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Monday, November 30, 2015

Be on Guard

2 December 2015

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: Christian! Seek not yet repose

Theme: The Kingdom of God is Near

Topic: Be on Guard

Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

We ended our last theme discussing the topic ‘Our Lord and King’, and the coming of our Lord and King in His Glory.  In the next four weeks, commonly known as Advent, our focus will be on how the Kingdom of God is near.  When asked by Pilate whether He is the king of the Jews, Jesus answered that His kingdom is not of this world; that if it were, His followers would fight for Him.  What exactly did Christ mean by that?  There are several ways to describe the kingdom of God- heavenly kingdom, followers of Christ, the new kingdom that will be established after Christ’s second coming, and so on. However, regardless of our understanding of God’s kingdom, to be a part of it requires faith, trust and obedience to God, accepting the Salvation He offered us through Christ Jesus looking forward to His coming again to judge the righteous and unrighteous.  Since we do not know when Christ will return, the Word of God encourages us to be on guard so that when Christ returns, we will reign with Him.

1) How will you describe the kingdom of God? 
Matthew 6:5-11, 31-34
‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
10   Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
11   Give us this day our daily bread. 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?”32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Romans 14:17-19
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. 19Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification.

Hebrews 12:18-29
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. 20(For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.’ 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’) 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!26At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.’ 27This phrase ‘Yet once more’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29for indeed our God is a consuming fire. 

2) What are the lessons for us in Luke 21:25-36 regarding the kingdom of God?
Luke 21:25-36
‘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. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.27Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ 29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees;30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be 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.’

3) Why does the Scripture encourage us to be on guard?
Psalm 25:1-9
Refrain: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame; let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes. R Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. R Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord. R Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore he teaches sinners in his way. He guides the humble in doing right and teaches his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. R

1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. 14Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Peter 5:5B-11
And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
‘God opposes the proud,
   but gives grace to the humble.’
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.


Since we do not know when Christ will return, the Word of God encourages us to be on guard so that when Christ returns, we will reign with Him. 

Closing Prayer (Collect for First Sunday of Advent)
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility, that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Our Lord and King

25 November 2015

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: All people that on earth do dwell

Theme: Spirit of Life

Topic: Our Lord and King

Reading: 2 Samuel 23:1-7
Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse,
   the oracle of the man whom God exalted,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
   the favourite of the Strong One of Israel: 
2 The spirit of the Lord speaks through me,
   his word is upon my tongue.
3 The God of Israel has spoken,
   the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
   ruling in the fear of God,
4 is like the light of morning,
   like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
   gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. 
5 Is not my house like this with God?
   For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
   ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper
   all my help and my desire?
6 But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;
   for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
7 to touch them one uses an iron bar
   or the shaft of a spear.
   And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

Most of Old Testament is a shadow of the coming of Christ.  References to this common belief include stories about Abraham, deliverance of the Jews from Egypt, King David, Jonah and so on; all these point to the coming and reign of Christ.  The coming of Christ was not an afterthought; He freely laid His life down for the sins of the world.  The Son of God took on human flesh, died a shameful death on the cross of Calvary, restoring the relationship between God and man.  The Scripture makes it clear that Christ is not just our Lord and Saviour; He is our King too!  Wherever He leads, we will follow.  The Lordship and Kingship of Christ are everlasting; and all who believe in Him will someday reign with Him.  That is our blessed hope!

1) How will you describe the Kingship and Lordship of Jesus Christ?
Psalm 100:1-5
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2   Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come into his presence with singing. 
3 Know that the Lord is God.
   It is he that made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
   and his courts with praise.
   Give thanks to him, bless his name. 
5 For the Lord is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever,
   and his faithfulness to all generations.

Acts 17:24-31
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” 29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

Revelation 1:4B-8
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and madeus to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
   every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
   and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. 

