Our scripture today is Galatians 3:23-29.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Paul writes in this letter that in accepting Christ we have accepted responsibility for our faith. No longer can we rely on a long set of rules to decide for us, we are to use what Jesus taught us and act accordingly. This doesn’t mean we can make our own rules, just that He trusts us to choose in faith.
Paul emphasizes that now there is no difference in believers, that our race, social position or education have no bearing on our status as children of God. Our faith makes us equal, our faith makes us one. In this way we are called to use our individual gifts for the good of His kingdom.
Jesus said He came to fulfill the law, and through His teaching and example we can understand and apply those truths in our own lives. God’s Word is eternal, always applicable and always available to us through Scripture and prayer. Hear what He has said and make it part of what you do every day.
Loving Lord, we often seek our own ways instead of Yours, selfish in the things we do. Forgive us and write Your Word on our hearts that we may go to make disciples of all the world. Amen.
Our scripture today is Matthew 18:15-17.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Jesus knows that as humans we will always have to deal with conflict, even among brothers and sisters in the church. Sadly, our feelings about issues can separate us from even those closest to us. Disagreement about things is not necessarily sin, but how we treat each other while disagreeing can be.
Jesus gives us some specific steps to resolve these situations. In all of these, communication with each other is essential. While Jesus didn’t mention it, the assumption is that we ask God for discernment first. He urges us then to speak privately with each other before we involve those outside the situation.
His final words “and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” sound harsh – are we really instructed to cut them out of our lives? Think about how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors and you have your answer. We are never to give up on resolving our differences and being an active part of God’s family.
Loving Lord, we often let our opinions divide us and fail to love each other as You first loved us. Forgive us and lead us back to a connection with all our brothers and sisters. Amen.
Our scripture today is 1 John 2:18-25.
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
John writes this passage to warn us of the deceivers in the world, not that we should become suspicious and fearful, but that we would be aware. He tells us that those who accept the Son also have the Father, reminding us of what Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This is the most important thing as we face the trials of the last days.
John teaches us that remembering God’s word and demonstrating it through our actions will keep us strong against the evil that will continue through those who oppose the Father. Our task is to keep reaching out in Jesus’ name, especially to those who have not yet accepted Him. Our Great Commission to make disciples of all nations is still our most important duty.
Keeping our focus on God’s promise of eternal life (v. 25) is what will sustain and strengthen us. We know we can stand against sin and withstand the onslaught of unbelievers through our faith. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Heavenly Father, we are grateful for Your love and mercy, allowing us to repent and receive Your forgiveness. Help us to be strong in our faith and go to all the world in Your name. Amen.
Our scripture for today is 1 Peter 1:3-9.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In the opening of his first letter, the Apostle Peter leads us to understand the enormity of the gift we have been given in Christ. God has chosen us to be heirs of His kingdom along with Jesus. This gives us awesome responsibility along with awesome blessing.
Peter tells us that just as Jesus met trials along the way, we too should expect to face opposition when we share the love of God in the world. While it is a message of hope to those who accept it, the powers of this world are threatened by it. Jesus died for that message and we may be called to endure severe conflict as well.
The good news about the Good News is that Jesus will return in glory to subdue the evil that has reigned for so long. We can be part of His victory through faith and perseverance while we are here. God’s plan of salvation is offered to all who will repent and accept His love.
Gracious God, in Your mercy You have called us back to a relationship with You, through the loving sacrifice Jesus made for us. May we be strong in our faith and generous in sharing Your love with all the world. Amen.
Our scripture today is Mark 9:38-41.
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
Does this sound familiar? Someone who isn’t part of “our group” is doing something good and we wonder if we should oppose it. What kind of logic is that? The reply Jesus gives tells us all we need to know.
We know people often have hidden agendas for what they do, but Jesus says just because they aren’t part of “our group” doesn’t automatically mean they intend bad things. We have become so suspicious of anyone outside our circles – political, national, denominational – that we view their actions based on this rather than the action itself. Only God can judge what they are doing, it’s not up to us.
