Wednesday, August 31, 2016

READ IT! - August 31st

Hospitality isn’t limited to your home. You can have a hospitable spirit wherever you are. We are the body of Christ – the house of God! This is true wherever we are. How do you make people feel like they are welcome? That they’re safe? That they belong? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Latter Prophets

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Isaiah 55:1-10

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

READ IT! - August 30th

Hospitality isn’t limited to your home. You can have a hospitable spirit wherever you are. We are the body of Christ – the house of God! This is true wherever we are. How do you make people feel like they are welcome? That they’re safe? That they belong? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Former Prophets

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.

Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house.

He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

1 Kings 17:7-24

Monday, August 29, 2016

READ IT! - August 29th

Hospitality isn’t limited to your home. You can have a hospitable spirit wherever you are. We are the body of Christ – the house of God! This is true wherever we are. How do you make people feel like they are welcome? That they’re safe? That they belong? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Torah

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Genesis 18:1-15

Saturday, August 27, 2016

HOPE! - Testimonies About Jesus

Jesus claims that God has made him the Judge of the world… a role only filled by God himself. Only God can judge humanity. But Jesus says that in his role as the Son he is in fact better equipped than the Father to judge humanity, because in his role as the Son, Jesus is both fully human and fully God, and so he understands both sides equally well and can be a fair judge. But he adds that whatever he does he does not for the sake of his own pleasure but for the pleasure of the Father who sent him into the world.

These claims of Jesus are rather ostentatious. He is equalizing himself with God after all. But after he makes all of these claims, he point to John the Baptist’s testimony about himself. John had previously made the exact same claims about Jesus. And John was pretty popular guy among the people. They loved his teachings that he gave with a fiery passion. And Jesus is saying that if they believed anything that John said, they ought to believe in what he said about Jesus.

But Jesus also adds that his own testimony stands on its own. He doesn’t need John’s word to prove that he is who he says he is. He is equal with God after all, and God doesn’t need any human to vouch for him. He only points to John’s testimony in the hope that this will cause people to believe since they already respected John for the most part.

Jesus says of John:

“He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

Jesus is saying that the ministry of John the Baptist was solely to point towards the ministry of Jesus. We read before that this was John’s belief as well. He says of Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become lesser.” John wasn’t jealous of Jesus – the whole point of John’s ministry was to usher in the coming of the Messiah – Jesus! John’s ministry was a temporary one.

Jesus also says that the people don’t have to just rely on John’s word to vouch for him as the true Messiah. They have witnessed Jesus’ own actions which bear witness to his Messiah-ship as well. They have witnessed Jesus perform many miraculous signs, and these signs testify to Jesus’ message.

But the leaders don’t recognize Jesus for who he truly is. They don’t see that he is truly God in the flesh. Why is this? It is because they do not know their own God. The very God they claim to worship and serve is standing right in front of them, talking to them… but they just don’t see the truth. If they had truly known the character of the God they claimed to love, they would have recognized him in Jesus. They would have stood in awe and worshiped him.

They could identify a passage from the Bible, but they couldn’t identify the Spirit who inspired that passage. They had closed off their hearts and minds to the work of God’s Spirit. And because of this, they went on to accept false messiahs, who looked nothing like the Messiah that Moses had looked forward to. They had shut themselves off from the spring of living water.

“Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Thursday, August 25, 2016

PRAY IT! Thirst Things First - John 5:31-47

"But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true."  John 5:32 (NLT).

Picture this:  Someone is peddling a delightful beverage.  It's the best beverage ever.  They keep raving about the beverage, but you begin to notice something.  It's 90 degrees out with 100000000 percent humidity.  They're clearly sweating.  But they do not take a drink.  They talk so much, their voice begins to get hoarse.  You assume their mouth is dry.  You see all these cues... these symptoms... that would indicate they should probably drink something.  They have an entire case of this beverage they are raving about right there.  They are even waving an open one in your face.  But they don't drink it.  Something doesn't add up.

