Preaching Connection: Faithfulness

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No Greater Love

“Always be faithful in little things, for in them our strength lies. To God nothing is little. . . . Practice fidelity in the least things, not for their own sake, but for the sake of the great thing that is the will of God. . . . Do not pursue spectacular deeds. We must...
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Additional content related to Faithfulness

Genesis 9:8-17

Covenants For preachers interested in holding a cohesive theme through Lent, this year’s Old Testament lectionary readings provide an opportunity to reflect deeply on the nature of God’s relationship with God’s people through covenant.  This Sunday, it is his covenant not to destroy the earth, next Sunday, his choosing and making a great nation through…

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Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Covenant Renewal, Part 1 Isaiah 61 follows the main themes of the preceding chapter with its focus on Jerusalem finally coming into its own, exalted over the oppressive nations being brought low. What is unique to this text is the human agent who speaks through this text.  In fact there is a dialogue between this…

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Psalm 85:1-3, 8-13

This week’s Psalm selection for the Second Sunday in Advent is in some ways very similar to last week’s selection of Psalm 80.  In both psalms there are pleas for revival and restoration, for a relenting of divine anger over sin so that restoration could come to both land and people.  Insofar as Advent has…

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Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Textual Comments, Observations and Questions: Some commentators believe that these brief excurses (v. 5-6 and 10-11) signal a later addition to the original text, which could substantiate the lectionary compiler’s choice to excise them from the reading this week.  However, getting down to just 10 commands out of all the attitudes, postures, words and actions…

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Psalm 25:1-9

Psalm 25 has its share of ups and downs.  On the one hand there are some very sunny promises here.  The opening of the psalm assures us that those who trust in the Lord will never be put to shame.  Were we to peer at the dozen verses that round out Psalm 25 beyond the…

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Exodus 1:8-2:10

Comments, Questions and Observations: On Pharaoh Over time, we’ll see Pharaoh’s heart become hardened, which means that, at some point and in some way, his heart was tender and open. How does a person like that come to the conclusion that having infants murdered and people enslaved and oppressed is a good idea? That seems…

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Genesis 45:1-15

After chapters and chapters of third person narration, reading Joseph’s story through someone else’s lens, we might come to this chapter eager to hear how Joseph makes sense of the unfolding events. At last, Joseph lets his brothers know who he is. He tells his own story. He could have told a story about a…

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Psalm 85:8-13

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Here is a lyric and pretty well-known line from Psalm 85.  But based on how this psalm begins—in the part the Lectionary would have us leap frog over in the first 7 verses—you would not have predicted this Hebrew poem would end up including…

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Genesis 22:1-14

A mere 21 chapters into the Bible, the Holy Spirit was brave when it inspired the authors and redactors of Genesis to include a scandalous story such as the one we get in Genesis 22.  As some have noted across the ages, here is a narrative with so many fraught elements—not the least being things…

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Psalm 100

It will never happen of course but sometimes one could wish that for certain absolutely key vocabulary words in Hebrew or Greek, all Bible translations in English (or in any language) could agree on one translation of that word that would get used consistently every time it occurs.  That way readers of the translation would…

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1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Gospel proclaimers who think of preaching as largely the sharing of helpful hints for being a better Christian may find that this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson offers rather thin subject material. It is, after all, far longer on theology than on ethics. Many English translations of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9’s Greek have six sentences. People, however, are…

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Paul spends relatively little time in his second letter to Thessalonica’s Christians talking about Christian ethics. He might have spent that addressing things like healthy relationships and the proper attitude toward those in authority, as he does in his other epistles. However, in this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson the apostle talks, instead, about Christians’ work. Both…

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Luke 17:5-10

We plop right into a conversation already in progress in verse 5, but as you may already be aware, reading the previous verses isn’t a guarantee that you’ll immediately understand our lectionary selection! If you wish to include the first four verses of chapter 17, it’s fine to do so, since they are seemingly what…

