12/6/21

Our scripture this morning is Psalms 126.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

This psalm reminds the people of Israel of the great things God has done for them throughout their history. He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, He returned them from captivity in Babylon and He has promised His son, the Messiah will come to save us all from sin and death. God has had a plan for us all along.

The psalmist speaks of the rains that come to water the desert and how God’s streams of mercy will restore our lives. The psalm ends with “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them” (v. 6). God will provide for our needs when we obey, becoming part of the process.

God needs no help from us, but wants us to partner with Him and all the faithful to spread His love. Sharing the joy we know in Him and the gift of salvation He offers is our calling in this life. May we be good stewards of the Gospel until Christ returns for us.

Loving Lord, we are grateful for all Your gifts to us. Bless us to be a blessing to others, showing the world the way You would have us live together. Amen.

12/5/21

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Luke‬ ‭3:1-6‬.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight. Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’ ”

The Gospel of Luke gives us insight into the ministry of John the Baptist and how his call to service is the same for us all. His objective is to tell everyone of the coming Messiah and our need to repent. He teaches us “all flesh will see the salvation of God” (v. 6), the promise from the Father that all may be saved.

John the Baptist is often considered the last prophet to the children of Israel. He issues a call for them to seek God’s forgiveness and live new lives in the light of His love. He tells those gathered that he will baptize them with water but the Messiah will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭3:16).

He also humbles himself, telling everyone he is only the messenger, and the message is that the kingdom of God has come near to us. We are all called to be messengers like John, to spread the Gospel to the world. God’s love for us has come to be with us as one of us, Christ the Lord.

Gracious God, You have offered us forgiveness and salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Your son, Jesus. Make us strong in our faith and send us to share Your love everywhere. Amen.

12/4/21

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:3-11.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Scholars tell us that Paul most likely wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome, awaiting his trial before the emperor. Although his situation is hard, he shares joy with the church at Philippi for their faith. He reminds them of the gift they have received in Jesus and that they must wait in confidence for Christ’s return.

Have you ever received joyful support from someone undergoing hard times? It makes me ashamed of my complaining over small things to be encouraged by one who is suffering. Paul tells the congregation that he is uplifted by the demonstration of faith they are living out, even as he is denied liberty and justice.

There is little the Philippians can do to help Paul physically or in his defense regarding the charges brought against him. However, they lift him up in prayer, which is sometimes all we can do for others in difficult circumstances. Never underestimate the power of prayer in our lives, while it may be “all” we can do, it is the most powerful aid we can give.

Heavenly Father, we know You hear our prayers for each other and that You are always aware of our needs. Help us to be strong in faith and continue to pray for each other until Jesus returns for us all. Amen.

12/3/21

Our scripture this morning is Luke 9:1‭-‬6.

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Jesus sent out His disciples to do the things He was doing – healing and sharing the Good News. We hear the same call from Jesus today, to spread God’s love and the Gospel everywhere. He reminds us all of our responsibility once more as He ascends to Heaven, telling us “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Notice His instructions about what to take with us (virtually nothing) and what to do – rely on God’s power and grace to sustain us. All who claim Him as Lord bear the responsibility to proclaim God’s kingdom. Whether we realize or not, we have been given the gifts we need to accomplish this charge.

It may be difficult for us to accept that we are the ones called to speak into the lives of others about God’s blessings for all. Christ commissioned each of us to be stewards of God’s word and His love for all. May we be energetic in our task, forgiven and made whole, to share the Good News with the world.

Gracious God, You have blessed us and called us as part of Your plan of salvation. Help us to reach others with the joy of Your love. Amen.

12/2/21

Our scripture this morning is Luke 1:68‭-‬79.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The priest Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, shares these words at his son’s birth, blessing God and offering thanks for the promise of the coming Messiah. He knows the prophecy from ages past and recognizes that God is fulfilling His promise. As John and Jesus will both tell the people “the kingdom of God has come near”.

As we continue our Advent journey, think about the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom we are promised. How are we sharing God’s love and light in a world that disagrees on so many things? How can we make a difference?

We have been blessed with the truth of Christ and that gives us a responsibility to spread the Gospel everywhere we can. We don’t need to be clever orators or skilled theologians, just tell others what God has done for you. An honest sharing is what God requires of us, simply telling our story as part of His plan for salvation.

Loving Lord, we are thankful for the gift of Your son coming to save us from sin. Bless us to go into the world and tell everyone of Your love and care. Amen.

