining Christ’s love in the world and his acceptance of broken people.  We mustn’t uphold our brokenness as being something in which we find our identity, but realize that God accepts us where and how we are, but He loves us far too much to leave us there.

We all should stand against any violence committed to another while at the same time standing firmly on the foundation of biblical truth.  For it is said in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NIV), “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

Let’s not take away from the Word of God, but struggle in the midst of it and allow God’s Word to interpret us.  How do we extend the love of Christ while standing on the truth? Unlike the young man who wrote this letter I believe in a God who is unchanging, ever present, all knowing, and all powerful.  God does not make mistakes, but our sinful natures drive us to do things that are against God.  Our sinful condition is inborn and manifests itself in all of us.  Our sinful nature drives us away from God into a great variety of sin and we have a Lord, Jesus the Christ, who died to redeem us of those sins, but if we are not able and willing to confess and give them over to Christ how can those sins be redeemed?

Morning Matins

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
Glory to the Father, and of the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Give glory to God, our light and our life.
Oh, calm, let us worship him.
Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, and the great King above all gods.
It is hand are the caverns of the year;
the heights of the hills are also his.
The sea is his, for you made it,
and his hands have molded the dry land.
Oh, come, but us bow down and bend the knee,
and kneel before the Lord our maker.
For he is our God, and we are the people in his of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Give glory to God, our light and our life. Oh, calm, let us worship him.

Psalm 38
O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your wrath. For your arrows have already pierced me, and your hand presses hard upon me. There is no health and my flesh, because of your indignation; there is no soundness in my body, because of my sin. For my iniquities overwhelming; like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear. My wounds stink and fester by reason of my foolishness. I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; I go about in mourning all the day long. My loins are filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.I am utterly numb and crushed; I well, because of the groaning of my heart. O Lord, you know all my desires, and my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me, and the brightness of my eyes is gone from me. My friends and companions drawback from my affliction; my neighbors stand afar off. Those who seek after my life lay snares for me; those who strive to hurt me speak of my ruin and plot treachery all the day long. But I am like the deaf who do not hear, like those who are mute and do not open their mouth. I have become like one who does not hear and from whose mouth comes no defense. For in you, O Lord, have I fixed my hope; you will answer me, O Lord my God. For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense, those who gloat over me when my foot slips.” Truly, I am on the verge of falling, and my pain is always with me. I will confess my iniquity and be sorry for my sin. Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty, and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me. Those who repay evil for good slander me, because I follow the course that is right. O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Make haste to help me, O Lord of my salvation.

Let us pray,
Lord our God, you did not forget the pierced body of your Son nor the mockery his love received. Do not abandon us, your children, weighed down with sins, but give us the fullness of your mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Psalm 39
I said, “I will keep watch upon my ways, so that I do not offend with my tongue. I will put a muzzle on my mouth while the wicked are in my presence.” So I held my tongue and said nothing; I refrained from rash words; but my pain became unbearable. My heart was hot within me; while I pondered, the fire burst into flame; I spoke out with my tongue: Lord, let me know my end and the number of my days, so that I may know how short my life is. You have given me a mere handful of days, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight; truly, even those who stand erect are but a puff of wind. We walk about like shadow, and in vain we are in turmoil; we heap up riches and cannot tell who will gather them. And now, what is my hope? Oh Lord, my hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions and do not make me the time of the fool. I fell silent and did not open my mouth, for surely it was you that that it. Take your affliction from me; I am worn down by the blows of your hand. With rebukes for sin you punish us; like a moth you eat away all that is dear to us; truly, everyone is but a puff of wind. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears. For I am but a sojourner with you, a wayfarer, as all my forebears were. Turn your gaze from me, that I may be glad again, before I go my way and am no more.

Let us pray,
Heavenly Father,through your Son you taught us not to fear tomorrow but to commit our lives to your care. Withhold not your Spirit from us, but help us find a life of peace after these days of trouble; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Let us pray,
Redeem us, O God, out of all our poor ways and nine teach us thy will for us by calling us back each day to the things which we know are most certainly true. Direct our lives by the constant pressure on them of other lives that have felt the touch of thy hand and loved the beauty of thy peace. Until our faces be set toward thee, and all our hopes hid forever in thine. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

A reading from Hosea 4:11 – 19;

Wine and new wine take away the understanding. My people inquire of the thing of wood, and their staff is him oracles. For spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the harlot. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and make offerings upon the hills, under oak, poplar, and terabinth, because their shade is good.
Therefore your daughters play the harlot, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with harlots, and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.
Though you play the harlot, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. Enter not into Gilgal, nor go up to Bethaven, and swear not, “As the Lord lives.” Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like a lamb and a broad pasture?
Ephraim is joined to idols, let them alone. A band of drunkards, they give themselves to harlotry; they love shame more than their glory. A wind has wrapped them in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their altars.

A reading from Acts 21:37 – 22:16.

As Paul was about to be brought back into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and lead the 4000 men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” And when he had given him leave, Paul, standing on the steps, motion with his hand to the people; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying:
“Brethren and fathers, here the defense which I now make for you.”
And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet. And he said:
“I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, finding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole Council of Elders bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
“As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shown about me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,’Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And I answered,’Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me,’I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who are with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who is speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
“And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who live there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And in that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and a fear of ways from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sin, calling on his name.'”

A reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke the sixth chapter verses 12 through 26:

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them 12, whom he named apostles; Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who is called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowds sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all.
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you that we now, for you shall laugh.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the son of man! Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
“But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

The gospel of our Lord. Amen.

A reading from Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest:

When the Spirit of God is shed abroad the love of God in our hearts, we begin deliver the to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ’s interests and other people, and Jesus Christ is interested in every kind of man there is. We have no right and Christian were to be guided by our affinities this is one of the biggest tests of our relationship to Jesus Christ. The delight of sacrifice is that I lay down my life or my Friend, not fling it away, but deliberately lay my life out for Him and His interests and other people, not for cause. Paul spent himself for one purpose only – that he might win men to Jesus Christ. All attracted to Jesus all the time, never to himself. “I am made all things to men, that I might by all means save some.” When a man says he must develop a holy life alone with God, he is of no more use to his fellow men: he puts himself on a pedestal, away from the common run of men. Paul became a sacramental personality; wherever he went, Jesus Christ helped Himself to his life. Many of us are after our own ends, and Jesus Christ cannot help Himself to our lives. If we are abandoned to Jesus, we have no weapons of our own to serve. Paul said he knew how to be a “doormat” without resenting it, because the mainspring of his life was devotion to Jesus. We are apt to be devoted, not to Jesus Christ, but to the things which emancipate us spiritually. That was not Paul’s motive. “I could wish myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren” – why, extravagant – is it? When a man is in love it is not an exaggeration to talk that way, and Paul is in love with Jesus Christ.

Let us pray,
My Father, do with me as you will, only help me against myself and for you; I am your child, the inheritor of your spirit, your be, a part of yourself, glorious in you, but groaned poor in me; let me be your dog, your horse, your anything, anything you will; let me be yours in any shape the love that is my father may please to have me; let me be yours in any way, and my own or another’s in no way is yours. Amen.
George MacDonald (1824 – 1905)

In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets.
But now in these last days he has spoken to us by his son.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our father’s Father’s and er his holy covenant. This was the oath you swore to our father Abraham: the set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his side all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God, the Dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Let us pray,
O Lord, Almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us in safety to this new day; preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome in adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The Lord Almighty bless us, and direct our days and our deeds in his peace.
Amen.