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.

6/10/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 4:26-34, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

In this parable Jesus speaks of seeds as an example of how our faith can grow. Something small to begin with can become great, providing sustinence and protection. However, while we can be part of the process, we don’t make it happen, nor do we fully understand how it works.

Jesus tells us that like a seed, our faith may seem small but over time it can grow, with God’s help. Like seeds nurtured in the earth by sunlight and water, we grow in faith by water and the spirit and the light of His word. The apostle Paul writes “only God gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7), reminding us that while we may tend the process, only our Creator can make it happen.

Are you tending your spiritual growth and that of others? God is always ready to help our faith become stronger. God provides what we need when we come to Him in love.

Heavenly Father, You are the source of life and growth. May we be fruitful in our discipleship, learning and growing and sharing Your love. Amen.

6/9/21

Our Epistle this week is 2 Corinthians 5:6-15.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth with words of encouragement about keeping and sharing their faith. He tells them that this world is only our temporary home (v. 8) and we must be ready to join the Lord in eternity. Things we think are valuable here will be worthless there and we should not become attached to them.

He also reminds them that “we live by faith, not by sight” (v. 7) and what we see is not what should drive our lives. Our relationship with God is the most important connection we will ever have and nothing on earth can compare. Jesus was sent to save us because of God’s love for us.

Paul teaches that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (v. 10), not because we can earn our way into heaven by what we do, but that our actions are important to Him. When we love God and each other, doing His will in the world, we make ourselves ready for the gift prepared for us.

Gracious God, we are thankful for wise words from those You inspired to teach us. Help us to learn and apply the lessons we receive that all may know the Good News and Your kingdom may come on earth. Amen.

6/8/21

Our First Reading this week is Ezekiel 17:22-24.

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.

God speaks to us through the prophet Ezekiel, expressing His creative power and giving us a glimpse of what is to come. With images of planting a portion of a tree in a new place, He gives an analogy of how He intends to save all His children through the work of the faithful. He tells us “All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall” (v. 24).

He can employ even the smallest and least to accomplish His purpose. His plan has always been to redeem us from sin and to use us to share His love with the world. Even though we were lost, God reaches out to bring us back into His family.

God’s love for us is eternal and unchanging. He chose us from the beginning and wants us to choose Him in return. Let God into your heart and He will bless you to be a blessing in His world.

Wise and wonderful God, we are amazed at Your creation and humbled that You call us to serve in it. Help us to be strong in Your love, sharing it with everyone. Amen.

6/7/21

Our call to worship this week is Psalm 20:5-9.

May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!

This psalm is one of many that offer praise to God for His protection and His might. It reminds us that our strength is not enough to stand against the evil we face. Only through God’s provision for us are we able to be successful.

We sometimes pride ourselves on our technology and knowledge, thinking we have accomplished something ourselves. The truth is all the wonderful things we can do are only through God’s loving gifts to us, enabling our minds and hands to invent and build. Jesus tells us without this connection to God “you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

We must remember that we were created in God’s image, to be in relationship with Him. He made all things for our use, and wants only our good. Turn to Him and let His love make a difference in your life!

Loving Lord, thank You for all Your wonderful gifts. Help us to use them wisely for the good of all Your children. Amen.

6/6/21

Our Gospel this week is Mark 3:20-35, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Family is an important responsibility and Jesus’ family is worried about Him. They are concerned about His behavior and people’s reaction. It has become such an issue that they say “He is out of his mind” (v. 21).

Even Jesus own family, who know the miracle of His birth and God’s purpose in sending Him, don’t understand. It not what they expected and it’s not what they’re used to seeing in their religion. This isn’t the way the scribes and Pharisees teach at all.

Jesus explains that even those closest to us may not see our faith journey as we do, especially if our call takes us to different places and experiences. Jesus continues His ministry, not denying His earthly family but expanding it, saying “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (v. 35). Love God and obey Him first and always, but also love everyone as part of God’s family.

Gracious God, thank You for the gift of family, those related by birth and those related by association. Help us to love all Your children, regardless of our connection, sharing the Good News with everyone. Amen.