6/20/21

Our Gospel lesson is Mark 4:34-41, taken today from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

Jesus came to be with us as one of us, and the disciples had trouble understanding who He was as fully God and fully man. While they had seen the miracles He performed, these healings were done for others on a personal level. Confronting the power of nature seemed to be something completely different.

While Jesus asks “do you still have no faith?” at least the disciples were able to call on Him in their fear. Is it that way with us sometimes? Do we call on Him in our distress and doubt, rather than through our faith?

Jesus teaches that “all things are possible for the one who believes” (Mark 9:23). Our faith in Him is the most important part of our mortal and eternal lives. I use hymn quotes frequently because they speak to me and I’d like you to remember these words: “Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now! He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.”

Gracious God, our faith is often small but Jesus promised even a little faith can change our lives. Help us to be the people of Your Word, sharing Your truth and love with all the world. Amen.

6/19/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 4:35-41, taken today from the English Standard Version (ESV).

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The disciples are frightened by the storm, as any of us would be. We are afraid of situations we can’t control and the power of nature is a prime example that we are not in charge here. Even with Jesus there in the boat with them, they are fearful. However, Jesus is unconcerned, napping on the deck.

They awaken Him with the accusation “Don’t you care?” Of course He does, and He calms the storm. Then He asks them “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” As we often do, they had a hard time connecting their faith to the situation they faced.

How can we have the peace that Jesus has? We can if we are connected to God through Him and make faith our first thought in everything we do. Jesus spent time with God in prayer and that was the source of His strength. We can have the same assurance and peace if we make God the center of our lives and do all things in His name.

Gracious God, we know that You care for us and want only our good. Help us to live in faith, sharing Your love with each other every day. Amen.

6/18/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 4:35-41, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

On that day, when evening had come, he told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” So they left the crowd and took him along since he was in the boat. And other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

Jesus is calm and confident in every situation because He knows His Father’s will and does it willingly. He spends time daily in prayer to hear God’s word and to share His own concerns. It should be no surprise then that He is unworried by the storm because of His faith.

To calm His disciples, He calms the storm and asks them “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40). He could likely ask this of any of us. We find ourselves fearful of what goes on in the world because we are not in control, and we are afraid of the results.

The truth is that God is, has been and always will be in control. When we have faith, we can see His love for us displayed in our world. Don’t let earthly things and human failings distract you! The old hymn tells us “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Wise and wonderful God, thank You for the gift of Jesus, sent to set us free from our sin. Help us to grow in faith, sharing Your love and truth everywhere. Amen.

6/17/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 4:35‭-‬41, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Jesus teaches His disciples through parables and explanations, and while they are present when He performs miracles, it is always for others. Only this instance is specifically for them. They are saved from the storm by His power and learn a lesson as well.

It should come as no surprise that all nature obeys Christ’s command. In John 1:3 we hear “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” This is a demonstration of who Jesus is, and it is more powerful than any teaching could be for His disciples.

While Jesus is not physically here with us, we feel His presence through the Holy Spirit and see His power displayed in all of creation. Like the disciples we may be afraid of situations we face, but we know that Jesus is there for us. Trust in the Lord and know He is our savior.

Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the example Jesus came to bring us and the amazing things He taught us. Help us to share His love and lessons with all Your children. Amen.

6/16/21

Our Epistle this week is 2 Corinthians 6:1-13.

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

Paul’s letter to the Hebrews is an appeal for those who have faithfully followed God’s law to understand that the coming of Jesus is a continuation of their relationship with God. He speaks of what he and other missionaries have endured (and continue to endure today) for the Good News, and quotes Isaiah 49 saying “In the time of my favor I heard you and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Everyone is called to look to Jesus as the representation of God Himself, sent to show us His love.

It is difficult for us to change our thoughts and behavior. Jesus understands this and teaches us that while keeping God’s law is important, treating each other according to His law is essential to our salvation. While our actions can’t earn us eternal life, accepting His love and forgiveness requires that we love each other in the same way.

If we truly love God, we must act according to His goodness and the example Christ has given. Words are important and they have meaning in our lives, but our actions have eternal consequences. Paul was changed by Christ’s love from a persecutor of the church to a builder of the church. May we also be changed for God’s work.

Loving Lord, we often say one thing and do another. Forgive our failings and let us be the servants You send to share Your Word to everyone. Amen.

6/15/21

Our First Reading this week is 1 Samuel 17:41-49.

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

The story of David and Goliath is one many of us heard first as children. It was part of my early Old Testament learning from a Children’s Bible I received as a Christmas present. While it is a beloved lesson to me, I often find I can’t get past my child-like view of its meaning and it disappoints me that I don’t dig deeper.

