11/30/20

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

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” — “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Each of the Gospels has a different way of introducing us to Jesus. While we tend to focus on the baby in the manger, only Luke’s account contains that familiar story. Matthew’s begins with the genealogy of Jesus and John tells of the Word made flesh.

Mark chooses still a different path, with the simple truth “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (v. 1). Each of these testimonies speak to us about the fact that Jesus came to be with us, part of humanity, that we might understand God’s everlasting love for us. They bring the same wonderful message to us in different ways.

As we remember Christ’s coming this year, may we again be caught up in the joy of His arrival, regardless of the issues we are facing. We have gotten used to saying “things aren’t normal this year”, but if we are honest there have been challenges throughout our lives and all of human history. Don’t let the current troubles prevent us from seeing the wonderful future that is promised and sharing the Good News with everyone.

Loving Lord, we are troubled by our present circumstances but we know You are still in control. Help us to see past the issues of today to the joy of eternity You have prepared. Amen.

11/29/20

Our scripture this week is Mark 13:24-37, taken today from the English Standard Version (ESV).

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Jesus teaches that those who have made their lives ready for His return will go with Him. He said “And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (v. 27). No one knows when this day will come and that is why He warns us never to be caught unprepared.

Jesus want us all to choose Him here that He may choose us on the last day. When He speaks of “the elect” it refers to all who proclaim Him Lord and keep His commandments. Jesus doesn’t want to lose a single one of us!

We as individuals are the only ones who can make that choice. Christ came and died for us to take away our sin. He rose again and calls us all to accept the gift of salvation God offers. Make that choice and be ready to go with Him when He returns for us.

Gracious God, we are grateful for all Your many gifts to us, none more precious than Christ our Lord. Help us to follow the path He has shown us and be ready when that great day comes. Amen.

11/28/20

Our scripture this week is Mark 13:24-37, taken today from the New King James Version (NKJV).

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven. “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

Jesus has said many times that we must be ready for His return. In parables and conversation He tells us that He will be back and at that time God’s judgement will be rendered on us all. His point is to make sure we stay prepared for that day, not letting the world distract us from His holy purpose in our lives.

Human things are temporary, while the things Jesus offers us are everlasting. Why would we spend our gifts and our energy on things that have no eternal value? He tells us “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Jesus wants us to strive for things that bring glory to God, not material possessions or power and position. He urges us to be ready when that day comes to leave this world and everything in it for a better and eternal connection. We must stay alert, remembering His promised salvation and live into that blessing.

Loving Lord, we are often distracted from Your purpose for us by the temptations of this world. Help us see the joy of life with You that lasts forever. Amen.

11/27/20

Our scripture this week is Mark 13:24-37, taken today from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven. “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near. So you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. “Watch out, stay alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. Therefore, stay alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— so that he does not come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all: ‘Stay alert!’”

Jesus tells us the signs to watch for that indicate His return. He says this that we may be aware of our personal responsibility to be ready – “What I say to you I say to all: ‘Stay alert!’” (v. 37). He has given us the message, now it is up to us to act.

We are called to share the Good News with all the world, but each person must accept joy and the duty of responding. No one can do that for someone else. Each of us must answer “yes Lord!” for ourselves and follow as individuals joined in the body of Christ.

The apostle Paul writes “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). He says that while there are many to encourage us, we must accomplish the task for ourselves. Jesus Himself calls us to this work and gives us the strength to succeed.

Gracious God, thank You for sending Jesus as our example. Thank You for those of faith who encourage us. May we be strong in Your love and share that joy with all the world. Amen.

11/26/20

Our scripture this week is Mark 13:24-37, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

“But in those days, after that tribulation: The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. He will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. “Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that he is near—at the door. “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “Now concerning that day or hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son —but only the Father. “Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming. “It is like a man on a journey, who left his house, gave authority to his servants, gave each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be alert. Therefore be alert, since you don’t know when the master of the house is coming—whether in the evening or at midnight or at the crowing of the rooster or early in the morning. Otherwise, when he comes suddenly he might find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to everyone: Be alert!”

Jesus teaches us that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (v. 31). What He tells us about God’s love is eternal truth and will never change or disappear. Despite everything that happens around us, God’s constant love is always there.

In order to fulfill the charge we have been given, we must tell the world about this gift that surpasses all others. An old hymn says “love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down”, reminding us that God loves us so much, He was willing to give up that which was most important to Him for our salvation. What can we do in return?

