Cove’s Worship Service - March 12, 2017

Below is the podcast of the service I lead on Sunday, March 12, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. It's the second service  in a series entitled, "Why: Answering Some of Life's Hard Questions."



A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Clear as Mud

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900). You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 


If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


Galatians 4:21-5:1


Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, 

     “Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, 

          burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs; 

     for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous 

          than the children of the one who is married.” 

Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.


Clear as Mud


After reading these verses from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, I remembered my first interview for a full-time minister job in a real-live church. It happened at the end of my last year of seminary. A nominating committee had come up from North Carolina to interview a few students, including me. And as I recall, the interview was going O.K., not great but O.K., when one member of the committee asked if I was a conservative or liberal. And as I was thinking about how I should respond, I remembered something one of my professors had said, “If you’re ever asked a question like that, just say that you’re orthodox, because you adhere to the same faith proclaimed in the Bible and practiced by Christians for almost two thousand years.” And so that’s what I did, and I included the explanation just in case he hadn’t heard it before. But when I asked him if I’d been clear in my answer, he looked me right in the eyes and said, “Clear as mud.” Of course, I didn’t get the job.


And I’ve got to tell you, I felt the same thing reading Paul allegory. I’m not sure I get it. For me, this particular explanation is about clear as mud. But we’re really fortunate that it’s not the only explanation he offered for something that’s truly amazing. You see, for Paul, through Jesus Christ, we will be saved, not through our effort or obedience, rather through God’s gracious choice. And because we’ve been chosen, we’ve also been set free, free from a past that can no longer bind us and free from having to earn our salvation. You see, whether he explained it by applying grace to our own experience or by creating the kind of complicated allegory we see here, Jesus has both redeemed our past and assured our future, which leads to freedom right now. And praise the Lord, for us, this reality is much clearer than mud.



Sunday’s Sermon - Why don’t people understand me?

Below is a podcast of the sermon I preached on Sunday, March 12, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. It's the second sermon in a series entitled, "Why: Answering Some of Life's Hard Questions." You can find other sermons, devotions, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


As you remember, last week we started a new series dealing with some of what I consider life’s most difficult questions. And for each question, we using a different part of Job to ferret out some answers. Now that’s what we’ll be doing right up to Palm Sunday. 


And during the first message, we looked at that simple, modest, easily-answered little question: Why do bad things happen to good people? And we talked about how sometimes good people suffer because of what they’ve done to themselves or what’s been done to them by others, but other times, there just doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for their pain, sort of like what happened when God allowed Satan to take away everything from Job, a righteous man just to show that he’d remain righteous. In other words, sometimes suffering is not fair; it just happens, because it does. Not a great answer, right, but it’s the only one we’ve got. But as we talked about last week, whether we can understand it or not, I think it’s important for us to remember three things. First, we’ve been forgiven and cleansed; therefore, we’re not bound to keep repeating the past like Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day. And second, our future have been secured; therefore, whatever’s happening now is temporary. And third, we can be confident that God is with us all the time. Now that’s what we talked about last week. 


And today, well, today we’re going to consider the question: Why don’t people understand me? Of course, anyone who’s lived or worked with a teenager has probably heard this question before. I mean, even prior to becoming a father, I was a high school teacher; therefore, I already knew that anytime a teenager didn’t do what was expected or reacted in an extreme way to something that both a preteen and a post-teen would consider pretty insignificant, the problem wasn’t with her or her friends or even the situation she was facing. No sir, the problem was with me and my total inability to understand what she was going through. And for that reason any advice I might give or suggestion I might offer could be immediately rejected, because you see, I’m ignorant. I live under this great big rock. I just don’t understand. Now, that’s what I learned, a lesson that’s been reinforced these last two years.


But having said that, I really don’t want to suggest that the question, why don’t people understand me, that it’s only asked by folks going through adolescent hormonal changes. As a matter of fact, I think we might all find ourselves asking this exact same question from time to time. I’m telling you, I think, from time to time, we all wonder why the people around just don’t understand us.


And even though sometimes the issue we’re facing is trivial and unimportant even to us, at other times it’s not. For example, it may involve the kind of situation Job faced when he tried to share the undeserved, unfair, and unexplainable suffering he was enduring to his closest friends, and they all kind of blew him off. I mean, the more Job told them that his suffering had broken the fundamental rule he’d followed since birth and how he’d lived what really was a righteous life, something we know was true, and God had allowed horrible things to happen; man, the more he share the injustice he was facing, not only couldn’t his friends understand what he was saying, they accused him of lying. For them, God wouldn’t and couldn’t allow a righteous person to suffer for no reason. That wasn’t possible; therefore, Job must have done something wrong, and for his own good, he needed to admit it and then he could die in peace. But, of course, both Job and the reader, meaning us, we know they’re wrong. They just don’t understand. 


