11/30/19

Our scripture this week is Matthew 24:36-44.

In this passage we are taught that being ready for Christ’s return is part of our faith journey. We are told to keep His commandments and believe His promise to come back for us. If we sincerely follow Him, we will be ready when that day comes.

It is a human thing to want to know about things. We think if we know about something we can control it. We want to know when He will return, what will it be like for those who are left, is there an easier way. Jesus tells us we can’t begin to understand and that only God knows the date and time. Suppose we were told a tornado will strike at 3 pm tomorrow and how things will implode and blow away with great destruction. Does that make us any better prepared? If we know what to do, we’re not listening to the sensational report, we’re getting ready…and if we don’t know what to do, the sensational report does us no good at being ready.

If we put as much thought and effort into obeying Jesus, sharing His love, and being ready for that day as we do into wild speculation about what will happen and when it will occur, we would be ready without worrying about the details. Jesus says “if you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and that’s what we should be focused on in order to be prepared when He returns as He promised.

Loving Lord, we are always looking at the details that don’t matter, wanting to try to change what needs to be done. Help us to pay attention to what is most important – our relationship with You and sharing that love with all the world. Amen.

11/29/19

Our scripture this week is Matthew 24:36-44.

44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Matthew 24:44

Jesus gives us the summary of this lesson in verse 44 “you must be ready”. Is there another choice? Unfortunately there is, and many are following that path by not preparing their hearts and lives for His return.

It’s not as if they are intentionally saying “I choose evil”. Some do, and it is relatively easy to see. For most it is a little slip here, a short slide there, and as thoughts become actions and actions become habits we fall into sin’s trap. The apostle Peter writes “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

How do we avoid falling into sin? John teaches “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands” (1 John 2:3). The first step away from sin is knowing what God wants of us. Spending time in His Word and discussing with others can show us His will. The second is asking forgiveness when we fail. We are still responsible to God and others for our actions, and there are still consequences, but sincere repentance will mend the relationship and bring us back into compliance with God’s commands.

Loving Lord, we know that a contrite heart and sincere repentance lead to forgiveness. Help us to stay on the path You have chosen for us, living in peace with our brothers and sisters. Amen.

11/28/19

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Our scripture this week is Matthew 24:36-44.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.
Matthew 24:42-43

Jesus continues His warning that we will not know when He is returning, and we must be ready at all times. He wants us to know God’s love and live in it everyday, not having to worry about whether we are forgiven. When we are living for Him, we will be ready for His return.

Many of us went through preparations to be ready to celebrate Thanksgiving today. It is often a time that we hurry to get our homes ready to welcome guests for the meal. We know when Thanksgiving occurs every year and we can plan ahead to do the things that are necessary.

Jesus teaches that unlike holidays on the calendar, the day of His return is known only to God. We can’t wait around until it happens, we must be ready today! Don’t neglect the most important preparation ever, being ready to meet Jesus.

Gracious God, while we don’t know the day of His coming, You have promised that Jesus will return. May we live our lives in readiness to welcome Him. Amen.

11/27/19

Our scripture this week is Matthew 24:36-44.

40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Matthew 24:40-41

We have so many questions about what it will be like when Jesus returns. This scripture says “one will be taken and the other left”. That’s fine but what does it mean? What will it be like for those who are taken and left? What happens after that?

Jesus doesn’t give us specifics about this, but He does promise to return. I imagine He shakes His head at our questions, wanting a human understanding of something we can’t comprehend. What He does tell us is to focus on now. If we want to be the one that is taken up then, we need to pay attention to what Jesus has taught us and apply it in our lives today.

John the Baptist said that we must “produce fruit worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). We know we can’t “earn” our way into heaven but that we must show by the way we live that we believe in what Jesus taught us. Jesus expects us to live new lives in Him and for Him, showing others by our loving actions the way to salvation through Him.

Loving Lord, we are grateful that You came to teach us and save us. May our lives be our testimony to the truth of Your mercy, loving others as You first loved us. Amen.

11/26/19

Our scripture this week is Matthew 24:36-44.

38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Matthew 24:38-39

Jesus uses a scripture His followers would be familiar with to illustrate His point, Genesis 7. He tells them that in the days of Noah people were caught unaware when the flood came because they were living without a relationship to God. He compares this to the promise of His return.

Our lives were given to us by our Creator for a purpose: to be connected to Him and to our brothers and sisters. When we ignore the responsibility that connection places on us, our lives are poorer for it. While God doesn’t promise we will know all things – such as when Jesus will return – He does promise that the loving relationship we share will make us ready.

Only by giving up our desire to be in control and submitting to God’s will can we be saved through our faith in Jesus. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus taught His disciples to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We must know and do His will in order that His kingdom may truly come to us.

Gracious God, we are often harried and hurried in our daily lives. Teach us Your will and help us to be faithful followers that we may be ready on that day when Your kingdom comes on earth. Amen.