Do you buy their beverage?  Or do you size them up as crazy or hypocritical, not fully leaning into/believing in their product, and beat feet as fast as you can?

Picture someone else... in their living room alone, sipping on the best beverage ever.  It truly is.  They stay in their living room, enjoying their beverage quietly... savoring the moment.  When the beverage is complete, they go about their day, contentedly, but as though nothing phenomenal was encountered.  A neighbor pops by, sweaty from some yard work.  Though they have a whole pitcher of the best beverage ever in their fridge... more than they could drink on their own... they simply chat with their neighbor while they drink some regular water, and then send them on their way.

What gives?  Is it a lack of awareness?  Withholding joy?  Is it selfishness?  Whatever the reason, the end is the same:  something was withheld.

Now apply the same level of ridiculousness to Christians who mis-proclaim with mismatched words/actions or withhold the good news of Jesus.

It's probably not a testimony about Jesus if it's not true... it's probably not a testimony about Jesus if it's not proof... and it's probably not a testimony about Jesus if not about Jesus.  It's also probably not a testimony about Jesus if the words never come out of your mouth, no matter how much you authentically love him.

There's power in a life that bears witness to Jesus.

Is yours?

Does your mouth and your life match up and give testimony to Jesus?  Does your mouth open up?  John the Baptist did it.  The woman at the well did it.  Paul did it.  Even God did it.  We can do it too.

Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God.  And God has testified about his Son.  1 John 5:9.

Scripture says our sin testifies against us.  Isaiah 59:12 (NLT):  For our sins are piled up before God and testify against us.  Yes, we know what sinners we are.  Yuck.  Thankfully, we have Jesus, our redeemer and ultimate Thirst Quencher.  However, our testimony will be much more powerful if we LET Jesus do some redeeming and we LET Jesus do some Thirst Quenching in our own lives.

Let us individually and collectively pray for harmony among our words, our actions, and Jesus, and pray with the following heart this week, the following lyrics from For King and Country:   "Let my life be the proof, the proof of your love".

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

FAMILY IT! — Wednesday Family Devotional — “Thirst Things First”

What’s your dream vacation?  Where’s the one place you would love to go more than any place else?  Maybe it’s so amazing you haven’t even told anyone, because you’re so certain you’re never actually going to get to go.  Where is it, where is it, where is it?  Share!

Knock, knock.  There's someone standing at your front door with free tickets to your dream vacation place.  Seriously, some dude with a briefcase and a big cheesy grin is handing you the plane tickets…or train, boat, rocket, etc.  They’ve got your name and your family members’ names on them, and the destination is [insert dream vacation location].  Your family is smiling ear to ear.  He’s handing them to you.

Here's the question: do you believe him?  Do you think this is for real?  Or are you more likely to think it’s a scam, or maybe some kind of practical joke?  Are you the one looking for the hidden cameras?  

We live in a pretty suspicious world.  “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” after all.  Everyone loves to catch someone getting spoofed, especially with the chance that the video might go viral.  So it’s no surprise we carry doubt around.

And yet, sometimes great things really do happen.  So what would it take to convince you that the trip was real?

What if your parents said it was a surprise that they’d been planning for?  Would that do it?  (Probably depends on your parents.)

What if your best friend shows up, all smiles?  Your parents told them and he/she wanted to be there to celebrate with you.  Now are you buying it?

How about if the president of the theme park/cruise ship/airlines/resort got out of the car and came up to congratulate you.  Is that enough?  I’m hoping that would convince most people, although some are skeptical enough that even the CEO wouldn’t be enough.  

But what about this?  In addition to the tickets in front of you, you see a stack of luggage sitting by the garage door ready to go.  You remember that your parents have been working a lot of extra hours “to save money” they say.  You realize the dog is gone, already at the kennel.  You see a slip of paper on the counter saying that the mail has been placed on hold.  It’s right next to the stack of make-up work for the days of school you’re going to miss.  How ‘bout now?  