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Psalm 1

It’s not by accident.  It wasn’t editorial happenstance.  No one flipped a coin to decide which Hebrew poem to turn into Psalm 1 in this collection.  Rather, the Hebrew Psalter is a carefully edited, thoughtfully and intentionally put together collection of poems.  The design of the larger book is evident in many ways (for instance,…

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Luke 3:1-6

This week and next we are listening to John the Baptist, who is set up here as a prophet. The signs are obvious (once you know how to see them). First, there’s the clear shift in the text from chapter 2, as Luke provides political context to pinpoint the actual historical moment that John’s message…

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Psalm 91:9-16

For some reason on this occasion the Lectionary would have us skip the first 8 verses of Psalm 91, which is too bad in that those verses contain one of the most lyric images of God’s providential care of us in the whole Bible.  We are the baby birds who find shelter under the wings…

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1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

My wife tells me I think too much about The Godfather, and if you have been paying weekly attention to these sermon commentaries of late, then you know this is indeed the second time in as many weeks that I have mentioned Francis Ford Coppola’s landmark 1974 film.  But really, even more than last week’s…

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Psalm 34:1-8

These days I am contributing two sermon commentaries a week here on the CEP website: the Old Testament reading and the Psalm.  This week I worked on the Old Testament passage first: the tragic story of the unraveling of David’s household through the rebellion and later the heartbreaking death of David’s son Absalom.  So having…

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Psalm 85:8-13

To be honest, Psalm 85 is a little all over the place.  The first four verses reflect a time when God forgave Israel for some transgressions and restored them.  But then the next set of verses seems to indicate Israel went backwards, sinned again, and so found itself under the wrath of God again.  And…

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2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

This is a little text, but it is the exclamation point of the whole David story.  He gets everything God promised him, and then some.  The boy whom we first met when he was shepherding his father’s flock becomes the King of Israel, the shepherd of God’s flock.  And he establishes Jerusalem as the capital…

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Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

The Lectionary assigns Psalm 107 now and again—the most recent time was just earlier this year in March—but chops it up somewhat differently each time.  It never assigns the whole psalm, even though thematically it all hangs together.  Because if you read the entire psalm, you will discover it is a curious historical retrospective on…

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1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)

After our celebrations of the mighty acts of God from Advent to Pentecost, the prospect of entering Ordinary Time might seem like a bit of a downer.  But the Old Testament readings for the next couple of months plunge us right into the kind of social and political turmoil that characterizes our own time. To…

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Genesis 9:8-17

As we begin our annual Lenten journey to the cross and the tomb, our Old Testament reading takes us to the new journey of the human race after The Flood.  In words that almost directly parallel the Genesis account of creation, the opening verses of Genesis 9 lay out God’s mandates for the new human…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Most of what makes Psalm 89 such an interesting poem cannot be seen if you restrict yourself to just the verses that the Lectionary has carved out of the psalm’s full 52 verses.  Because this poem that begins in such an upbeat tone and with such a full-throated desire to sing praise to God for…

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Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Maybe the Consultation on Common Texts that puts together the Revised Common Lectionary thinks that Advent is no time to think about God’s anger over sin.  Because by carving verses 3-7 out of this lection from Psalm 85, we once again edit the Almighty.  It’s OK to start with the first 2 verses and lyric…

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1 Corinthians 1:3-9

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s “twin themes” of Paul’s thanksgiving and the return of Jesus Christ may seem particularly appropriate this week. After all, this first Sunday in Advent falls just three days after (U.S.) Americans’ celebration of Thanksgiving and at the beginning of the season of heightened anticipation of Jesus’ second coming. However, 1 Corinthians…

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Judges 4:1-7

We are nearly at the end of our journey through Ordinary Time.  Next Sunday is the celebration of Christ the King and then the liturgical year begins again with Advent.  This first Lectionary reading for today is at once discouraging and encouraging, depending on where we focus our attention. Similarly, Israel has come to the…