2) What are the lessons for us in John 18:33-37 regarding the reign of Christ?
John 18:33-37
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’

Psalm 95:1-11
1 O come, let us sing to the Lord;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
   and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 
6 O come, let us worship and bow down,
   let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand. 
O that today you would listen to his voice!
8   Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
   as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your ancestors tested me,
   and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
   and said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
   and they do not regard my ways.’
11 Therefore in my anger I swore,
   ‘They shall not enter my rest.’

3) In what ways does Christ reign in our lives now?
Psalm 132:1-13
1      Lord, remember David, *
                       and all the hardships he endured;
2      How he swore an oath to the Lord *
                       and vowed a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
3      ”I will not come under the roof of my house, *
                       nor climb up into my bed;
4      I will not allow my eyes to sleep, *
                       nor let my eyelids slumber;
5      Until I find a place for the Lord, *
                       a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob”
6      ”The Ark! We heard it was in Ephratah; *
                       we found it in the fields of Jearim.
7      Let us go to God’s dwelling place; *
                       let us fall upon our knees before his footstool.”
8      Arise, O Lord, into your resting-place, *
                       you and the ark of your strength.
9      Let your priests be clothed with righteousness; *
                       let your faithful people sing with joy.
10     For your servant David’s sake, *
                       do not turn away the face of your anointed.
11     The Lord has sworn an oath to David; *
                       in truth, he will not break it:
12     ”A son, the fruit of your body *
                       will I set upon your throne.
13     If your children keep my covenant
        and my testimonies that I shall teach them, *
                       their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

Titus 2:11-15
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. 14He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. 15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.

Christ is our Lord and King; wherever He leads, we will follow.  His Lordship and Kingship are everlasting; and we will someday reign with Him forever and ever.  That is our blessed hope!

Closing Prayer (Collect for Last Sunday after Pentecost: The Reign of Christ)
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, our Lord and King, grant that the peoples of the earth, now divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his gentle and loving rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts
Eternal God, by your grace you have raised us up and enthroned us with Christ in the heavenly realms. Receive all we offer you this day, and lead us in those good works for which you have created us. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer 3
The Lord be with you.
        And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
        We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
        It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Blessed are you, gracious God, creator of heaven and earth; we give you thanks and praise through Jesus Christ our Lord. You exalted him as Lord of all creation that he might present to you an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace. Therefore at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow as heaven and earth proclaim the glory of your name.

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

We give thanks to you, Lord our God, for the goodness and love you have made known to us in creation; in calling Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Saviour and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, a death he freely accepted, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “ Take, eat: this is my body which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore, Father, according to his command,
we remember his death,
we proclaim his resurrection,
we await his coming in glory;

and we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, Lord of all; presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine.

We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts, that they may be the sacrament of the body of Christ and his blood of the new covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we, made acceptable in him, may be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

In the fullness of time, reconcile all things in Christ, and make them new, and bring us to that city of light where you dwell with all your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation;

by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory are yours, almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
And now, as our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread
“I am the bread of life,” says the Lord.
“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry;
whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!

The Communion
The gifts of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.

Prayer after Communion
Almighty God, you have made us a royal priesthood in the kingdom of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Make known his victory through us, we pray, that all the world may see his light. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

The doxology
Glory to God,
whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus,
for ever and ever. Amen.

May Christ,
who out of defeat brings new hope and a new future,
fill you with his new life;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In the Palms of God’s Hands

18 November 2015

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: Abide With Me

Theme: Spirit of Life

Topic: In the Palms of God’s Hands

Reading: 1 Samuel 1:4-20
On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7So it went on year after year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8Her husband Elkanah said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’
9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord10She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.’
12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.13Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’15But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord16Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.’ 17Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.’ 18And she said, ‘Let your servant find favour in your sight.’ Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
19 They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’