However, I look at what God has done for me through that story. It told me of His power and love, that by faith we can stand against tremendous odds. It helped me want to know more of His Word. Even though I don’t have a seminary level understanding of this and many scriptures, God used this passage to speak into my life.

Perhaps we put too much pressure on ourselves to fully understand the meaning of scripture. This doesn’t mean we should stop trying, but maybe instead of struggling with deep lessons, we should simply listen for God’s voice and hear what He needs us to know today. God never stops teaching us and we continue to learn and grow through these faithful accounts.

Patient God, we are thankful that You send us lessons through scripture that we may better know You and each other. Help us to hear the message and apply it in our lives. Amen.

6/14/21

Our call to worship is Psalm 107:38-43.

He blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow; he who pours contempt on nobles made them wander in a trackless waste. But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths. Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

This psalm speaks of the changing fortunes of God’s people as they vacillate between faith and doubt. It tells us the Lord helps those who cry out to Him, but those who rely on their own strength and skill will fail. God wants only good things for us but our choices have consequences.

When we chose to follow our own desires rather than the will of the Lord, He sent us from the garden into the world, for evil cannot stand in His presence. However, He never withdrew His love from us and continued to reach out to us. In His mercy, He sent His son to teach us the way of salvation.

It is our blessing to be able to bring our needs to Him that they might be fulfilled through His plan for us. God wants us to have good things and stands ready to help us when we call. When we humble ourselves before Him and repent, He will always welcome us back.

Gracious God, we are sorry for our wrongdoing and the chaos it brings to Your creation. Help us to be strong in the face of temptation and choose Your love and Your strength over our selfishness. Amen.

6/13/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 4:26-34, taken today from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.” With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.

God’s plan for us is vast and all-inclusive, but at the same time simple and personal. He cares about His entire creation as a whole, but Jesus tells us “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29). It is hard for us to understand from our human point of view, but Jesus in His kindness and wisdom uses parables to teach us.

We see how seeds grow quietly, striving to rise through the soil, seeking the light. Jesus calls us to such a faith, breaking through our doubt and disbelief to connect with God. If God has a plan for seeds, how much more are His children planned and cared for?

Like the mustard seed, our faith and ministry to others may seem small, but God blesses our efforts and leads us to grow. He calls us to be part of what He is doing in the world and in eternity. Listen to the lessons we are given, learn and apply them, and like small seeds we may grow to share God’s glory.

Loving Lord, all our gifts are from You and we are thankful to be so blessed. May we use what we have been given to show our love for You and each other. Amen.

6/12/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 4:26-34, taken today from the English Standard Version (ESV).

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Jesus used parables about nature because it was a familiar subject to most of those listening. He used the parts of God’s creation we can see to help explain the parts we can’t see. This is the reason He came to earth, so we could see in Him God’s love and His plan for us.

It isn’t easy to grasp heavenly concepts and comparing these to earthly things is inadequate. We can’t know the full joy of eternity in our human form, but Jesus taught that it will be more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Knowing God’s love here should energize us to share it and to prepare eagerly for Christ’s return.

While our faith may seem small, and our efforts feeble, God can use us to spread the Good News. We are called to be part of His work here, telling others of His love and mercy. All can be saved and restored through the blessing of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, we offer You our thanks and praise. Help us to share the wonder of Your love and the hope for eternity with You. Amen.

6/11/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 4:26-34, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

“The kingdom of God is like this,” he said. “A man scatters seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day; the seed sprouts and grows, although he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself — first the blade, then the head, and then the full grain on the head. As soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because the harvest has come.” And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to describe it? It’s like a mustard seed that, when sown upon the soil, is the smallest of all the seeds on the ground. And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the garden plants, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.” He was speaking the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, he explained everything to his own disciples.

Jesus used parables to engage people in the lessons He had for them. It was a means to capture their attention and make them aware of God’s love and how His kingdom works. His parables caused people to think and ask questions, which enabled them to learn more and share the joy of a relationship with Jesus.

This passage tells us that He explained the meaning of the parables in private. This wasn’t “secret” information to be kept from others, Jesus wanted to ensure the disciples knew what they would need to continue His work after He returned to heaven. It was an effective teaching method that shared the Good News and encouraged people to want to know more.

We can share God’s love in similar ways, telling how He has acted in our lives. We don’t need heavy theological themes, just an honest account of our connection with Him. The old spiritual says “if you can’t preach like Peter, if you can’t pray like Paul, just tell the love of Jesus and say He died for all.” What matters most is our earnest desire to help others find their connection with the Lord.

Gracious God, we are thankful for the call to be part of Your work. Send us to share Your love in the world, that all may know the truth of Christ. Amen.