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Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

When preaching on this text, there is a huge temptation to focus on verse 15c alone.  “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  That bold declaration of commitment and intention has been posted on many a front door, mine included back in the days of my young parenthood.  It’s a…

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Exodus 33:12-23

Stories like this are nearly unbelievable for your average church goer and literally unbelievable for your average neighbor, because God doesn’t talk this way to us today, “face to face as a man speaks with his friend (33:11).”  Very few of us ever hear God’s voice over a lifetime of faith.  That’s why several years…

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Romans 13:8-14

I’ve always assumed the best work gets done under the pressure of a looming deadline. So I seldom felt the urgency of getting to work on school projects until very shortly before they were due. While I was attending seminary, for example, I waited until the last moment to write a major exegetical paper. I…

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Psalm 67

If you read Psalm 67 a certain way, it could look like some example of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” or “One hand washes the other.”  The poem begins with an echo of the great Aaronic benediction from Numbers 6 with reference being made to God’s face shining on people.  And it…

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Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Probably most of us have benefitted from mnemonic devices at some point.  We might remember the primary colors in the visible light spectrum by remembering the name Roy G. Biv (which in turns gives us Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet).  A strange one used by my junior high science teacher has nevertheless…

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Genesis 21:8-21

During Ordinary Time in the church’s calendar, we are encouraged in our walk with the God who has done great things for us.  The opening line from Charles Dicken’s masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, perfectly summarizes a particularly poignant time in Abraham’s walk with God.  “It was the best of times, it was the…

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Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

In a time of global pandemic, of fear, worry, and sorrow, Psalm 116 is at once inspirational and aspirational.  It is inspirational in its witness to God’s faithfulness in hearing our cries of distress from places of disorientation and even death.  It is aspirational in that we all can but hope that very soon we…

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Matthew 4:1-11

Many of us have seen the bumper sticker, “Lead Me Not into Temptation: I Can Find It By Myself.”  Cheeky humor aside, we know that God never actively leads us to sin and probably does not actively lead us to temptation (though this need not rule out God’s ability to test our faith).  God is…

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Isaiah 63:7-9

The Old Testament reading for this First Sunday after Christmas is a delightful little snippet of poetry commemorating what God has done to save his people.  It’s neat and clean and lovely and it fits this liturgical season perfectly. The only problem is that its context is anything but neat and clean and lovely.  This…

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Romans 13:11-14

While few people have labeled procrastination a “deadly sin,” our text at least suggests that one form of it may be the deadliest sin of all.  That’s a sobering assertion for someone like me who is naturally one of the worst procrastinators that I know. At least some of us are tempted to procrastinate in…

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Matthew 24:36-44

In Anne Tyler’s novel, The Amateur Marriage, we witness a sad series of events.  The book’s main characters are Michael and Pauline, a pair of World War II-era sweethearts who get married and eventually have three children.  But then one day their oldest child, Lindy, just disappears.  She runs away from home and promptly falls…

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Luke 21:5-19

Talk about the end of the world and everybody gets interested.  The disciples were, too, when Jesus predicted some apocalyptic events.  “Well,” they asked with faces a shade paler than they had been moments before, “when will all that bad stuff happen?”  In answering them, Jesus gets even more vivid in predicting great and terrible…

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Psalm 1

It’s not by accident.  It wasn’t editorial happenstance.  No one flipped a coin to decide which Hebrew poem to turn into Psalm 1 in this collection.  Rather, the Hebrew Psalter is a carefully edited, thoughtfully and intentionally put together collection of poems.  The design of the larger book is evident in many ways (for instance,…

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Psalm 16

Commentaries. Sometimes they are a wonderful help to the preacher, sometimes they are a hindrance. I looked through a few commentaries on this Psalm, and came away somewhat more confused than when I started. Commentaries often try to figure out the background of the Psalm in question. Who was the author? What was the occasion?…