Testimonies from people are a tricky thing.  Sometimes they’re convincing, but sometimes our doubt is too strong.  When we see that testimony repeated or confirmed in how someone is acting or the choices they’re making, then we’re much more likely to believe.

Jesus struggled with this same idea.  No one wanted to believe He was the Son of God, especially not the church leaders.  It seems kind of funny, because these guys were supposed to be the experts on the Messiah, but when He actually showed up, they thought He was a big fat liar.  

Jesus told the religious leaders what He thought in John 5:31-47.  He points out that they read about the coming Christ in the Scriptures.  They had the verses memorized about God’s special Savior.  But when Jesus came, fulfilling every prophecy, they didn’t believe him.  (v. 39-40)  They sent a messenger to John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin (who they also didn’t like), so see if he’d confirm the story.  John replied with a huge thumbs up, but they still refused to buy it.  (v. 33)  Jesus points out that even God himself vouched for his Son, but the religious leaders wouldn’t even listen. (v. 37)  

I think Jesus drives it home the most in verse 36: “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

Ok, so maybe they didn’t believe that all the prophecies in Scripture applied to Jesus’ life.  And maybe they figured John was to biased—or too delusional himself—to tell the truth.  And maybe they figured “God’s testimony” was just a flashy magic trick.  But look at Jesus’ life!  Everything He did—healing, teaching, ministering to the lost and the broken, talking constantly about the love of God and his Kingdom, helping the neediest people—no one does that kind of thing just for fun.  That’s a mission that only comes from God.  

That should have been testimony enough, don’t you agree?

So what about you?  My guess is that if someone asked, you’d tell them you believe in Jesus.  Maybe you even share on your own that you are a Christian.  You’ve got some t-shirts with cool God-quotes on them or your church logo or something like that, and you wear them proudly.  That’s great!

But here’s the real question: do people believe you?  Does your life—your actions, your speech, your attitudes—line up with a Jesus-serving life?  If someone took a look around at your day today, would it confirm that you are all about God and his mission?

That may seem like a hard question, but it’s an important one.  We don’t want to focus on living our lives based on what others think, but we do need to step back from time to time to make sure we are who we think we are.  After all, if you have your “Jesus ticket” but don’t have your bags packed, so to speak, then maybe there’s a problem.

Spend some time talking as a family.  Is there something you can do today, this week, to live more like a Jesus-lover?  Is there something your family can do or needs to do to live out your faith?  Talk about it then close in prayer, asking Jesus to help you take these steps.  Let’s make sure the best testimony we have to our relationship with Jesus is not our words, but our way of life. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

EXPLORE IT! - John 5:31-47

These teachings of Jesus where he essentially proclaims himself to be the Messiah are almost only found in The Gospel of John. In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus speaks of himself as the Messiah in this straight forward way only at the very end, shortly before his death. 

All of these teachings occur in Jerusalem, whereas the Synoptic Gospels have very little of Jesus' teachings occurring in Jerusalem and then only before his death. 

Here, Jesus is speaking directly to the Jewish religious leaders of the day, most of whom didn’t believe in either him or his message. Jesus points to John the Baptist's testimony about him as evidence of the truth of his own message.

He says:

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

He then adds:

“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.

He also says that these leaders study the scriptures hoping for eternal life, but that the scriptures speak of him, and they still refuse to come to him for life. 

They’ll accept people who preach in their own name but not in one who comes in the name of the Father. 

He asks, "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"

He then speaks of Moses as the accuser of humanity. 

And he says:

"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?"

When Jesus says that they believe in Moses, what he is essentially saying is that they believe in the Bible. They believed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, which were known as the Torah. The Jewish leaders considered these first five books to be the most important books of the whole Bible, and they spent their whole lives studying them.

