December 11, 2020 (Faithful Love)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His faithful love endures forever. A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but one who consorts with prostitutes destroys his wealth. Since we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

December 11, 2020 (Faithful Love)

Psalm 135, CSB

Hallelujah! Praise the name of the Lord. Give praise, you servants of the Lord who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for it is delightful.

For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his treasured possession.

For I know that the Lord is great; our Lord is greater than all gods.

The Lord does whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the depths.

He causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain and brings the wind from his storehouses.

He struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both people and animals.

He sent signs and wonders against you, Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his officials.

He struck down many nations and slaughtered mighty kings: Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan.

He gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance to his people Israel.

Lord, your name endures forever, your reputation, Lord, through all generations.

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.

The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, made by human hands.

They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.

They have ears but cannot hear; indeed, there is no breath in their mouths.

Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

House of Israel, bless the Lord! House of Aaron, bless the Lord!

House of Levi, bless the Lord! You who revere the Lord, bless the Lord!

Blessed be the Lord from Zion; he dwells in Jerusalem. Hallelujah!

Psalm 136, CSB

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.

He alone does great wonders. His faithful love endures forever.

He made the heavens skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.

He spread the land on the waters. His faithful love endures forever.

He made the great lights: His faithful love endures forever.

the sun to rule by day, His faithful love endures forever.

the moon and stars to rule by night. His faithful love endures forever.

He struck the firstborn of the Egyptians His faithful love endures forever.

and brought Israel out from among them His faithful love endures forever.

with a strong hand and outstretched arm. His faithful love endures forever.

He divided the Red Sea His faithful love endures forever.

and led Israel through, His faithful love endures forever.

but hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.

He led his people in the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever.

He struck down great kings His faithful love endures forever.

and slaughtered famous kings— His faithful love endures forever.

Sihon king of the Amorites His faithful love endures forever.

and Og king of Bashan— His faithful love endures forever.

and gave their land as an inheritance, His faithful love endures forever.

an inheritance to Israel his servant. His faithful love endures forever.

He remembered us in our humiliation His faithful love endures forever.

and rescued us from our foes. His faithful love endures forever.

He gives food to every creature. His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven! His faithful love endures forever.

Proverbs 29:1–10, CSB

One who becomes stiff-necked, after many reprimands will be shattered instantly— beyond recovery.

When the righteous flourish, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, people groan.

A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but one who consorts with prostitutes destroys his wealth.

By justice a king brings stability to a land, but a person who demands “contributions” demolishes it.

A person who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.

An evil person is caught by sin, but the righteous one sings and rejoices.

The righteous person knows the rights of the poor, but the wicked one does not understand these concerns.

Mockers inflame a city, but the wise turn away anger.

If a wise person goes to court with a fool, there will be ranting and raving but no resolution.

Bloodthirsty men hate an honest person, but the upright care about him.

Acts 12:20–16:40, CSB

Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Together they presented themselves before him. After winning over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country.

On an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a speech to them.

The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!”

At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died.

But the word of God spread and multiplied.

After they had completed their relief mission, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John who was called Mark.

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.

So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Arriving in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They also had John as their assistant.

When they had traveled the whole island as far as Paphos, they came across a sorcerer, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus.

He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God.

But Elymas the sorcerer (that is the meaning of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

But Saul—also called Paul—filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at Elymas and said, “You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery, you son of the devil and enemy of all that is right. Won’t you ever stop perverting the straight paths of the Lord?

Now, look, the Lord’s hand is against you. You are going to be blind, and will not see the sun for a time.” Immediately a mist and darkness fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.

Then, when he saw what happened, the proconsul believed, because he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John left them and went back to Jerusalem.

They continued their journey from Perga and reached Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.

After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, you can speak.”

Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said, “Fellow Israelites, and you who fear God, listen!

The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, made the people prosper during their stay in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it with a mighty arm.

And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness; and after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance.

This all took about 450 years. After this, he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.

Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.

After removing him, he raised up David as their king and testified about him, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my will.’

“From this man’s descendants, as he promised, God brought to Israel the Savior, Jesus.

Before his coming to public attention, John had previously proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

Now as John was completing his mission, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not the one. But one is coming after me, and I am not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet.’

