5/18/2024

Our scripture this morning is Acts 1:6-8.

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This is Luke’s account of the Great Commission. Before Jesus returns to heaven, He charges his disciples (and us) to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth”. They ask Him if He will restore the kingdom to Israel at this time but He says that’s up to God the Father. As we know, we’re not the planning committee, we’re the welcoming committee!

One author describes our evangelism as a pipe and pump. We are to be the conduit through which God’s love flows, but we are not the source. When we try to do it on our own, we are merely empty pipes.

Adam and his descendants were dismissed from God’s presence, but by His ascension Jesus welcomed humans back into God’s presence. God has made a way for us to be redeemed and to be part of His plan of salvation. When we repent and return, we can be forgiven and go to tell everyone what God has done for us.

Loving Lord, in Your mercy You sent Your son to show us the way to be saved. Help us to be the messengers of the Gospel, sharing Your love with the world. Amen.

5/17/2024

Our scripture this morning is Matthew 28:18-20.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our Great Commission comes from Jesus Himself, charging us to go into the world to share His love. He came for all of us, not just a particular group, and His command to go to “all nations” makes this clear. While He was born in Israel, He ministered to a wide variety of people who were not of the Jewish faith. God sent His son to all of us.

Jesus instructs us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is a public affirmation of our commitment to the kingdom of God. Additionally, we are to be “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”, telling the story of Jesus, His love for all of us and the path we are to follow.

Finally, Jesus promises “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” He said in John 14 God would send “another comforter”, the Holy Spirit to guide and encourage us as we love God, love neighbor and make disciples. We are called to be part of what God is doing in our world.

Loving Lord, we are ashamed of our sins, but amazed that You are willing to forgive us and use us as part of your work. Bless us to go in Your name to share the blessing of salvation with everyone. Amen.

5/16/2024

Our scripture this morning is Proverbs 11:24-25.

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

This passage from Proverbs speaks to us about the importance of sharing what we have with others who have not. We read “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” This is how God wants us to treat each other, with love, respect and a concern for the needs of others.

Jesus said about generosity: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). If we are generous with our resources, we will receive generosity in return.

God showed His ultimate generosity when He gave us life (Genesis 1:27). He gave His people manna in the desert when they were in need (Exodus 16:4-5). He gave us His son that we might be forgiven and have eternal life (John 3:16). We can’t give back to God directly, but we can care for His children here to express our thanks.

Gracious God, You have given us everything! Help us to share Your gifts willingly that the needs of all Your children may be met. Amen.

5/15/2024

Our scripture this morning is John 15:1-4.

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

In Exodus 3:14 God tells Moses “I Am Who I Am.” This leads to the seven “I Am” statements Jesus makes in the Gospel of John, showing His connection to God. The people would have recognized this scripture and Jesus uses the vineyard as a symbol for God’s faithful people.

Pruning cuts off what is dead and encourages growth. We are fruitful when Jesus’ love and teachings are shown in our lives. We know we can’t do this alone. Only through connection to Jesus can we live as God intends, sharing His love with world.

Jesus tells us “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you.” This is His promise that we will not be alone, which He shared in John 14:16-17 and again in Acts 1:8. We can be fruitful only when we are faithful, and as He teaches us “you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.”

Gracious God, You sent Your only son to love and save and free us. Help us to be the faithful, fruitful people You intend, sharing the Good News with the world. Amen.

5/14/2024

Our scripture this morning is Romans 10:14-15.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

Paul was well trained in rhetoric and debate as a Pharisee and now he uses that gift to share the joy of knowing God. This passage expresses our Great Commission from Christ to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Paul leads us step by step to the call Jesus has placed on our lives.

Paul teaches us the path we must follow in order to share the Good News. If we don’t tell the world, who will? Jesus has entrusted His ministry to us, charging us to spread the Gospel everywhere. He told us it wouldn’t be easy but He has called us just the same.

How will we do this? We have been given a variety of different gifts to tell the story of Jesus. We don’t have to be rich, famous or well connected, we just need to be connected to Him. Sharing what Jesus has done for us makes the Gospel alive and personal to those we meet.

Loving Lord, thank You for coming to save us from our sin. Help us to be the disciples of today, energetic in our work for Your kingdom. Amen.

5/13/2024

Our scripture this morning is Matthew 7:8-11.

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Jesus gives us this teaching about prayer and persistence. The parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke 18 shares the same wisdom. If we go to our Father in heaven with honest requests, God will honor them, but remember, the Lord will only give us good gifts.

Jesus uses our sadly human tendency to fall prey to evil in both of these examples, saying “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” He doesn’t compare us to shame us, but to highlight the goodness of God.

As we continue to ask God for good gifts, our lives become more focused on Him and the good gifts we have to share with each other. God calls us to be His answer to the prayers of those in need. When we ask, seek and knock, the door opens for us to be part of His work in our world.

Gracious God, You are the giver of all good gifts. Bless us to share in Your name. Amen.

5/12/2024

Our scripture this morning is Luke 1:45.

You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.

This verse is spoken by Elizabeth, mother-to-be of John the Baptist, to Mary, mother-to-be of Jesus Christ our Lord. These two women had been chosen by God for very special and similar purposes. John would be the first prophet of God to Israel in over 400 years, the forerunner of Jesus, preparing the way. Jesus would complete the earthly part of God’s plan of salvation. On this Mother’s Day we remember the women who brought all of us into this world and these two special women who said “yes” to God’s call on their lives. May we all believe the Lord will do what He said.

Loving Lord, in Your mercy You sent Jesus to show us the way to be reconciled to You. Thank You for all the nurturers who have taught us how to love You and one another. Amen.

5/11/2024

Our scripture this morning is Ruth 1:16-17.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

Hard times make for hard decisions. Naomi has lost her husband and two sons and has decided to return to Israel. She advises her widowed daughters-in-law to return to their families. One does, but Ruth is attached to Naomi by love and makes the vow “your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” Even in the midst of grief, God is reaching Ruth who did not grow up worshipping Him but has learned something wonderful through a trying time. We too need to see His love and provision for us, especially in difficult situations.

Gracious God, we know that Your love is there for us in good times and bad. Help us to be there for those who suffer, and to know that Your love for us never ends. Amen.

5/10/2024

I’m traveling again this weekend, this time for our son’s college graduation in Illinois. Back home and back to regular format on Monday.

Our scripture this morning is 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5.

But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

Like many Christians in the early days, the Thessalonians faced opposition on several fronts. Paul tells them that God “will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” When we encounter resistance in the world, we turn to Him for shelter and the courage to continue in the task we have been given. He is there for us, and we can know His love and “the patient endurance that comes from Christ.” This is the way to bring the Gospel to the world.

Loving Lord, we are often overcome by the enormity of evil and the harm it brings to Your children. Help us to stand firm in faith, ready to share Your love no matter what the situation. Amen.

5/9/2024

Our scripture this morning is Hebrews 13:6-8.

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Does the rate of change in our world amaze or confuse you? Sometimes it seems I just get a handle on something when it changes again! Thankfully, as this passage of Hebrews tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” and we can always depend on His love.

The author of this letter quotes Psalms 118:6 “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” We must remember that if God didn’t care, we would never have heard any of this. God loves us so much He was willing to come in human form to make sure we got the message.

We are reminded to follow those who lead wisely according to God’s word. Jesus set the example for our lives, caring for all our brothers and sisters regardless of who they are. God’s love for us is eternal and by giving up our selfish behavior we can be part of the mission Christ left us to share His love with the world.

Gracious God, in Your mercy You sent Jesus to save us from our sin. Help us to see Your face in all who need our help and be Your face to them. Amen.