12/1/21

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:10-18.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

We have heard of the end times from Paul, John and Jesus Himself. Now Peter writes of the last days with guidance to God’s people that they may “be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (v. 14). All of these instructions remind us that we won’t know the day or time, but we know that the Day of the Lord will come.

In this passage we are warned not to be led astray by the half-truths or outright lies of those who oppose the word of God. We are taught to be “looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (v. 13). Peter, who was impatient and had a short temper before he came to the Lord, encourages us to be patient and loving as God has been with us.

In all these things we are to trust in God and not our own strength or wisdom. Peter writes these words that we might better understand how to wait for the Lord’s return and what is expected of us until then. May we be found faithful when that great day arrives!

Loving Lord, we struggle to wait patiently in an angry and impatient world. Help us to share Your truth and grace with everyone, that all may come to know Your love. Amen.

11/30/21

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:1-9‬.

“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

In this passage Peter reminds us that all things will come in God’s time. It may seem that evil exists unopposed, but we have heard “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). While we wait and pray for Christ’s return, God will decide when.

Waiting is difficult, we are an immediate people, used to things happening quickly. God wants us to be patient, but not to just sit around while we wait. He has things for us to accomplish in accordance with the instructions we are given – to love Him and each other, and to make disciples of all the world.

Peter tells us that God isn’t slow in the way we understand it, but He has a plan for creation that must be accomplished. We hear “Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (v. 9). God wants us all to know the joy of a relationship with Him and to receive eternal life.

Heavenly Father, we are sorry for the times we are impatient with You and each other. Make us strong in Your love and send us into the world that all may return to You. Amen.

11/29/21

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭90.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Relent, Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

This Psalm states in many ways the might of God and the frailty of humans. It is right that we consider God’s power over all things, remembering that we are His creation. We sometimes forget that we are not in control, and while God has given us free will to do as we choose, it is His plan that leads to eternity.

The psalmist reminds us that we are only here temporarily, urging us to “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Our lives are intended as a gift from God, that we might grow in wisdom and love. However, He does not force our obedience or worship, wanting us to choose Him as He has chosen us.

We must gain an understanding of the world and our place in it. God has work for us here and rest for us in the world to come. We must accept the blessing of salvation sent to us through Jesus Christ and live out the charge He gives.

Gracious God, we are grateful for all our many blessings. Help us to use them wisely for the good of all Your children, that we may all live with You eternally. Amen.

11/28/21

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭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. 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.”

I have often wondered why this passage is prescribed for reading the first Sunday of Advent, when we are preparing our hearts and minds for the first coming of Christ as the baby in the manger. Perhaps it is to remind us that while “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” came to be with us as a human, He is the Lord of all Creation, and will come again to destroy evil forever.

In this reading Jesus concludes His teaching about the end times and His return to gather the faithful. He reminds us again that as we are aware of the signs of the seasons on earth, how much more we must watch for the signs of His coming. His warning goes out to all who claim Him as Lord, that we must be on guard against the distractions of the world in order to be ready for the coming of God’s kingdom.

We hear these warnings repeated by Paul in his letters and John in the book of Revelation. God’s messengers and Jesus Himself tell us of His return and that we must be prepared. While we honor His birth at Bethlehem, let us never forget the eternal promise He came to fulfill, that all who confess Him as Lord may be saved.

Gracious God, we are thankful for the gift of Your son Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. May we worship Him at the cradle and the cross, ever mindful of His call on our lives. Amen.

11/27/21

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Luke‬ ‭21:20-24‬.

“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.”

Jesus warns those listening that Jerusalem will be overrun. It is a historical fact that the Roman Empire leveled Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and scattering the Jewish nation around 70 AD. While Jesus is speaking of this physical event, He is also foretelling that those who do not accept God’s Messiah will be scattered in the same way.

Jesus didn’t sugarcoat any of His teachings to us, and while we may have to look for the deeper meaning His lessons contain, they are always the truth. It is up to us to listen carefully and to be ready for what Jesus tells us is coming. It’s not always easy to hear but it is the Good News for God’s people.

The scriptures are full of very human stories, our disobedience and our failure. However, scripture also contains God’s plan for our salvation through Christ the Lord. Hear the warnings that He speaks into our lives, but also hear the joy of the offer of a renewed relationship with our loving Creator.

Heavenly Father, we are often distracted by evil and obstinate in choosing our own way. Help us to see that there is only one way, Your loving gift for us through Christ’s sacrifice. Amen.