Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
These are amazing statements, a lot of truths contained within a few verses!
We are justified by faith – God makes that decision, because we believe in Jesus Christ.
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ – no need to worry about judgment, because Jesus wipes the slate clean and we are forgiven.
We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand – As we believe, so this grace, this forgiveness, is extended to us through Jesus.
We boast in the hope of the glory of God – One day God’s majesty, God’s glory will be seen. Until then, we rejoice in the hope that God’s plan will be made evident, so all may give God praise.
We also glory in our sufferings… – To give glory to God for suffering implies that we trust God’s greater purpose, to mold and mature us in character, to make us fit for heaven.
Hope does not put us to shame – Our hope is not misplaced. There is solid truth supporting our hope.
God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit connects us with God, so that we may perceive and receive God’s love. It’s God’s funnel, channeling God’s love into our lives.
As we contemplate the truth of God’s love, may we rejoice in God’s peace and hope given us, along with life’s challenges that mold us and make us into persons of perseverance, character and hope.
Gracious God, you walk with us through all the highs and lows of human life. You offer us resources that enable us not only to cope with the challenges, but to grow through them. Help us trust in you despite whatever comes our way this day. For this we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
We want to believe we are good people, or at least, good enough. We want to think that we deserve salvation by all the good things we try to do. But this just isn’t true. It doesn’t matter who you are – Jew, Greek, American, Nigerian, Chinese, you name it. By the mere fact of being human means we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We do not and cannot earn heaven on our own.
This is precisely why we need the good news of the gospel. We fall short. But Paul writes that all are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. God calls the shots. God has decided that faith in Jesus as our savior is enough. Jesus accomplished this, not us. It is free for us; it was costly for him.
Before you turn to the rest of your day, pause just for a moment and give God thanks. Thanks for faith. Thanks that what Jesus did on the cross was enough. Thanks that through Jesus, we are called righteous. Now let’s go out and try to live like we are.
Bless this day, Lord. Bless all my endeavors to do what is right. I know I’m going to fail at times, but thank you that you have declared me righteous in Jesus. Forgive the wrongs I do, and help me learn from my mistakes. I give you the praise in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, September 17, 2018
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
It has been said when you point your finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back at yourself. This passage reminds us the first finger points to our self-incrimination. It is often our own character traits that we are not comfortable with that we find the most annoying in others. One of those traits for me is self pity. I have worked hard to overcome this attitude and have to be vigilant to avoid being sucked back into the vortex of gloom. Instead of increasing my compassion for a individual with a negative outlook I find it very difficult to tolerate and spend time with them.
The second finger is pointing toward us is for acting as if we have the right to judge another based on our limited perspective and fallible human understanding. When God judges, it is based on all knowing, complete and total truth.
The third finger back at ourselves is one that points out our arrogance. It shows a lack a gratitude for God’s rich blessings upon us and the lack of acknowledgement of His tolerance and patience for us.
We do not make ourselves look better by pointing out the faults of others. Matthew reminds us, Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Lord help me to be your servant, not by judging others, but by seeing them through your eyes. Help me to repent of my impatience and show them the same compassion and grace you have so generously given to me. In Jesus name, Amen
Sunday, September 16, 2018
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
So much in these verses makes me pause to consider: I do not wish to be ashamed of the gospel even though in these days faith separates me from many who profess a different faith or no faith at all. I want to respect their perspective while at the same time not cowing under to pressure to hide my faith under the proverbial basket.
I will trust in the power of God who has brought me salvation in Jesus Christ. God offers salvation to every person who believes in him; to God it doesn’t matter whatever is your family background or history or any other barrier we might think prevents us from being offered this gift. After all, Paul himself stood by, allowing Stephen to be stoned to death for his faith in Christ.
Paul came to realize by faith that what really matters is God’s righteousness, not ours. God offers us a righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ – all encompassing, complete from first to last, not in us, but resting in him who died for us. Paul quotes a passage from Habakkuk that states, “The righteous will live by faith.”
The question for me is whether (1) can I accept God’s righteousness and be grateful to be deemed fit for heaven, not on my merits but on the one who saved me, and (2) will I stop demanding of others what I cannot achieve myself – namely, perfection and a righteousness based on works. Can I stop judging another who has just as many faults as I do? Let me keep looking only to Christ by faith, because that is the only measuring stick God uses – our faith in Jesus Christ who died for us and is risen to give the promise of eternal life.
