5/8/21

Our Gospel this week is John 15:9-17, taken today from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.

Jesus has a mission for us. He tells the disciples “I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit” (v. 16). He has called us to carry on the work He started, sharing God’s love and His desire for us to be connected to Him.

It is amazing that He would trust us to continue the work of the kingdom in His name. We may feel we are unworthy or incapable of doing what Jesus does, but He calls us friends and reminds us He has shared the Father’s will with us. Later, He promises God’s Holy Spirit will come to strengthen and encourage us.

What an awesome responsibility we have been given! While it may seem overwhelming, God has gifted us that we may be able to accomplish the call we receive. We are not alone in this work, Christ is with us in all we do.

Heavenly Father, we find it hard to believe You want us as part of Your plan. Bless us to go in Your name, sharing the love You give and the joy of our eternal connection. Amen.

5/7/21

Our Gospel this week is John 15:9-17, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another.

Jesus has much to teach us about love in this passage. He says in verse 9 “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love.” This tells us that God’s love given to Jesus has been passed to us, and we are invited to be part of all God is doing in the world.

We are not forced to become part of the kingdom but we are asked to choose between God’s everlasting love and the wickedness of the world that puts self first. Jesus came to earth to show us the joy we can know when we put God and others ahead of ourselves, truly loving one another. This is His example to us and the call He places on our lives.

Are we ready to choose? Jesus made the choice to give Himself up for our salvation. We may not be asked to give up our lives but we must be ready to do so in His name.

Gracious God, we are humbled by Christ’s sacrifice to save us. Help us to walk in faith, ready to do what is needed to save others. Amen.

5/6/21

Our Gospel lesson is John 15:9-17, taken today from the English Standard Version (ESV).

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus gives us a wonderful promise in verse 15, saying “all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”. Jesus wants us to know His purpose and understand our connection to that purpose. He came to show that our relationship to God is the most important thing there is, and loving each other is equally essential.

He calls us friends, wanting us to be part of His work. We know there is a special bond between Him and the Father, but He teaches that we are loved in the same way. When we accept the invitation to be part of His kingdom, we accept the same obligation to go and share God’s love.

Our task is to tell others all we have heard from the Father, just as Jesus did. We are the disciples of today with the same responsibility He gave His followers originally. He asked us to go and do likewise that all the world may know.

Loving Lord, we are grateful to be called Your children. Help us to bring the joy of Your salvation to everyone, everywhere. Amen.

5/5/21

Our Epistle for the week is 1 John 5:1-6.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

John details the fact that anyone who loves God will keep His commandments and will also love His children (v. 2). We don’t get to pick which commandments to obey and we don’t get to choose to love some and not others. Jesus taught that it’s a package deal.

God made each one of us to love Him, and through that relationship love all people. He wants us to see that spark of Him that exists in us, and rejoice that we are all connected. The promise of redemption is offered to all who will accept Christ as their savior.

In order to fulfill the promise, Jesus came to show God’s love and teach us the way. Now it is up to us to follow, ensuring all our brothers and sisters hear the Good News and follow as well. God calls us to show our love for Him through love and service to all His children.

Gracious God, not our will but Yours be done. Help us to love each other as You first loved us. Amen.

5/4/21

Our First Reading this week is Acts 10:44-48.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

The addition of Gentile (non-Jewish) believers to the early church came as a surprise to many. Jesus often interacted with people who were not of the faith, but to see the Holy Spirit at work in them likely made His followers stop and think.

Peter’s experience with these new followers of Jesus is detailed in Acts 10. In verse 28 he says “and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” This was a huge change for Jewish believers, to understand that any person who confesses Jesus as Lord is part of His church.

How do we see others who may not share our physical characteristics or heritage? God calls us to treat everyone as His beloved creation no matter what their background or situation. The commandment to love one another doesn’t have any loopholes.

Loving Lord, we are made differently but we are all made in Your image. Help us to see the strength our differences provide for the work of Your kingdom. Amen.

5/3/21

Our call to worship this week is Psalm 98.

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

This psalm encourages us to express the joy we know in the Lord. Too often we only share our wants and needs through prayer, this passage reminds us to give thanks when we are happy and satisfied as well. It is easy to cry out to God when we are threatened, we must remember Him especially when we are blessed.