And you know, when it happened to him, I think Job went through the same emotions we generally feel when people don’t seem to understand us. I mean, as we read this book, we see that Job went from a lonely-kind of sadness to genuine irritation and frustration to honest-to-goodness anger both at his buddies and even at God when it appeared that, not only did no one care that he was suffering, but that no one, including God, was even willing to explain why it was happening. You see, that’s what happened to Job, and I think that can also happen to us. 


But I’ll tell you, when it does, I think we can do more that just sit there in the ashes and argue with guys who aren’t going to listen because they’re champing at the bite to talk. You see, I think we can understand why this kind of thing happens. But more than that, we can also get a pretty good idea about what we can do about it. And in my opinion, it all comes to two verbs, “will” and “can,” and how they apply to the people around us. Let me explain.


When we’re really struggling and that struggle is making us sad and frustrated and angry, because we feel that no one really understands what we’re facing, I think it’s important for us to remember that we’re always, and I mean always surrounded by four kinds of people. For example, whether we like it or not, there will always be folks who both won’t and can’t understand. You see, for some reason, they’ve made the decision that they will not understand what we’re saying or what we’re facing or what we’re feeling. They’re just not going to do it. Of course, they have their reasons: maybe, like Job’s friends, the stuff we’re talking about doesn’t fit into what they already believe, and they don’t really need to listen, or maybe they don’t feel they have the time or the energy to deal with someone else’s problems, or maybe they just don’t care, that’s another possibility. But regardless of the reason, they’re just not willing to understand. And that’s actually alright, because they really couldn’t understand even if they wanted to. Let me give you an example. I remember, back when I was in seminary, there was a guy in my class named Duncan. He had muscular dystrophy. He was limited to a wheelchair all the time. And his time on earth was going to be brief. That was Duncan’s life. And I’ll tell you, no matter how much I read about the disease and no matter how much time I spent with Duncan and no matter how kind and compassionate I tried to be, I was never able to understand what he felt when he woke up in the morning and when he rolled himself to class and when he worked and studied maybe harder than the rest of us to do something he might never live to do, and he knew it. You see, what he faced was so foreign to my experiences, I don’t think it was possible for me to understand what he went through every day. And I think that applies to all kinds of situations, including some of the stuff you and I face. Some folks couldn’t understand even if they wanted to. And I’ll tell you, when you combine this inability with a lack of desire, man, those folks are just about as close to a lost cause as you can get. I mean, they’re probably not going to listen. And if they say anything at all, it’s probably going to be brief and unrelated to what we’re feeling. In fact, they’re probably only going to increase our sadness, frustration and anger. And if we go to them for understanding more than once or twice and then leave feeling worse, and I think we all know that’s going to happen, we really only have ourselves to blame, because these people won’t and they can’t understand. 


But you know, there are others who could understand if they wanted, but have decided they don’t. These are the can, but won’t folks. You see, they really are able to identify with us. They can do it, because we’re facing something that they already faced. Maybe they endured it themselves; I don’t know. But that’s really not important, because whether it’s from a lack of time or energy or interest or concern, they’ve decided that they will not be understanding. They just don’t care. And even though I think it’s possible to convince them to become concerned, I honestly believe it’s pretty unlikely. I mean, let’s get real, if someone can identify with what we’re facing but just doesn’t care, I think we may waste a lot of time trying to convince them to change their minds. And when we’re feeling like Job and the sadness, frustration and anger is on the rise, time may be one thing we don’t have. And so, unless we have some kind of martyr mentality and deep down really want to believe that no one understands, that no one cares, I think we can move past both those who won’t and can’t right along with those who could but won’t. 


But even if we mark these guys off our sharing list, there are two other kinds of folks that we might want to approach. You see, there are plenty of people around us who actually care and who genuinely want to understand us; unfortunately, they just can’t. In other words, they’re willing to take the time and to make the effort and to offer direction and support and comfort. Man, they want to do it; they just don’t know how. They just don’t know what to do, because what we’re facing is different from anything they’ve ever experienced, you know, sort of like what I was saying about Duncan. And I’ll tell you, for those who want to understand but can’t, man, that can be extremely frustrating, and I’m talking about for them as well as us. But even though it won’t be easy, I think we can help them with this identification problem by trying as best we can to understand their backgrounds and then to explain what we’re facing in a way that relates to their experiences. In other words, if they can’t understand what we’re saying, we might need to speak with words and images that they can grasp. And even though, like I said, that’s certainly not easy, especially when we’re kind of struggling, it’s a whole lot easier than trying to convince someone that they should care when they’ve already decided that they don’t. I think those who are willing but not able have a greater potential to understand.


