Preparing for a Day off – “Making Sunday Special” This Sunday March 17th

Read this week’s texts today, Thursday March 14th and prepare your heart to receive what the Lord in store for you on Sunday as we gather together!

First Reading: Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Psalm 95 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Gospel: Matthew 28:16 -20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Weekly News Roundup – March 8, 2013

On Fridays, I post some of the more interesting articles I’ve come across throughout the week to highlight what’s happening in the church, in the world of religion, sports, and in culture in general.

World –  Make your picks for the “Sweet Sistine!”

More than 100 Roman Catholic cardinals will gather in the Sistine Chapel in March. One will emerge as pope. Who will it be? The “Sweet Sistine” is our guess at the top candidates from each continent. You can vote below for who you think would move on to the next round in each matchup.

USA – Atheists ratchet up rhetoric

An atheist organization known for being provocative plans to take that reputation to the next level this week by putting up seven billboards that call out prominent politicians and religious leaders.

Christian Crackdown Moves Sudan closer to 100% Muslim

Anglican World – Truro, The Crisis for the Communion

This is the second short part in a brief 2-part series outlining the key issues arising out of the Truro affair. The first part, the crisis Truro has brought to the ACNA, can be found here.

Second, the crisis that Truro brings to the Communion.

‘The Bible’ Ratings Set Cable Records

NHL Players Agree to  Realignment

The players agreed to realignment despite concerns, because the cost of fighting it was too steep.

Song of the Week – William Gadsby’s Help My Unbelief, by Red Mountain Church Music (Birmingham, AL)  

Text of the Week – Sunday March 10th “Ministry to others”

(John 4:1-42)

[4:1] Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John [2] (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), [3] he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. [4] And he had to pass through Samaria. [5] So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
(John 4:1-5; John 4:6-41; John 4:42-45 ESV) [6] Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
[7] A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” [8] (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) [9] The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) [10] Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” [11] The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? [12] Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” [13] Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [15] The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
[16] Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” [17] The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; [18] for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” [19] The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. [20] Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” [21] Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. [22] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. [23] But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” [25] The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” [26] Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
[27] Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” [28] So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, [29] “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” [30] They went out of the town and were coming to him.
[31] Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” [32] But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” [33] So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. [35] Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. [36] Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. [37] For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
[39] Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” [40] So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of his word.

[42] They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Being a witness today! March 6, 2013

As you recall from last Sunday, Sean Templeton had us articulate to one another:
1 – Who is Jesus?
2 – When & How did you come to surrender to him?
3 – What difference has it made in your life?

Here are some additional questions for our evangelistic efforts here on the Westshore!

– What fears do you have regarding evangelism? What does Scripture say regarding those fears, God’s character, and man’s eternity?

– Read John 14:10, 26-28; 15:26; 16:5-15; and 17:20-23. How does the Holy Spirit equip believers to evangelize?

– Since God is at work in the hearts of people around us, how can you tune your heart to be sensitive to how God is working? How would your life look if you truly believed that God is already at work in the hearts of people around you?

– What is the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelism? How do you rely on the Spirit and not yourself in evangelism?

– If the Spirit of God works in people’s hearts and if God chooses those who will be saved, why should believers share the gospel with the lost?

– How do you know whom the Holy Spirit is drawing to Himself and in whom He is working?

– In John 5:19, Jesus remarks that He can do nothing apart from the Father, and in John 15:1-5, He expresses to the disciples that they can do nothing unless they abide in Him.

– How are you growing in intimacy in your relationship with God? How well do you know His voice? Describe your time in the Word. How are you studying Scripture? With what frequency are you in the Word? What is God currently teaching you through your personal study of Scripture? What does your communication with God through prayer currently look like? What steps can you take this week to grow closer to God?

– How can your Community group and faith family help you grow closer to God?
How can you join God in His work this week? How can you intentionally make yourself more available to be around unsaved people? How can you cultivate relationships with them? How do you typically respond 
when opportunities to share arise? Do you even recognize when such opportunities come your way?

– Identify 3-10 people who are lost and with whom you can share the gospel. Pray for the salvation of each 
of these people, and pray for opportunities to weave gospel threads into your conversations with them.

– What is God calling you to sacrifice in order to join God in His mission? What hinders you from participating in His work? What do you need to rearrange in your life this week to make evangelism a 

– How is it evidence of God’s love that He chooses to include believers in His work? How should this 
transform our attitudes regarding evangelism and service? What hinders you from feeling amazed that God involves you in Kingdom work? 

– Respond . . . 
Encourage your group to break out into smaller groups where they will respond to the truths of today’s study. These groups will share with one another based on the following questions and then close in prayer:
What are some of the main truths that God wants you to know from this study?
How do your thoughts need to adjust to align with these truths?
According to the truths from this study, what does God want you to desire/value?
How do your values need to change to align with His values?
What actions does God want you to take according to the truths of this study?
What is an action that you can start to implement today or tomorrow?
What is going to be the most difficult aspect of this study to personally apply? Close this time by praying for each other, specifically for strength to apply these truths, for personal needs, for the lost people with whom you are seeking to share the gospel, and for our weekly prayer focus as a church.