9/17/21

Our scripture today is Romans 5:1-6.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

“At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly”. That statement should make us shudder, not merely that He died, but that He died even for those who had not yet accepted Him. Jesus died for us all and that gift is waiting for each of us.

God didn’t send Jesus to save only a certain group or just a few hand-picked individuals. Christ came to redeem all the world and every human has the opportunity to choose Him and follow into salvation. Once we make that choice, it becomes our duty to share that blessing with everyone.

Jesus teaches us it won’t be easy. Paul writes that while we will face hardship, it will strengthen us and make us better able to testify to God’s truth. We are called and commissioned through Christ’s sacrifice for us, may we go in faith to share His love.

Gracious God, thank You for sending Jesus to save us all. He demonstrates Your love for each one of us. Help us to demonstrate that love in return, to You and all our brothers and sisters. Amen.

9/16/21

Our scripture today is 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

When we talk to people about God’s power and love, we need to make sure we aren’t lifting ourselves up as well. Like Paul’s example, we must humble ourselves and exhalt our Creator, not claiming any skill or gift of our own. Testifying about our connection to Him with humility and love shows others the way to connect with God as well.

God wants us to go to all the world to share the Good News but we need to follow the example Jesus gave us. He was special, the only begotten Son of God, but He never claimed privilege because of it. If Christ Himself shared this way, we have no claim to present ourselves as anything special.

Sharing God’s love and what He has done for us should be something we do naturally, without a lot of pomp and circumstance. Others need to know that it’s not what we do but what He does that is important. Witnessing about our faith in God is essential and doing it as Jesus taught us is the only way to do it right.

Gracious God, we are grateful for all Your gifts to us. Help us to use them wisely to bring the joy of Your love to all people. Amen.

9/15/21

Our Scripture today is Isaiah 10:17-20.

And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame, And it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day. And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, both soul and body, And it will be as when a sick man wastes away. And the rest of the trees of his forest will be so small in number that a child could write them down. Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.

The prophet Isaiah shares stunning imagery of God’s cleansing of the world in the last days. He tells us it will be like a fire that consumes the garden and the forest and only the faithful will remain. We hear that God’s Holy One will become a flame to accomplish the purification.

Is God trying to scare us? Honestly, yes – but this is no made up fairy tale to frighten children into obedience. God always tells us the truth and the truth of the Last Days is terrifying.

However, it doesn’t have to be. God tells us this that we might know the truth and choose Him instead of the wickedness that we have followed previously. If we “truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (v. 20) and not our own strength, we will be saved.

Loving Lord, we know You cannot abide the presence of evil and that our world must be made clean as You created it. Help us to share the joy of the Good News that Your children would shun disobedience and return to You. Amen.



9/14/21

Our Scripture for today is Psalm 73:21-28.

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

The Psalms express the entire range of human emotions – love, joy, fear, anger, pain. These passages tell us we can bring everything to God. He already knows what we experience and feel, but He wants us to share it, with Him and with others.

Sharing what we have been through helps us to release things that continue to bind us to wrongdoing and reinforce the lessons God has for us. The psalmist says “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (v. 21). If we are not following the word and mind of God, it can cause us emotional and physical pain.

Additionally the psalmist tells us “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand” (v. 22). No matter what we are going through, God is with us. Our emotions and experiences are part of who we are. God made us this way and wants us to learn and grow from them. Talk to God about what troubles you, talk to God about what gives you joy and He will give you understanding.

Loving Lord, when we think we are the only ones to ever experience hard times, remind us of Your faithful ones and what they endured to build Your church. Help us to see the lesson in the difficulty and give thanks that You are there for us. Amen.

9/13/21

Our scripture today is Psalm 119:169-176.

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word. My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

While God’s holy word is given and available to all, understanding these lessons require study and prayer. God wants us to know Him more fully that we might better know what He wants for us. It’s all there in Scripture if we make time to study and ask for wisdom.

There are many ways that we misuse God’s word. Some ignore it completely, following their own selfish desires and made up rules. Some choose pieces of God’s word and try to twist it to fit their own agenda. This is not what God has planned for us.

God wants to share His mind and His love with us through Scripture. In addition to reading, we need to discuss the lessons with other believers, gaining a better understanding of God’s word. Finally, we need to talk to God about it through prayer, as the psalmist demonstrates in today’s reading. We have received a wonderful gift in Scripture, may we use it wisely.

Gracious God, we ask Your blessing as we try to understand Your plan for us. Help us to read, share and pray about what is revealed to us through the gift of Scripture. Amen.

9/12/21

Our Gospel lesson today comes from Matthew 21:23-27 (ESV).

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus often had debates with religious leaders. Unfortunately, those “in charge” never really wanted to know more about the kingdom, they were only interested in maintaining control and making Jesus look bad. Their focus was on themselves and not on God.

Fast forward two thousand years and what is our focus? Often our thoughts and actions are self-centered, not giving God the glory and not being concerned about the needs of others. Jesus would have gladly discussed God’s love and His plan for us with the religious leaders if they were willing to listen. He is willing to do the same for us if we are listening.

God wants to share His love and wisdom with us, and wants us to share it with others. In order to do this, we must pay attention to what He teaches. If we are constantly distracted by our own issues, how can we hear what God has to tell us? Today, listen for God’s voice and know the joy of being connected to Him.

Loving Lord, help us to be aware of the wonder and blessing all around us. May we live as You intend us to, caring for each other and the marvelous creation You have entrusted to us. In Your name we pray. Amen.

9/11/2021

Our scripture today is Psalm 116:1-10.

‘I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. The cords of death encompassed me And the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord : “O Lord , I beseech You, save my life!” Gracious is the Lord , and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord In the land of the living. I believed when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”

It is appropriate on a day when we remember a great tragedy that this Psalm should be the Lectionary reading. We are indeed “greatly afflicted” (v. 10), but God is with us always. It is hard to walk through dark times, but even harder if we do not call upon the Lord for aid and comfort. We as humans have always had a problem with this, relying on our technology, our knowledge and our own strength.

We failed in the Garden because we chose our own way instead of God’s. In Proverbs 3:5-6 we hear “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” God loves and cares for us, but we must choose to walk in His ways.

Today as we think on the things that have happened and the issues we continue to face, may we return humbly to our God, asking His help and blessing. God stands ready to forgive us always. Only through repentance for our sins and acceptance of His promise can we be made whole.

Gracious God, we have failed to love and trust You as we should. Forgive us, we pray. Help us to be the people You created us to be. May we be refreshed by Your Holy Spirit and go to share Your love to all the world. Amen.

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.