Just for today, Lord, let me give myself unreservedly to you. Let me put my entire trust in you, rather than in my own resources of strength. Forgive me when I judge others by a standard that I also cannot keep. Any righteousness I have comes from you; it is not my own. I praise you and give you all glory in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
These are the closing words to Luke’s book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is a book filled with adventures like shipwrecks and travels around the known world of the Roman Empire. Peter and John and Paul and Barnabas and Timothy and others encounter resistance to faith along with the many Jews and Gentiles who choose to embrace faith in the Lord Jesus. It’s a historical book, to be sure, yet there has been much to inspire us along the way.
At this point Paul is in Rome, where we leave him in his rented house, welcoming visitors and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is being guarded yet he has been given a great deal of freedom as well. He was there for at least two years as Luke tells us.
To find the end of Paul’s life, we go to historical sources that suggest Paul died sometime after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, while the Emperor Nero was ruling (the end of Nero’s reign was AD 68). A historical writing from around 30 years later, by I Clement, implies that both Paul and the apostle Peter were martyred for their faith. Several sources later write that Paul was beheaded.
Paul was one of the most important people in the early days of the church. He founded a number of churches and was a prolific writer. He was bold in preaching and used his status as a Pharisaic Jew and a Roman citizen to good advantage, reaching out to both Jews and Gentiles. So as we close this book to begin tomorrow the book of Romans, of which he is the author, we praise God for the example of such a committed and intelligent apostle as him. May we, like him, use our God-given talents and resources to further Christ’s kingdom.
Gracious Father, in whatever I do today, let me do it well because you are right beside me. Let me use whatever gifts you have given me to make a difference in some way – in my commitments to work and family, through my faith and by my desire to serve you. Thank you, Lord, for your faith in me through your Holy Spirit, guiding me each step of my day. I love you, Lord! Amen.
Friday, September 14, 2018
21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
This is Paul’s famous story about being shipwrecked on his journey to Rome. The Mediterranean is famous for having some powerful storms. Last year around the same time of year as Paul’s journey was a storm the weather forecasters called a “Medicane,” or a Mediterranean hurricane. The swirling winds are like that of a tropical storm, but the damage from wind and torrential rains killed at least twenty people and damaged over a 1,000 homes with flash floods and mudslides. Boats carrying refugees from Africa have capsized in storms, killing all who are aboard.
What I think is significant in this passage from Acts is that Paul received word from the Lord that though there would be a shipwreck, all of the crew and passengers’ lives would be spared, so that Paul ultimately could stand trial before Caesar.
Paul shared with the men the promise he received, in order to give the men courage and hope as they battled this storm. Yes, they would run aground on some island and yes, the ship would be destroyed, but they would all make it through this storm alive.
Dear God, you do not promise our days will be all filled with roses and rainbows, but you do promise your presence in trial and rejoicing. You are there to give us courage and hope when we need to be fortified in strength. You will never abandon us through the worst crisis we might face. Let us put all our trust in you, O God, for your love will never fail. We praise you in Christ our savior, Amen
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.”
So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
Governor Festus met with King Agrippa regarding this case of Paul against the Jews. Festus, a Roman and no student of the Jewish religion, was mystified about how the Jews were upset with Paul over points of doctrine in their faith. These are his words from the previous chapter, talking with Agrippa:
“When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
Now we have Paul’s reply before Agrippa, who does understand the Jewish faith. Paul describes his faith as fulfillment, the culmination of what he believed since he was a child. The hope that God promised his ancestors has been revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for us.
Is it incredible that God raises the dead? God raised Jesus from death and so God will also bring us to live with him forever, for that is God’s promise by faith in his son, Jesus our savior. On trial that day was whether the Christian faith was indeed the fulfillment of all God’s promises to the Jews. On trial today is whether we will continue to put our hope in Jesus Christ and call him savior, and whether we will allow him to transform our lives to the honor of his name.
Gracious God, today may I place my trust in you through our savior, Jesus Christ. Today may I live in ways that honor you, so that others may see you in the things I do and say. You are just as much on trial today, Lord, as you were back then. Let me do what I may to demonstrate that you are Lord of my life. Amen.
What We Believe
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son and our savior, who lived among us to teach us and die for us. He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life in him John 3:16. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is God dwelling in us John 14:15-17. We seek God’s word in the Bible, the foundation of our faith. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the good news of Christ to all. We honor Christ through worship and fellowship, encouraging one another in faith, hope and love 1 Corinthians 13:13, and serving our neighbors with compassion and justice.
We belong to the United Church of Christ. As a congregation we are granted the autonomy to govern our local church, and prayerfully make the best decisions we can on how to live out our calling as believers. Each person has the freedom and responsibility of discerning for themselves how faith in Jesus Christ impacts their daily walk and their worldview. We respect one another’s differences because even though we are diverse, we are still part of Christ’s body.
We look forward to welcoming you some day soon. Peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
10:00 am Worship Service
10:00 am Children's Adventure Hour