We need to be aware that evil exists and waits for an opportunity, but we must not consider people or their actions evil simply because they are different. Ask God to give you discernment about things before making decisions. He calls us to see everyone as brothers and sisters, created in His image.
Loving Lord, we jump to conclusions about each other based on limited knowledge or our own biases. Help us remember we are all Your children and avoid conflicts based on our differences. May we go in Your name together. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson is Matthew 5:13-16.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus gives us examples of right living that are easily relatable. Salt and light are common things we encounter every day. He wanted us to see that though we may consider ourselves “ordinary”, we are essential in the world like salt and light are to our daily lives.
God has called us to be His partners in creation and salvation. No, we can’t create or save on our own, but when we are in relationship with God, He provides us with the gifts we need to be useful in the kingdom. In this way we can reach out to others so that they may know the joy of a connection with God as well.
Today, listen for God’s call. Think of the talents He has given you and how these can help our world know Him better. We can be salt and light to all our brothers and sisters.
Gracious God, we are thankful that You want us to be part of what You are accomplishing every day. Help us to realize the usefulness of what You have given and go to share Your love everywhere. Amen.
Our scripture today is Psalm 124.
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side— let Israel now say— if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side” pretty well sums up every success and every saving grace we have ever experienced. Without God, we are lost and powerless against the chaos that would consume us. Only His love and strength sustain us.
This psalm is a reminder that only through God’s gifts do we accomplish anything at all. We hear stories of “self-made” people but we know that no one does it alone. Our relationship with God is what enables and protects us.
We will still face trying times and the world will still challenge our faith. However, the Apostle Paul writes “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). This is the blessing we have through our relationship with God. “Our help is in the name of the Lord!”
Almighty Father, when we sometimes think we have achieved something on our own, forgive our foolish pride. We know that for You nothing is impossible, and without You we can do nothing. Bless us to be effective disciples, sharing the Good News with everyone. Amen.
Our scripture today is Psalm 19:7-14.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Today’s psalm reminds us of the blessings of God’s law. We don’t often think of rules and regulations as something to be celebrated but we have the gift of His word to guide and protect us. Because God loves us so much, He wants us to be safe and follow the path He has planned for us.
Human laws can sometimes have hidden agendas, made by people who only wish to control others and maintain their position of power. The Pharisees of Jesus’ earthly time were an example of this. Not so with the Law of the Lord, which is solely for our good.
Think on the gift God has given us through His word and why it is always to our benefit to obey. Only through repentance and obedience can we be connected to God as He intends. May we learn to be the people of God and share His love always.
Heavenly Father, like unruly children we often choose our own way rather than Yours. Forgive us we pray, and let us be returned to Your image. Help us to be good stewards of all Your gifts and follow where You lead. Amen.
Our scripture today is James 5:13-16.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
God calls us to pray for one another in all situations. Does He need to be told when we have issues? Of course not, but by praying together our faith and our community are strengthened.
God wants us to be aware of each other’s needs and by lifting them up to Him, become involved in caring for our brothers and sisters. Prayer is not to inform God or change His mind, it is to change us. Prayer makes us part of His work in the world.
Prayer is a gift that allows us to express our joys and concerns. Jesus taught us the value of prayer by word and example. Don’t miss the opportunity to bring your needs to the Lord, He is always ready to hear our prayers.
Gracious God, thank You for the gift of prayer. Help us to stay connected to You and each other, to be advocates for all Your children. Amen.
Our scripture today is James 5:7-10.
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
James reminds us that the Day of the Lord is coming and while we must wait patiently, we must also be prepared. Jesus told the disciples “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7), so we must always be ready for His return. James teaches us to live as if the Lord was coming back today.
Waiting has never been easy for us and we have become an impatient society. We expect instant results for everything. However, God works on a vast time scale that is beyond our understanding.
In verse 10 of this passage James tells us “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Those who heard and answered God’s call knew that waiting patiently was part of the plan. We must cultivate a more patient manner in our lives, and be ready when He comes for us.
Gracious God, we are often overwhelmed by the speed of our world. We have caused this in our rush to “get ahead”, to amass wealth and status. Help us to slow down and to work for things that are truly important. Amen.