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Ruth 1:1-18

As we near the end of Ordinary Time the lectionary lessons begin to lean into Advent with a focus on three faithful people, two of them in the genealogy of the Christ.  The end of the book of Ruth reminds us that Ruth, against all odds, was part of the family tree of David and,…

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1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

In preaching on this story or any part of the narrative literature of the Old Testament, it is absolutely crucial to remember what we are dealing with here.  This is not modern historiography, in which economic, political, or military factors play the major role in explaining the course of human events, although, of course, plenty…

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Psalm 89:20-37

Before I dive into this difficult Psalm, I must get two preliminary comments out of the way, the first merely personal, the second deeply textual.  On a personal level, I must point you to a previous Sermon Commentary on this very text written just 7 months ago (see the Archive on this Center for Excellence…

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2 Samuel 5:1-10

When North Americans think of politics, even some Christians sometimes think only of endless campaigns and slick advertising.  We sometimes relegate talk about God’s involvement in politics to the conversations of people we think of as religious zealots.  At least some Christians are especially reluctant to talk about God’s role in putting people into political…

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Psalm 106:1-6, 9-13

Back in the day, a radio commentator named Paul Harvey became famous for the way he reported the news.  He would remind his listeners of a well-known news item and then he would tell “the rest of the story,” the other side of the story that everyone thought they knew.  That’s exactly what we have…

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Exodus 3:1-15

“Does Jesus Care?” is a hymn grieving family members sometimes ask soloists to sing at funerals.  They ask, “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained/ too deeply for mirth or song,/ as the burdens press, and the cares distress,/ and the way grows weary and long?” While the lyrics may seem a bit outdated…

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Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b

Psalm 105 is a history psalm.  To be more specific, it is what German biblical scholars once called Heilsgeshichte, salvation history.  It recalls the five stages at the beginning of the story of God’s redemption of Israel, from the promise of the Land to the possession of the Land.  Of course, as the long and…

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Genesis 32:22-31

God graciously meets and accepts God’s adopted sons and daughters wherever and whoever we are.  But God never just leaves us where we are. That’s no less true of God’s 21st century adopted daughters and sons than it is of Jacob.  The first time God meets Jacob, he’s fleeing both his homeland and his twin’s…

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Psalm 66:8-20

On this Sixth Sunday of the Easter season, Easter is frankly fading from our minds.  The trumpets are stored away, the lilies have long been consigned to the trash, and we’re moving on to Ascension Day and Pentecost.  So it’s a good thing to preach on Psalm 66 today, because it reminds us that every…

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Psalm 31:1-5; 15-16

“In this Psalm the panic of the people of God troubled by the persecution of all the heathen, and by the failing of faith throughout the world, is principally seen.”  Those words could have been written by any alert observer of the world-wide religious scene in 2017, as we witness, for example, the cruel persecution…

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Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Clearly, Psalm 116 was chosen for this Third Sunday of Easter because it is a Psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from death.  It reverses the order of things in ordinary life, where we move from life to death.  Here the Psalmist moves from death.to life, like Jesus in his crucifixion and resurrection.  Indeed, Jesus could…

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Genesis 12:1-4a

The Old Testament lesson the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday reminds us that the God whom we worship in Jesus Christ is a God who calls.  Yet it also reminds us that God always calls for a purpose.  So we listen, not just for God’s call, but also for what purpose God calls us. At…

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Matthew 24:36-44

In Anne Tyler’s novel, The Amateur Marriage, we witness a sad series of events. The book’s main characters are Michael and Pauline, a pair of World War II-era sweethearts who get married and eventually have three children. But then one day their oldest child, Lindy, just disappears. She runs away from home and promptly falls…

Explore

Luke 21:5-19

Talk about the end of the world and everybody gets interested.   The disciples were, too, when Jesus predicted some apocalyptic events.   “Well,” they asked with faces a shade paler than they had been moments before, “when will all that bad stuff happen?”   In answering them, Jesus gets even more vivid in predicting great and terrible…

