Ever noticed all the reality TV shows on these days? How many of them are real? How often would you ever see something like that in real life? When you consider the definition of reality we find “the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them” and as a secondary definition “the state or quality of having existence or substance”. With technology there are even more types of reality…virtual reality – “the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors” …and the newer one you may have heard about … enhanced or augmented reality – “a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data”.
In you world, what do you worship? what are you worshiping? who are you worshiping? Check your version of reality!
Today’s reading begins in Isaiah 58…
True and False Worship
1“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! 2Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. 3‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. 4What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the lord? 6“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. 7Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 8“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the lord will protect you from behind. 9Then when you call, the lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. 11The lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. 13“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. 14Then the lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the lord, have spoken!”
–from Isaiah 58
Ever realized how much we focus on self? Ever noticed how no matter the situation we are focused on how it impacts us? Ever noticed your response because of the focus on self? Ever discovered the conflicts that materialize because of our focus on self? Imagine if we could turn that around and start to live in a way that was different and better! Imagine being less selfish and being more selfless! Imagine a life where instead of comparing ourselves to others we live lives that produce results! Imagine a life where we live in humility! Imagine a life where we aren’t grumbling and we aren’t arguing! Imagine a life where we live blameless and pure so that we make a difference and are seen as different from the world around us! So rather than having had the salvation experience we can live salvation experiences daily! Salvation has made us new creations where the old is gone and the new has come! Salvation has made us so that we can allow God working in us and thru us to produce fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
So let’s not grow weary in doing good works! Let’s lean into all that God has done, is doing, and will do in and thru our lives in order to transform the world around us! Jesus came to bridge the gap! Jesus came and gave His all in order that we could be reconciled to God! Jesus came and paid the price of death – death on a cross – for you and for me so that we could be saved! We need to make the choice though to receive it! Have you received it? Are you living it?
What is the reality around you looking like? Is your reality real? Consider what you are hearing in the news! Consider what you are hearing about the courts! Consider what you are hearing about law enforcement! Consider what you are heading about politicians! Does it seem real to you? Does it seem right?
Warnings against Sin
1Listen! The lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. 3Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. 4No one cares about being fair and honest. The people’s lawsuits are based on lies. They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin. 5They hatch deadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever eats their eggs will die; whoever cracks them will hatch a viper. 6Their webs can’t be made into clothing, and nothing they do is productive. All their activity is filled with sin, and violence is their trademark. 7Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder. They think only about sinning. Misery and destruction always follow them. 8They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good. They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace. 9So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. 10We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead. 11We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us. 12For our sins are piled up before God and testify against us. Yes, we know what sinners we are. 13We know we have rebelled and have denied the lord. We have turned our backs on our God. We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies. 14Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. 15Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. 16He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. 17He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion. 18He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes. He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth. 19In the west, people will respect the name of the lord; in the east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the lord. 20“The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the lord. 21“And this is my covenant with them,” says the lord. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the lord, have spoken!
–from Isaiah 59
Do you have a source of truth? Do you have a north star that you turn to when you are feeling lost? Do you have someone you call out to during your times of trouble?
God’s Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path! Jesus is my Lord and Savior and so I turn to Him and call out to Him in times of trouble! I find refuge in God! God is good – all the time! All the time – God is good!
For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by the flute.
1O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. 2Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. 3Listen to my voice in the morning, lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. 4O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked. 5Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence, for you hate all who do evil. 6You will destroy those who tell lies. The lord detests murderers and deceivers. 7Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house; I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe. 8Lead me in the right path, O lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow. 9My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery. 10O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. 11But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. 12For you bless the godly, O lord; you surround them with your shield of love.
–from Psalms 5
Are you seeing the persecution taking place around the world? Will you stand up for the truth? Will you speak the truth in love? Will you THINK before you speak? (T – True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind) Are you seeing the reality taking place around the world? How about in your community? How about in your neighborhood or workplace? How about in your schools? What is reality looking like to you now? How are you living it out? What impact is your life having on the world around you? Are you living a life that make people want to know more about Jesus? Are you living a life that is pointing people to the one true God? Do others want to learn more about the hope that is within you?
1Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.
Persecution Scatters the Believers
A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2(Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) 3But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
Philip Preaches in Samaria
4But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. 5Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. 6Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. 7Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. 8So there was great joy in that city. 9A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. 10Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as “the Great One—the Power of God.” 11They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic. 12But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized. 13Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed. 14When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. 15As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 16The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. 19“Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!” 20But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! 21You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. 22Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, 23for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.” 24“Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!” 25After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
26As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. 29The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” 30Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. 32The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. 36As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”38He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.
–from Acts 8
So what does your reality look like? Is it real? Are you sharing the hope that is within you? Are you looking for real hope because you haven’t met Jesus yet? Are you resisting the selfish desires and trying to live out life in the fruit of the Spirit? Are you speaking the truth in love? Are you speaking with integrity and character? Are you avoiding grumbling and arguing? Are you living out the grace you were given? Are you living in the grace you were given? We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus! We aren’t saved by works so that nobody can boast! So let’s walk in humility!
Greetings from Paul
1This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
2May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
God Offers Comfort to All
3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
8We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.
Paul’s Change of Plans
12We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. 13Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, 14even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.
15Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twice—16first on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia.Then you could send me on my way to Judea.
17You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? 18As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” 19For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. 20For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
21It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, 22and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.
23Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. 24But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.
–from 2 Corinthians 1