“Brothers and sisters, children of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, it is to us that the word of this salvation has been sent.

Since the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him or the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, they have fulfilled their words by condemning him.

Though they found no grounds for the death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him killed.

When they had carried out all that had been written about him, they took him down from the tree and put him in a tomb.

But God raised him from the dead, and he appeared for many days to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.

And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors.

God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm: You are my Son; today I have become your Father.

As to his raising him from the dead, never to return to decay, he has spoken in this way, I will give you the holy and sure promises of David.

Therefore he also says in another passage, You will not let your Holy One see decay.

For David, after serving God’s purpose in his own generation, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed,

but the one God raised up did not decay.

Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers and sisters, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you.

Everyone who believes is justified through him from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses.

So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: Look, you scoffers, marvel and vanish away, because I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you.”

As they were leaving, the people urged them to speak about these matters the following Sabbath.

After the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and urging them to continue in the grace of God.

The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of the Lord.

But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him.

Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles.

For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have made you a light for the Gentiles to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honored the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.

The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.

But the Jews incited the prominent God-fearing women and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district.

But Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet against them and went to Iconium.

And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue, as usual, and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.

But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.

So they stayed there a long time and spoke boldly for the Lord, who testified to the message of his grace by enabling them to do signs and wonders.

But the people of the city were divided, some siding with the Jews and others with the apostles.

When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat and stone them, they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside.

There they continued preaching the gospel.

In Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth.

He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed,

Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet!” And he jumped up and began to walk around.

When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”

Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought bulls and wreaths to the gates because he intended, with the crowds, to offer sacrifice.

The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting, “People! Why are you doing these things? We are people also, just like you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them.

In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own way, although he did not leave himself without a witness, since he did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”

Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them.

Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.

After the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

After they had preached the gospel in that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

When they had appointed elders for them in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

They passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia.

After they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

And they spent a considerable time with the disciples.

Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

After Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate, Paul and Barnabas and some others were appointed to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this issue.

When they had been sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they brought great joy to all the brothers and sisters.

When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.

But some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter.

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe.

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us.

He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.

Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”

The whole assembly became silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

After they stopped speaking, James responded, “Brothers, listen to me.

Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for his name.

And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written: After these things I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again, so that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles who are called by my name— declares the Lord who makes these things known from long ago.

Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God, but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood.

For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”

Then the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to select men who were among them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers.

They wrote: “From the apostles and the elders, your brothers, To the brothers and sisters among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.

Since we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth.

For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours—not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements: that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things. Farewell.”

So they were sent off and went down to Antioch, and after gathering the assembly, they delivered the letter.

When they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.

Both Judas and Silas, who were also prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers and sisters and strengthened them with a long message.

After spending some time there, they were sent back in peace by the brothers and sisters to those who had sent them.

But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming the word of the Lord.

After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers and sisters in every town where we have preached the word of the Lord and see how they’re doing.”

Barnabas wanted to take along John who was called Mark.

But Paul insisted that they should not take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work.

They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus.

But Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended by the brothers and sisters to the grace of the Lord.

He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Paul went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek.

The brothers and sisters at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him.

Paul wanted Timothy to go with him; so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.

As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for the people to observe.

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.

When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.

Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas.

During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!”

After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of the district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for several days.

On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there.

A God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying.

After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling.

As she followed Paul and us she cried out, “These men, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God.”

She did this for many days. Paul was greatly annoyed. Turning to the spirit, he said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out right away.

When her owners realized that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.”

The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods.

After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully.

Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose.

When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison standing open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped.

But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because we’re all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

He escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house.

He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized.

He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household.

When daylight came, the chief magistrates sent the police to say, “Release those men.”

The jailer reported these words to Paul: “The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace.”

But Paul said to them, “They beat us in public without a trial, although we are Roman citizens, and threw us in jail. And now are they going to send us away secretly? Certainly not! On the contrary, let them come themselves and escort us out.”

The police reported these words to the magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.

So they came to appease them, and escorting them from prison, they urged them to leave town.

After leaving the jail, they came to Lydia’s house, where they saw and encouraged the brothers and sisters, and departed.

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