1/29/2023

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10‬:‭20‬-‭25.

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Paul shares the truth and joy of our salvation, that by Christ’s blood we are washed clean and reconnected to God. He encourages us to “go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him”. This is the greatest blessing we can receive, to be made right with God through the sacrifice Jesus has made for us.

Paul continues that our strength is in our fellowship with Christ and one another. Certainly we can stand alone as Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit, but we are so much more effective in our discipleship when we work together in His name. He writes “and let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another”, reminding us we are responsible to and for each other.

The most important point of this passage is “that the day of His return is drawing near”. We don’t know when that will be but we know without a doubt that it is coming. We are called to share the Good News with the world until Jesus comes to take us home.

Heavenly Father, we are amazed that You offer us forgiveness for our sins and invite us to be part of the work of Your kingdom. Bless us to go as the disciples of today to bring the world to You. Amen.

1/28/2023

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭4‬-‭9.

I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul rejoices over the spiritual growth of the church in Corinth, praising God for the gifts they have been given. He tells them God “will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns”. This is our goal as well, to remain strong in our faith through whatever trials we face, knowing that God goes with us.

He speaks of spiritual gifts that we need in order to remain firm against evil and share the Good News. He further explains in 1 Corinthians 12 about different gifts and how we must work together for God’s kingdom. All gifts are necessary for the task to which we have been called and every follower of Jesus is given a part in this ministry.

This is the wonderful truth – we have been forgiven and “He has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”. Jesus came to show us the way to be saved. Now it is our turn to go into the world, sharing the love God has sent to all His children. 

Gracious God, in Your mercy You sent Jesus to love and save and free us. Help us to tell everyone of Your amazing gift, that through Christ the world might be saved. Amen.

1/27/2023

Our scripture this morning is 1 Corinthians‬ ‭11‬:‭23‬-‭26.

For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.

In this passage Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) about the instructions Jesus gave at the Last Supper. He promised us a new covenant, that we could be forgiven and restored through the sacrifice He made for us. Through this sacrament we are called to remember that we have died to sin through His death and are raised to eternal life with Him.

Different faith traditions have different ways of naming and observing this blessing. It may be called Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or other terms. It may be served every Sunday, monthly or on special occasions. How we name and celebrate it is not nearly as important as remembering what Jesus has done for us. Paul tells us “For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again”. 

18th century preacher and theologian John Wesley urged us to take Communion as often as possible, encouraging fellowship with Christ and one another. Through this we remember His sacrifice for us and recommit ourselves to the call He places on our lives. As long as we gather humbly to eat this meal together, we are one in Him. 

Loving Lord, we are grateful for the gift of our savior, Jesus Christ and the forgiveness You sent through Him. Bless us to go in Your name to share our joy with everyone. Amen.

1/26/2023

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭13‬-‭18.

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

Peter brings up a very important point in verse 15 – “And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” Jesus has called every one of us to be part of His ministry, sharing the Gospel with the world. It is especially important that we be ready to explain our faith when asked.

People often say “this is hard for me, I’m not a public speaker.” Perhaps whoever is asking doesn’t need a sermon, just a personal response from one who knows the savior. An explanation of your relationship with Jesus may mean more to them than a lesson from a religious scholar. Those who are seeking need to be told “in a gentle and respectful way” as Peter says.

Think about how you would testify to your connection to Christ and be ready to share a simple statement about what your faith means to you. Pray about being able to share your belief, knowing the Holy Spirit is always with you for help and guidance. Always be ready to use the gifts we are all given to make disciples of all nations.

Loving Lord, we are sorry when our faith is timid and silent. Help us to be bold believers, going in Your name to tell the world of Your saving grace. Amen.

1/25/2023

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Romans‬ ‭13‬:‭11‬-‭14.

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

Paul warns us that we don’t know when Jesus will return for us, and “time is running out”. He urges us to “wake up, for our salvation is nearer than when we first believed”. We must be ready for this, keeping His teaching and sharing His love.

Like it or not, those of us who claim Jesus as their savior are always being watched. The world is observing how we live to see if it really makes a difference. If our words and actions aren’t different from those of unbelievers, why would anyone listen?

Paul counsels us to “remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living” so that we can show others how our relationship with Christ has changed us. Through His love we are empowered to reach out to make a difference in the world. Jesus has called us to be His representatives, telling everyone the Good News of salvation.

Gracious God, we are amazed that You choose us to be part of what You are doing in the world. Make us strong in our faith, and may we live as examples of Your love and mercy. Amen.

1/24/2023

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭25‬-‭28.