Explore

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

As most every Bible commentary would tell you, the way Paul uses Habakkuk 2:4b (“the righteous will live by faith”) in Romans and Galatians may be a bit different from how the text “sounds” and seems to function in Habakkuk 2.   Habakkuk has spent most of his prophecy up to this point complaining to God…

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2 Timothy 2:8-15

By the time the Pastoral Epistles were written, there had been enough development in the Early Church that Paul was able to quote back to Timothy and Titus various “faithful sayings” that had gained currency among believers. These appear to have been pithy gospel summaries of key points. Since anything a person knew back then…

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Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

I suspect that were Jeremiah 4 not on the Lectionary schedule, few preachers and teachers would be willing to tackle it. After all, among other reasons, relatively few of us like to talk about the kind of divine judgment it so graphically describes. What’s more, its grim apocalyptic imagery resists easy understanding and application. Of…

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Jeremiah 2:4-13

Diseases that sap memory, like Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, deeply frighten some people. After all, memory connects us to those we love and even in a way to ourselves. Without memory, we largely become alone in the world. Without memory, in many ways we no longer feel like we belong anywhere. Memory, however,…

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Hosea 1:2-10

Few parents seem to pick their children’s first names on the basis of their meaning anymore. It appears many pick names on the basis of their popularity or family history. Israelites, however, chose their children’s names because of their meanings. So, for example, Hannah names her son Samuel because she “asked the Lord for him.”…

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Psalm 138

At first glance Psalm 138 is simply a royal psalm of thanksgiving offered to God in response to some special experience of personal salvation. It includes an invitation to the royalty of the earth to join in praising the God of this King, whom the superscription identifies as David. Many scholars don’t take the superscriptions…

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Psalm 66:1-9

Even the staunchest believer sometimes wonders about the efficacy of prayer. Does it really work? Does God listen to our prayers and answer in identifiable ways? Not only our personal experience of apparently unanswered prayers, but also some of the more difficult Christian doctrines (the sovereignty of God manifested in predestination and election) make us…

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I Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Discouragement can be a devastating feeling.  A national news magazine once labeled it “the social disease of the 1980s in America.”  One biblical commentator suggests “listlessness, despair and resignation are crippling people across the nation in a wave of chronic cynicism.”  As evidence, he points to the surging tide of teen suicides and an exploding…

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Psalm 30

In this Easter season, the lectionary readings call the church to explore and live into and celebrate the impact of Easter. With its imagery of death and resurrection, Psalm 30 is a perfect post-Easter Psalm. Its purpose is to keep the memory of our deliverance from death alive by voicing the deliverance again and adding…

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Giving to the church is a notoriously difficult subject for preachers, deacons and other church leaders. It raises very hard questions. How is giving money or even time or talent to the church actually giving to God? Are there other ways to give to God besides giving to the local church? How much should people…

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Exodus 6:1-12

Deep discouragement, even discouragement with God. That is the background to Moses’ grievance against the Almighty. Moses complains bitterly to the Lord that he has mistreated his people. He has sent Moses on a fool’s errand. In sum, Moses charges: “you have done nothing at all to deliver your people” (5:23).Some pious interpreters of previous…

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Judges 6:(1-10), 11-32, (33-40)

Angles, insights, and illustrations as entry points into the text and sermon Theological themes that should not be missed: The God of Israel is faithful and responsive to Israel’s cries even when Israel is not faithful. The God of the Exodus who delivered his people out of Egypt will raise another leader who will rescue…

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Exodus 5:1-9

Comments and Observations Adding insult to injury.  We have phrases like this in our English usage, which remind us that sometimes life gets worse before it gets better, if it gets better at all.  It’s a fact of life that there are times when we think things can’t get any worse, and yet they can,…

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