To honor this greatest gift, we must accept His love and share it with everyone, everywhere. We have been blessed beyond measure to be forgiven of our sins and called to an eternal connection with God. May our lives reflect the joy we know in Him.

Gracious God, we are thankful for the gift of Christ’s sacrifice and our redemption through Him. Help us to reach out in love to all Your children that they may come to You. Amen.

11/25/20

Our scripture this week is Mark 13:24-37, taken today from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

In this lesson Jesus tells us we are to carry on the ministry He has started. He says “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work” (v. 34). We all have tasks to be accomplished for His kingdom.

He has taught us that we are all gifted individually and need to use those skills and resources for God’s purpose. He also showed us the need to work together and how much we can do as His body united. Showing the world His love in this way demonstrates the joy of a relationship with Him and with each other.

Look for ways to share your gifts as a person and as part of God’s family. There is a whole world in need of hearing the Good News and seeing it in action. When we use what God has given as He intended, we are all blessed.

Loving Lord, send us into the world to share Your love with all our brothers and sisters. May our witness and work bring everyone to You. Amen.

11/24/20

“In those days, after the suffering of that time, the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then they will see the Human One coming in the clouds with great power and splendor. Then he will send the angels and gather together his chosen people from the four corners of the earth, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven. “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he’s near, at the door. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come,whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!”

Jesus again gives us glimpses of what will occur when He returns. It sounds frightening, and it is meant to be so. Jesus doesn’t want to scare us into obedience, but He does want us to understand what is coming.

He tells us what will happen, but says only God knows when (v. 32). He wants us to be ready when it is the time, to be living in faith and obedience that we may be part of the eternal joy. However, when He comes it will be too late for us to get ready.

Jesus know us and our weaknesses, how we often put off difficult things until the last minute. He warns that we can’t wait until the judgement comes to make our decision, we must be ready now! We must prepare ourselves, and then prepare the way of the Lord.

Gracious God, we are grateful to be called as part of Your family and Your work. Help us to always be ready, living according to Your word. Amen.

11/23/20

Our scripture this week is Mark 13:24-37, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

“But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Jesus has told us continually to be awake, aware and awaiting His return. He wants us to understand how important it is that we keep His commands in our daily lives until God’s kingdom comes. We mustn’t forget how He taught us to live even though He isn’t physically present with us.

His promise to us is the same today as it has always been – “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). We know that He will return and we must always be ready for that day. There won’t be a chance to change our lives when He appears.

Jesus tells us that God will choose the time and no one knows when that will happen, so being ready all the time is essential for those who follow in faith. We must prepare our hearts and minds, sharing His gifts and His love with all people. He has told us what is necessary, it is up to each of us to obey and be ready.

Loving Lord, we want to be ready when You appear. Help us to be strong in our faith, showing the world the joy of a relationship with You. Amen.

11/22/20

Our scripture this week is Matthew 25:31-46, taken today from the English Standard Version (ESV).

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus promised He would return for us. He has taught us to be ready for His coming at any time, to use our gifts well and to care for one another. He tells us plainly that we will stand in judgment for how we have lived, not that our acts can save us, but that they are our response to His love.

Many have accepted Christ with their lips but not their hearts, and these are the “goats” He speaks of, those that are set in their own ways, not following the Shepherd. When we choose our thoughts over what we have been taught and our own desires over the needs of others, we become the goats, headstrong and wandering from the path. We lose our opportunity to be part of His flock eternally.

Going our own way only leads to separation and loss; following Jesus is the only way to salvation. Don’t be the goat that tries to stand alone, rejecting the blessing that is prepared for us. Hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow His call to eternal life.

Loving Lord, we often put our thoughts and desires above what You have taught us. Help us to be the people You created us to be, living in harmony with You and each other. Amen.

11/21/20

Our scripture this week is Matthew 25:31-46, taken today from the New King James Version (NKJV).

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

God has expectations of all of us. He expects us to treat each other with His love because we have been saved by His love. This applies to everyone, everywhere, forever. It is our response to His grace.

Seeing each other as the image of God is the only way for us to live together as His children. When we share our gifts and resources with those who need them, it is as if we care for God Himself. We know that God needs nothing from us, for He created it, but when we reach out in love to each other, we show our love for Him.

Often we think that this means large actions, great expenditure or difficult tasks, and sometimes it does. However, we can also show our love for God in simple, everyday actions. If we don’t practice these, we may never be ready for great acts of sharing.

Gracious God, help us to see the common things we are called to accomplish in Your name. Show us the ways we can share Your love in everything we do. Amen.