The end is near

Luke 21:5-19, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Alongside the road there is an old VW van with a sign propped up against it; “Repent, the end is near!” The car in front of you in traffic has a bumper sticker warning that “In case of RAPTURE this vehicle will be unmanned!” Finally, in bold letters the theater marquis assures you that you do not want to be “LEFT BEHIND!” It seems someone at every turn is attempting to decipher the signs and sift through the hidden clues in Holy Scripture in order to determine just when the end will come. Even Jesus’ disciples wondered openly about the end times. “When will all these things take place?” “What will be the sign?”

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. In Matthew’s gospel he speaks of the reality of earthly life. In both of these, our Lord instructs God’s people to pay little attention to such events. They must happen, but they are not the indicators, merely moments in history. Only the Father knows when he will make all things new. Until then, we have assurance that even as such events occur, Christ is present among us, even to the end of the age.

Prayer: Christ our Lord; give us faith to persevere and to patiently await your coming in glory. Amen.

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Striving toward righteousness

Matthew 23:27-39

How often have parents entered a child’s tidy and organized room only to encounter an avalanche of stuff upon the opening of the closet door? On the surface the parent is initially delighted, but upon closer inspection such delight turns to disappointment. Such a mess cannot be hidden by simply closing the door. Sadly, many Christians attempt to conceal their sinful mess from God and one another in the closets of their minds while living each day according to earthly values.

In our text from Matthew, Jesus warns the Scribes and Pharisees that even as they present themselves as righteous before others, God knows they do not practice what they preach. These teachers of the law cared only for their ideals and traditions, while lacking in faith and love. Christians who live in such a way as to present themselves as righteous before others, yet fail to live the life of faith in private face the same rebuke from Christ.

We cannot hide our mess from God. Believe it or not, others see through our charade as well. Thankfully, through Christ we are able to repent, receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness as we strive to follow the path toward righteousness.

Prayer: Merciful Father, grant us your grace and strengthen us to live for you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Do not fear

Mark 5:21-43

As he walked with Jesus towards his home, Jairus was hit with the news, “Your daughter is dead.” No need to bother Jesus any longer; you’re too late. With such devastating news, one has to wonder what was it that kept Jairus going. Certainly there must have been something about being in the presence of Jesus that gave him assurance. Jesus said, “Do not fear, only believe” and so Jairus kept going.

Day by day, people are confronted with such news. A loved one has passed away, another is sick. We might receive such news about our own health. So often we come to an understanding and are convinced of certain outcomes. “This condition leads to that one.” “You have this much time left.” “You need to get affairs in order.” When we face these moments, the people of God have the same assurance as did Jairus. “Do not fear, only believe.” Christ is with us.

Through the gift of faith, Christians are able to witness Christ’s saving power. Just as Jesus healed the woman who suffered for twelve years, Jesus heals us from the sickness of sin. As he raised Jairus’ daughter, Jesus raises believers to new and everlasting life. Because of Christ’s victory on the cross, we need not fear death, it no longer has power. Because of Jesus, in death we see the gate to eternal life. Do not fear, only believe.

Prayer: Lord God, give us your assurance always, so that by faith we do not fear, but believe the promise of your grace. Amen.

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Gifted by the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

There is a cliché in sports that says, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” This is a favorite among gifted athletes, especially those who have set records, won championships and continually make the morning highlight reels. Their ability and athleticism is on display for all to see, and given the accomplishments, why should they not toot their own horn? But what if they can’t accomplish what they claim? Well, then it’s just bragging.

The people of God are called to do extraordinary things with the gifts and talents God provides. All are blessed with gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring about God’s goodness in the lives of others. As the apostle Paul teaches us, there are many varieties of gifts, but the one Lord activates them all. Some people work in the medical field while others are knowledgeable teachers. No matter the vocation, regardless of the skill or ability, it is God who brings to us the ability to accomplish the work of the gospel.

As sinners in need of redemption, Christians know that as the ministry of one believer succeeds, the entire body of Christ on earth is built up. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we become doers of the gospel. There is no need for bragging. The good works accomplished through us give glory to God, who saves his people through Christ the Lord.

Prayer: Equip me with gifts for service, O Lord, that I may do the work of your gospel. Amen.

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More than belief

Genesis 12:1-7; Hebrews 11:1-12; John 6:35-42, 48-51

In 1965, a Motown group called The Impressions scored their biggest hit with a song titled “People Get Ready.” Curtis Mayfield, the song’s composer begs his hearers “People get ready, there’s a train a coming…all you need is faith to hear the diesels humming…you don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.”

The author of Hebrews teaches us that faith is much more than belief. Faith is that gift from God that assures us that God’s promises are true. The Hebrews text recalls the faithfulness of Noah and Abraham. Their hope for life and communion with God was made real through faith. Even as Abraham did not realize in his lifetime, the promise of many descendants, he saw the reality of God’s promise just over the horizon of his life. Abraham was convicted by the things he could not see but understood to be true.

Through faith, Christians today have hope. Through faith, we know that Christ is with us each and every day. Faith is more than belief; it is the assurance of God’s love forever. Faith is the conviction that, even as we continue our pilgrimage on earth, God’s kingdom is real. Through faith, we can see heaven just beyond the horizon of this life.

Prayer: Holy God, grant us faith that we may be steadfast in hope and realize even today those promises of your kingdom yet unseen. Amen.

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Strengthened through faith

Acts 15:36 – 16:5, 1 Peter 5:1-14

Everyone faces a time when the best made plans fall apart. Projects seem too daunting, resources don’t add up, or perhaps we simply cannot rise to the occasion. Barnabas and Paul planned to revisit those churches included in their first missionary journey. But prior to leaving they had a stark disagreement. At issue was John Mark’s abandoning them early on. When the going got tough, young John Mark retreated to his home in Jerusalem. Yet this was not the end for Mark.

As Mark grew in years and experience, he also grew in faith. At the point of our reading today, Barnabas is ready to offer him another chance. Barnabas took Mark along to Cyprus where he continued his ministry. Later, Mark would also serve extensively with Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Even Paul would come to rely upon Mark as a servant of the gospel (Col. 4:10-11).

Mark serves as an example for Christians today. Even in our failures, God strengthens the faithful through the power of the Holy Spirit. And so we continue in our calling, persevering in faith, ministering to our neighbor, and proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Mighty God, strengthen my weaknesses and give me confidence to boldly share the truth of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Soon and very soon

Revelation 21:1-7

When I think of God’s kingdom coming in its fullness, I am reminded of the gospel hymn Soon and Very Soon. The opening stanza expresses an undeniable joy. One day, we will see our King Jesus.

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King!
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the King!

Imagine seeing the King of Glory as the New Jerusalem descends from heaven. The trials and temptations of earthly life give way to the peace of Christ and the joy of salvation. The old fades away and God’s promise of eternal life becomes the present reality for all who know Christ as Lord and Savior.

The vision afforded John the seer is one of wholeness, restoration of a fallen world and reconciliation of a sinful humanity. No longer is there sickness; no longer is there suffering among God’s beloved children. With the day and hour known only by the Father, the new city of God descends from heaven, adorned as a bride awaiting her groom. The assurance is given; the one who conquers will have this heritage (Revelation 21:7)

Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the King!

Prayer: O Lord our God, your mercy endures forever. Hallelujah! Amen.

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