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

Paul tells us often about sin and that Jesus is the only cure. Here he explains the difference between the law and faith in Jesus. While obeying the law can keep us from harming one another and ourselves, it does nothing to encourage our relationship with God through faith.

He speaks of God’s righteousness and that our belief in Jesus is what justifies us with Him. We are made right with God only through faith, and by His grace we are called to share that faith with the world. This is where some find a disagreement between Paul and James, who tells us “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).

I don’t think they disagree at all. Paul speaks of faith as the fuel for our discipleship while James speaks of the action that follows. Both say one without the other is useless. It’s as if we tried to separate the Great Commandment into just “love God” or “love one another” – it can’t be done! We must have faith and do what Jesus taught in order to be saved.

Loving Lord, we are sorry when we fail to understand Your will for us. Help us to be faithful and active in the body of Christ, sharing the love You first gave us with all the world. Amen.

1/23/2023

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Luke‬ ‭8‬:‭22‬-‭25.

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

Jesus focused His ministry on people, teaching and healing and showing us the way to a full relationship with God through Him. When He and the disciples are threatened by a storm on the lake, He saves them by His power over “even the wind and waves”. Jesus does this not to prove to the elements He is the Messiah; they already know! Sadly, we seem to be the only part of creation that fails to recognize Him.

In John 1 we are told that “through Him all things were created”. Of course nature knows who He is and obeys Him. We were created through Him as well. Why do we have such a problem seeing Jesus as our savior?

We are different from other created things, made in the image of God and given free will to make choices. This is our blessing, but it also places the responsibility for our actions on us and our decisions. We must come to know Him not only as our brother but also as the Son of God Almighty. This is the call that is placed on our lives, to see Jesus as He is, confess our sins, and live a new life in Him.

Gracious God, we are sorry to be so slow to realize our mistakes and accept Your mercy. Help us to follow the path You have for us, and share Your love with all the world. Amen.

1/22/2023

Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭3‬-‭8.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

We seem to be people of the extremes, dividing ourselves into groups – those who agree with our perspective and “others”. We see it around us in any number of issues. Paul reminds us that we are all part of the body of Christ and we are all necessary to the work for which He has called us.

Paul warns us not to “think you are better than you really are” which may cause us to go it alone, rather than to accept the plan God has for us. On the other end of the scale, some think less of themselves than they should and feeling worthless, fail to use the gifts we have been given. Either way, the work goes undone.

We read “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other”, reminding us of the love God has for all His children and our obligation to follow Jesus and share the joy of the Good News. We must see everyone as a brother or sister in Christ, encouraging and valuing each one’s gift.

Gracious God, we are sorry for the divisions we create in the body of Christ. Bless us to be energetic disciples, using our gifts for the good of all. Amen.

1/21/2023

Our scripture this morning is 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭35‬-‭44.

But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory. It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

In the song “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe we hear about what it may be like to be in Christ’s presence when we enter heaven. People have had questions about this since the time of Jesus and it is natural to wonder about how it will be. While Paul’s response “what a foolish question!” seems a little terse, it is written from his faith and love for his congregations.

We can’t possibly know what heaven and our new bodies will look like. Paul explains how natural things are different from spiritual things, using things we can relate to, just as Jesus did in His teaching. It’s not that this is kept from us, merely that we have no frame of reference in our human minds to be able to understand how wonderful it will be.

Paul’s comments tell us “what it will be like” is not nearly as important as “it WILL be”! We don’t know the timing or the details but we have God’s promise that we will all stand before Christ on the last day. Paul calls us to focus on what is most important, how we love and serve God while we are here. No amount of discussion about what may be will ever change the everlasting love He has for us.

Loving Lord, we are amazed by the immensity and diversity of Your creation. Help us to stand strong in faith through our lives and be prepared for that moment we can only imagine. Amen.

1/20/2023

Our scripture this morning is 2 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭6‬-‭10.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

Giving is something that is mentioned in Scripture often. The concept that we are to care for others goes back to very early times. In Genesis 18:1-15 we hear of Abraham offering hospitality by giving shelter and sustenance. God calls us to care for each other in the same way.

Today we often think of giving as just our financial contributions, but God wants more than that. Our time and our talent are gifts from Him that He wants us to share with others. We give to others because God first gave to us, and there are a variety of ways we can give back to God by caring for His children.

What we give is not as important as why we give. Paul writes “God loves a person who gives cheerfully”, that we do this out of love for Him and our brothers and sisters, not out of obligation. Consider all the ways available to us to be the face of Jesus to those in need, and apply your God-given gift with joy.

Gracious God, You bless us richly with the capability to help others. Send us into Your world to make a difference in the lives of others, that they may know Your love. Amen