The irony here is that they loved the Bible, but they didn’t love the God that the Bible spoke about. They thought it was great literature (which it is) and that it was full of wonderful, life changing teachings (which it is) and that it pointed people to the way of pure and everlasting life (which it does), but they didn’t embrace the full message.

They had an image of God and of the Messiah in their own heads that they just couldn’t get rid of – a false image – an idol. They made God into their own image, rather than letting God conform them into his image. They loved the Bible. They thought it was the best thing ever. But they failed to understand the point it all. They came to worship the “word of God” instead of the “Word of God.”

Monday, August 22, 2016

READ IT! - Thirst Things First (Week 13)

Jesus says that the things that he does are a testimony of The One who sent him. Are the things that you do a testimony of The One who has sent you? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Torah: Deuteronomy 4:1-14
From the Former Prophets: 1 Samuel 12:1-25
From the Latter Prophets: Isaiah 26:1-21
From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry: Psalm 66:1-20
From the Late Books: Ruth 4:1-17
From the Gospels: John 5:31-47
From the Epistles: 1 John 5:1-21

From the Torah

Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today.

See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. And the Lord directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Deuteronomy 4:1-14

From the Former Prophets

Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.”

“He is witness,” they said.

Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors.

“After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place.

“But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety.

“But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.

“Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.”

Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel.
The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”

1 Samuel 12:1-25

From the Latter Prophets

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

We have a strong city;
    God makes salvation
    its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
    that the righteous nation may enter,
    the nation that keeps faith.
You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
He humbles those who dwell on high,
    he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
    and casts it down to the dust.
Feet trample it down—
    the feet of the oppressed,
    the footsteps of the poor.
The path of the righteous is level;
    you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,
    we wait for you;
your name and renown
    are the desire of our hearts.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
    in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
    the people of the world learn righteousness.
But when grace is shown to the wicked,
    they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
    and do not regard the majesty of the Lord.
Lord, your hand is lifted high,
    but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame;
    let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.
Lord, you establish peace for us;
    all that we have accomplished you have done for us.
Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,
    but your name alone do we honor.
They are now dead, they live no more;
    their spirits do not rise.
You punished them and brought them to ruin;
    you wiped out all memory of them.
You have enlarged the nation, Lord;
    you have enlarged the nation.
You have gained glory for yourself;
    you have extended all the borders of the land.
Lord, they came to you in their distress;
    when you disciplined them,
    they could barely whisper a prayer.
As a pregnant woman about to give birth
    writhes and cries out in her pain,
    so were we in your presence, Lord.
We were with child, we writhed in labor,
    but we gave birth to wind.
We have not brought salvation to the earth,
    and the people of the world have not come to life.
But your dead will live, Lord;
    their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
    wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
    the earth will give birth to her dead.
Go, my people, enter your rooms
    and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
    until his wrath has passed by.
See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling
    to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
The earth will disclose the blood shed on it;
    the earth will conceal its slain no longer.

Isaiah 26:1-21

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

For the director of music. A song. A psalm.

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
    Sing the glory of his name;
    make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power
    that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you;
    they sing praise to you,
    they sing the praises of your name.”
Come and see what God has done,
    his awesome deeds for mankind!
He turned the sea into dry land,
    they passed through the waters on foot—
    come, let us rejoice in him.
He rules forever by his power,
    his eyes watch the nations—
    let not the rebellious rise up against him.
Praise our God, all peoples,
    let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives
    and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, God, tested us;
    you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
    and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and water,
    but you brought us to a place of abundance.
I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
    and fulfill my vows to you—
vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
    when I was in trouble.
I will sacrifice fat animals to you
    and an offering of rams;
    I will offer bulls and goats.
Come and hear, all you who fear God;
    let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
    his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
    and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!

Psalm 66:1-20

From the Late Books

Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.

Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”

“I will redeem it,” he said.

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)

So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”

Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Ruth 4:1-17

From the Gospels

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

John 5:31-47

From the Epistles

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:1-21