In Deuteronomy 6 Moses warns the nation of Israel not to forget God when they enter the Promised Land. After He has brought them safely out of Egypt, through the desert and across the Jordan, the people begin to fall away, believing they are somehow responsible for the prosperity they enjoy. Failing to realize all gifts are from God can lead to selfish behavior and lack of caring for each other.

As we return to more “normal” activities, let us not forget the lessons we have received during the difficult time, how much we missed being in contact with each other and how we worried for everyone’s health. It would be sad to have endured this season and not have it change our way of treating people. Rejoice and give thanks to God, living for Him and loving all His children.

Gracious God, we are sometimes puffed up in our pride and smug in our knowledge. Forgive us and help us to remember that without Your love and care, we are lost. Amen.

5/2/21

Our Gospel this week is John 15:1-8, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Jesus says to us “I am the vine and you are the branches” (v. 5). This tells us all we need to know, that He is our connection to God and without Him we can do nothing. For the branch, there is only one vine – it cannot disconnect and go find another; so Jesus is our only way to salvation.

Jesus has already told us “no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He is our sole connection to God, the living example of the love by which we were created. In Him is our hope and our strength.

We are connected for our own good, and through that connection we are nourished and taught and sent out into the world to share His love that all may come to know Him. It is our purpose in Christ to be part of His work. As fruitful branches we can do no less.

Loving Lord, we are glad to be part of all that You are doing. May Your love grow in us that we may tell others of the joy we have found. Amen.

5/1/21

Our Gospel this week is John 15:1-8, taken today from the English Standard Version (ESV).

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Children of God are recognized by their love for Him and one another. It’s evident by their words and actions, and how they treat people. When we live for His glory and to lift up others, we are bearing fruit for the kingdom as Jesus taught us.

Some ask “How can you be like that when the world is such a terrible place?” The sad answer is that we have made the world what it is, which is certainly not what God intended. Human failure has spoiled the wonderful creation God entrusted to us.

However, that’s not the end of the story. Jesus says through our connection to the Father we can receive forgiveness and be part of the work to redeem the world. Accepting Jesus as our Lord is the first step, and we must all take that step for ourselves.

Loving Lord, You made a wonderful place for us and filled it with good things. Help us to be connected to You, good stewards of what we have been given, and bearers of the Good News always. Amen.

4/30/21

Our Gospel lesson for this week is John 15:1-8, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.

Jesus tells us that through living by His word, we can produce fruit for the kingdom of God. He shares God’s love, teaches us a better way to treat each other, and sends us to show others the joy we have found. Being part of God’s work strengthens our relationship with Him and His children.

Jesus reminds us that it only works when we are connected. We do good things not to fulfill a quota or check off requirements, but to demonstrate God’s love shared through us. Nothing we can do will ever be enough to save us, only the sacrifice Jesus made for us brings salvation. That is why it is so important for us to be in relationship with Him, because as He tells us “you can do nothing without Me” (v. 5).

It doesn’t matter what we do if we are not part of the vine. We were created in His image to live for Him. Without knowing God through Jesus, our lives lose their meaning.

Gracious God, we pray for Your strength to do what is asked of us in the world. Bless our work that we may show Your glory to all people. Amen.

4/29/21

Our Gospel this week is John 15:1-8, taken today from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”

Jesus uses an example from nature to help His followers understand the importance of our connection to God through Him. Just as branches cannot survive on their own, we are lost without our relationship with our Creator. When we abide in Him, we are nourished and grow in grace.

This connection is not only for us, but as a vine and healthy branches spread, so does the kingdom of God. Through our relationship we are taught and strengthened that we might spread the Good News in the world. This is God’s plan for us, to be part of His work through faith.

Growing in God’s love enables us to live more fruitful lives, reaching out to those who do not know Him. Sharing our story with others deepens our trust as He leads us to those who need to hear it. God’s grace is for all who will accept Christ as our Savior and follow Him.

Loving Lord, we want to be fruitful branches of Your vine. Help us to learn and grow that Your truth may be known by all. Amen.