11/25/19

Our scripture this week, Matthew 24:36-44 begins Lectionary Year A and prepares us for the celebration of Advent.

36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Jesus has taught often about being ready for His return. We have heard warnings about being prepared and they often go unheeded. He teaches that we will not know the day or time, so there won’t be a chance to get ready when He comes.

Humans by and large tend to let things slide until they have to be done. I have a coffee cup that says “I put the Pro in Procrastination”. (I will tell you something funny/not funny – I am hurriedly typing this to finish before I have to leave for an appointment!) Jesus wants us to change our lives now so we will be ready on that day.

This is the heart of this passage – we all need to be preparing for His coming. The old advice “no time like the present” is never more important than in our preparation for the new day He will bring. Let us all be waiting to say “We’re ready Lord” when He appears.

Gracious God, we are sometimes a slow learning people. Energize us and make us glad to prepare for Christ’s return. Amen.

11/24/19

Our scripture this week is Luke 23:33-43.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:32-43

We are so familiar with this story but it still makes us uneasy to hear it. Jesus knew what He was called to do and He was willing to give Himself up for us. Perhaps we feel the guilt of knowing that He took our sin upon Himself in order to save us from eternal death.

Jesus wasn’t bitter and even during this painful process He is still able to forgive those who are executing Him as well as promise one who dies beside Him that forgiveness and salvation are there for the asking. Jesus kept up His mission right to the end.

Jesus offers us the same forgiveness and salvation, but also the same risk. It isn’t easy to be a disciple and He wants us to know that from the start. We are called to follow Him no matter what the cost as He was willing to suffer the cost for us.

Gracious God, we are amazed at the mercy You send us in Jesus and the gift of saving love that we are offered. Help us to be joyful followers, even in the face of adversity, that like Him we may be faithful unto death. Amen.

11/23/19

Our scripture this week is Luke 23:33-43.

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:42-43

These are perhaps the two most hopeful verses of all. A condemned thief about to die confesses Jesus as Lord and Jesus forgives him. It is beyond our comprehension that He would do this, but it is what He has done for us all along.

Why would Jesus do this? He has forgiven others, telling them to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11) or that “today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9). In these lessons people are turning their lives around, but this thief on the cross next to Jesus doesn’t get a chance to do that! He’s about to die, he’ll never go to church, he’ll never spread the gospel, how is he saved? The same way we all are – through Jesus sacrifice and mercy.

Jesus is showing us that it isn’t about how much we do or how much we give, it’s all about how much He gave, how much He loved us. Jesus knows the thief is never going on a mission trip or donating for a new project. Yes, these are good things and we should keep doing them – but that’s not what saves us. Only our confession that Jesus is our Lord and Savior brings salvation, and Jesus saves those who put their faith and trust in Him, regardless of their human condition.

Loving Lord, let us all remember what it takes to be saved and pray as the thief did – Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. Amen.

11/22/19

Our scripture this week is Luke 23:33-43.

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Luke 23:40-41

“We are getting what we deserve” – what a frightening statement. If we really got what we deserved, we would be in deep trouble and despair. We are all flawed and sinful, regardless of how good we try to be. Only through Jesus can we be forgiven.

It is said that justice is getting what we deserve and mercy is not getting what we deserve, but instead being given a gift we don’t deserve. Jesus didn’t deserve to die on the cross and we certainly don’t deserve the gift of mercy and salvation He gave us. Jesus was willing to give up everything so that we might be saved.

I saw a sculpture that showed the world and a pair of giant hands. One labeled “Justice” was curled into a fist, ready to smash the world. The other labeled “Mercy” held back the fist. Isaiah 53:5 tells us “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus is the sacrifice that stands between us and the punishment we deserve.

Loving Lord, we are unworthy to receive the gift You offer us. We are grateful for the immense love You send to save us from sin. Help us to know Your love in our lives and to share it with all the world. Amen.

11/21/19

Our scripture this week is Luke 23:33-43.

There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
Luke 23:38-39

The world is attempting to mock Jesus and in doing so, a sign with the truth is placed over His head. Jesus is King of the Jews and all creation. He knows exactly what He is doing, why He is doing it and who He will save through His sacrifice.

The world continues to mock Him, but Jesus still comes to save those who call on Him. In quiet ways we may never hear about and spectacular, unexplainable healing He is here with us every day. Like the plan God had for Him, our road may not be easy.

When things are at their worst, as when He suffered on the cross, mocked and rejected by “conventional wisdom”, Jesus will be there for us to help us see that God’s plan is more important than anything we could want. Jesus can show us how we are part of that eternal plan and how to be in that eternal home with Him. Call on Him and trust Him to guide you today!

Loving Lord, we often don’t understand where we are going in this life, as we try to do it alone. Show us the beauty of a relationship with God and our brothers and sisters, and how meaningful our lives can be. Amen.