But even though it’s possible to bring them into our experience, when we feel as no one understands us, the best folks for us to turn for help are those who will and can, in other words, those who want and who are able to understand us. And we can identify them, because they already care about us. They’re already concerned about what we’re facing, and they’re already willing to take the time and make the effort to offer whatever insight and sympathy they’re able to muster. But more than that, they’re also able to understand, to identify with our struggle, including our sadness and our frustrations and anger. And I’ll tell you why; they may have actually walked in our shoes. They may already have survived what we face. Good night, they may have muscular dystrophy like Duncan. In other words, they have been where we are. And because they also care, they’re ready to listen; they’re ready to understand. And that should be good news for us, because now we have someone with whom we can share, without worrying about whether, at some point, they’re going to start looking at their watches or rolling their eyes or whether, after sharing our story, they’re going to look like we’ve either started to talk in Portuguese or suddenly have lobster clawing out of our ears. Man, those worries are gone; therefore, we’re free to share. But more than just talking, we can also start listening, listening to what they have to say, listening to the words of comfort they’ll offer as well as the advice they might give. And we can decide to trust that what they’re saying comes from both the heart and the head, you know, from sincere concern and actual experience. I’ll tell you, these people can make a huge difference when we need to be understood. 


In fact, that may be one of the reasons why in the church, the Body of Christ, God has drawn together so many different people with different backgrounds and who have gone through different experiences, but who are united by one command: that we love one another as we’ve been loved. And along with a God who is always present and who always loves and who can identify with us on our worst day, because, remember, as the writer of Hebrews said, “Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!” God will and can understand us, and we should certainly be able to find the same among his people. 


Now, like I said earlier, I think at some point, we don’t have to be teenagers to wonder if there’s anyone who will and who can understand how we feel. And when this happens, I also think it’s natural to experience some sadness and some frustration, maybe even some anger. But I think we can avoid this grief when we recognize that some folks won’t and can’t understand while there are others could but won’t or who are willing but just can’t but that there are still others, hopefully right here in this community, who do want to understand and who can identify with us. And I’ll tell you, those are the ones to whom we can go. And you know, if we do, that can offer a lot of comfort when we feel like asking the question: Why don’t people understand me?



A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - We’ll Never Be Thirsty Again

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900). You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 


If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


John 4:7-15


A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”


We’ll Never Be Thirsty Again


In a few months, we’ll be entering spring and then summer. The trees will be budding. The flowers will be blooming. And of course, the grass will be growing. And even though it doesn’t feel like it now, the temperature will be rising. And I’ll tell you, the combination of growing grass and rising temperatures will lead to me having to mow the lawn in the heat, not my favorite thing to do. And as I think about pushing that mower over my tiny lawn, I already know that I’m going to get thirsty. And for me, nothing tastes better than a nice glass of cold water. As a matter of fact, after about thirty minutes, this desire will cross over into craving. In fact, in a very real way, just thinking about it will give me the encouragement to finish the job. It’ll keep me moving until even the assorted collection of grass and weeds on the side of the house have been cut down to size. You see, that’s going to happen because I’m thirsty.


And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had the same desire and passion for the kind of water Jesus offered to the woman at the well and that he also offers to us every single day. I mean, suppose our desire for the Holy Spirit was so strong that it became the focus of our attention. And suppose this focus kept us moving forward, not focused backward to something that we lack the power to change, but forward into a future full of possibilities and opportunities. I mean, suppose living with and in the spirit was something that we craved. Well, I’ll tell you; if that should happen, there’s one thing that I believe we can take to the back. We’ll never be thirsty again.



Friday’s Essay - Considering the Time Change

Below is a podcast of an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 


If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal


Early Sunday morning, while most of us are sleeping, an amazing thing will happen. Time itself will advance, and we’ll lose an hour. And because of that, this may be one of the worst early mornings of the entire year, at least it is for me. You see, I tend to work late on Saturday evening. In fact, sometimes I don’t get home until around 11:00. And if that’s not late enough, generally I haven’t eaten, which pushes my going to bed even later. And since I generally get to the church somewhere around 7:30 Sunday morning and we now have a Shichon that needs to take a business trip every day before my family regains consciousness, the six hours I usually get will be cut to five. Let’s just say after our 9:00 session meeting and our 11:00 worship service and our pre-scheduled 12:30 joint board meeting, I’m probably going to crash sometime before 2:30 Sunday afternoon. Of course, it won’t be as bad as it was a few years ago. You see, we bought a new clock that I didn’t realize automatically adjusts to the time change. And so, I did what I’d done for decades, and set the time ahead an hour before I went to bed. Let me tell you, that was a short night for this aging man. Let’s just say, the time change that occurs early Sunday morning isn’t something to which I look forward.