Although most believers are convinced that nothing takes God by surprise, it is generally a difficult concept to comprehend, especially in times of trouble.  It is simply difficult to believe that God can allow certain situations to happen or arise in our lives.  During tough times, a common question that runs through our mind is ‘where is God?’  Although it is hard to make sense of difficult situations and mishaps, the Scripture actually tells us that troubling times will come.  The most important decision at such time is to put our trust in the Lord, pray, and know that God will ultimately use the situation for our good and to His glory.  Trusting God during hard times can only be achieved through the help of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit helps us in our prayer and reminds us of God’s unfailing love.  God was aware of Hannah’s barrenness, as well as the ridicules she faced continually; when Hannah called upon the Lord, He answered her, and blessed her with a son.  The Lord has us in the palms of His Hands; He will hear and deliver us when we call upon Him.

1) What does it mean to be in the palms of God’s hands? 
1 Samuel 2:1-10 (as Canticle)
Refrain: My heart exults in the Lord; I rejoice in your salvation.
My heart exults in the Lord, my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is no Holy One like you, O Lord, nor any Rock like you, our God. For you are a God of knowledge and by you our actions are weighed. R The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full now search bread, but those who were hungry are well fed. The barren woman has borne sevenfold, but she who has many children is forlorn. Both the poor and the rich are of your making, you bring low and you also exalt. R You raise up the poor from the dust, and lift the needy from the ash heap. You make them sit with the rulers, and inherit a place of honour. For the pillars of the earth are yours and on them you have set the world. R

Isaiah 49:13-26
13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
   break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
   and will have compassion on his suffering ones. 
14 But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
   my Lord has forgotten me.’
15 Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
   or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
   yet I will not forget you.
16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
   your walls are continually before me.
17 Your builders outdo your destroyers,
   and those who laid you waste go away from you.
18 Lift up your eyes all around and see;
   they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, says the Lord,
   you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
   and like a bride you shall bind them on. 
19 Surely your waste and your desolate places
   and your devastated land—
surely now you will be too crowded for your inhabitants,
   and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20 The children born in the time of your bereavement
   will yet say in your hearing:
‘The place is too crowded for me;
   make room for me to settle.’
21 Then you will say in your heart,
   ‘Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
   exiled and put away—
   so who has reared these?
I was left all alone—
   where then have these come from?’ 
22 Thus says the Lord God:
I will soon lift up my hand to the nations,
   and raise my signal to the peoples;
and they shall bring your sons in their bosom,
   and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
23 Kings shall be your foster-fathers,
   and their queens your nursing-mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
   and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
   those who wait for me shall not be put to shame. 
24 Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
   or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25 But thus says the Lord:
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
   and the prey of the tyrant be rescued;
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
   and I will save your children.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
   and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
Then all flesh shall know
   that I am the Lord your Saviour,
   and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. 

Joel 2:21-32
21 Do not fear, O soil;
   be glad and rejoice,
   for the Lord has done great things! 
22 Do not fear, you animals of the field,
   for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,
   the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 
23 O children of Zion, be glad
   and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
   he has poured down for you abundant rain,
   the early and the later rain, as before. 
24 The threshing-floors shall be full of grain,
   the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 
25 I will repay you for the years
   that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
   my great army, which I sent against you. 
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
   and praise the name of the Lord your God,
   who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
   and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again
   be put to shame. 
28 Then afterwards
   I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
   your old men shall dream dreams,
   and your young men shall see visions. 
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
   in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 
30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.32Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

2) What are the lessons for us in Mark 13:1-8 regarding troubling times?
Mark 13:1-8
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ 2Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ 5Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

3)    What should be our attitude when going through tough times? 
        How does the Holy Spirit help us at such times?
Ephesians 1:3-21
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

Hebrews 10:11-25
And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’, 13and since then has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’ 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, 
16 ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them
   after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
   and I will write them on their minds’, 
17he also adds,
‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ 
18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.


Trusting God during hard times can only be achieved through the help of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit helps us in our prayer and reminds us of God’s unfailing love.

Closing Prayer (Collect for Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost)
Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world. Free us from all that darkens and ensnares us, and bring us to eternal light and joy; through the power of him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.