But there’s another change that we remember this time of year that’s way more important to me and I hope is important to us all. You see, when Jesus was crucified and was raised, time changed, but not just for us. It changed for the entire created order. You see, when our past was cleansed by the cross and our future secured by the empty tomb, we entered a brand new age. 


And thanks to the crucifixion, in this new age, we can experience a new sense of freedom, because our past mistakes have been washed away. I mean, not only have they been forgiven, they’ve been cleansed so that what could be compared to a red stain has been washed so that it’s now white like snow. You see, that’s already happened, which means we’re no long anchored to who we’ve been or what we’ve done. At least in the sight of God, we’re new creatures, with new possibilities and opportunities, ready to become everything that we were created to be. And even though we never escape the avoidable need to separate good from evil or our natural tendency to assume that we have the necessary insight and wisdom to make that determination ourselves, we can trust that we won’t have to carry the eternal consequences of that arrogance. You see, the crucifixion moved us into an age in which we can look at our past with peace, knowing those things that can’t be changed won’t hold us back.


But this new age offers more than peace as we look backward. It also gives us hope as we look forward, and I’ll tell you why. Our ultimate destiny was revealed by the empty tomb, and the time of resurrection started when Christ was raised. And that’s certainly how Paul saw it. In fact, he described Jesus as the first fruit of the harvest to come. In other words, because Christ was raised, we can trust that we’ll be too. The time will come when God was cause us to rise into a new and a glorious world, one where the old order will be gone forever and where we’ll enter a time of perfect freedom, because we’ll no longer be bound to choose between good and evil. In this new creation, good will be only possibility. Now that’s on the way. And right now, we can live in the light of this future. By trusting that’s it’s coming, we can look forward with hope, believing that whatever might be happening to and around us, our future is secure. Since the resurrection, this is now the basis for our hope. And this is the age in which we live.


And that’s the other time change I was talking about. Of course, the one that’ll occur on Sunday morning, it’ll be reversed sometime in late October. As most Americans know, later in the year, we’ll retrieve our lost hour. But as it relates to the time that changed with the crucifixion and resurrection, there’ll be no falling back.



On the Road Again - Passion, Part 1 (Luke 22:1-30)

Below is the passage we discussed in a series entitled "On the Road Again: A Study of Luke/Acts and a podcast of the discussion. This week we discussed Luke 22:1-30. You may listen to a podcast of this session on the Cove Presbyterian PodBean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 


If you found this study meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.


Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.


But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Missing the Light

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900). You can also find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 


If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


John 3:16-21


“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.


“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”


Missing the Light


Every week-day morning, I take my daughter to school. And at least every other day, we’re running late. And so we rush out of the house like a tornado, get into the car, say a brief prayer, and then we’re off and running. And as we’re putting the pedal to the metal, there’s a stop light at the bottom of our hill. Now, if we hit it when it’s green, that’s great. But if it happens to be red, that’s not good. But the worst situation is seeing it green, but by the time we get to the intersection, it’s turned yellow and then red. Rats, we missed the light; therefore, we have to wait for it to go through it’s cycle, including a special left turn signal that only increases our frustration.


But you know, we’ll feel more than just frustration if we miss the kind of light Jesus talked about. You see, the light has already come into the world; the word made flesh has pitched his tent among us. And if we listen to why it came, we’ll understand that it didn’t come to judge but rather to save. And if we trust that the message is true, we can experience some of that salvation right now. But if we don’t trust, then the message means nothing. And if we don’t listen, we’ll never understand the purpose of God’s coming into our time and space. You see, we’ll never be able to feel the peace and the hope that comes from believing that salvation, not condemnation, awaits us. And I’ll tell you, that’s a pretty big price for missing the light.



On the Road Again - Arrival, Part 2 (Luke 20:21 - 21:38)

Below is the podcast and the passage we discussed in a series entitled "On the Road Again: A Study of Luke/Acts. This week we discussed Luke 20:21 - 21:38. 

If you found this study meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.


Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”


Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him another question. Then he said to them, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”


He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”


When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.


“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”


Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.


On the Road Again - Arrival, Part 1 (Luke 19:28 - 20:20)

Below is the podcast and the passage we discussed in a series entitled "On the Road Again: A Study of Luke/Acts. This week we discussed Luke 19:28 - 20:20. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 


If you found this study meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”


As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.


One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”


He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Heaven forbid!” But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.


So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor.


On the Road Again - Continuing the Journey, Part 7 (Luke 18:15 - 19:27)

Below is the podcast and the passage we discussed in a series entitled "On the Road Again: A Study of Luke/Acts. This week we discussed Luke 18:15 - 19:27. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.

If you found this study meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”


A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”


Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.


As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.


He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”


 As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”

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