Don’t be Stupid

but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

[1 Corinthians 1:23-25]

Seriously? People actually preach something else than that. Wow! That is baffling especially since, as Paul says, For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. Since that is the case, why preach something else? Why preach social justice? Why preach “7 ways to your best life now”? Why preach “5 tips to being a better you”? Why preach anything or anyone other than Jesus? If you are doing that…STOP. That’s just stupid and leading people to death. Christ crucified AND risen is salvation. Christ crucified AND risen is life. If you are stumbling over this concept, read your Bible and receive wisdom that ONLY comes from God.

The Pastor -|—

Irrelevant Fear

Holy Father,
with You,
fear of this world is irrelevant
as You have given us a sure and certain hope
through Jesus.
As Jesus has won the victory through his resurrection,
so we, too,
have won the victory through faith in him.
May our only fear be a holy awe of You
as we worship You
through Christ Jesus our Lord,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Mystery

The mystery is told,
the mystery is this,
through faith in Jesus,
we will live in bliss.

Our bodies will perish,
our bodies will decay,
but at the last trumpet
we’ll go by Jesus way.

Why can we proclaim this?
Why can we be joyous?
Death has been defeated,
and Jesus is for us.

All praises be to God.
All honor be to Him.
The vic’try has been won,
for through Jesus we will win.

The Pastor -|—

For My Friend, Jeannette

A void is present
without your life now
and we wish that you were still here.
Life is not the same without your big smile
and so we mourn and shed our tears.

Difficult it is,
to accept your death,
we remember your life so sweet.
Sharing our stories of a life well lived;
knowing that we will again meet.

Cancer took your life;
thinking it has won;
and robbing us of your sweet life.
But cancer’s loud and futile vic’try cry
is swallowed up in Jesus Christ.

And so we thank God
who has won the fight,
through shattering Satan’s strong hold.
So thanks be to God who gives us true hope,
that we too may live a life bold.

Until we meet again, Jeannette…

Praise be to God, always and forever!

The Pastor -|—

Groaning and Sighing for Charleston

This pastor’s heart is breaking today over the senseless killing of 9 people (including the pastor) in Charleston, SC yesterday by a disturbed gunman who felt it necessary to commit such an atrocity. These people were gathering at their church for prayer; lifting up their petitions and cries and confessions and praise to God. These people were gathering in a seemingly “safe” place as they were in a “safe” place.

[54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” [55] “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV]

This is the first text that came to mind when I started perusing the news this morning. I don’t know if this gunman thought he had gained a victory by killing 9 unsuspecting people in a church prayer group, but the victory is not his. I don’t know if Satan honestly thinks that he gained some sort of victory by leading this young man to open fire like that, but the victory is not his. Worldly corruption has not gained a victory. Sin has not gained a victory. Despair has not gained a victory.

There are no words that can explain what happened yesterday and why. There is nothing that can come from the gunman’s mouth that will make this easier to digest. There is much that I don’t know but one thing I do:

[57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For me, this is the truth I cling to. Yesterday I wrote about Good News in a bad news world, well, this is yet another prime example of the need for the Good News in a bad news world. Instead of trying to make sense of why some man would walk into a church and kill people, go to scripture and listen to God. Don’t bestow a false victory on this gunman or Satan or death or what/who ever. Acknowledge the victory already won by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Place your faith in him and the victory of all victories is yours.

In the mean time, join me in praying for those families who are mourning the death of loved ones. Pray for those who are left with the memories of this tragedy. Pray for the Charleston community. Pray for law enforcement as they investigate and sort through evidence. Pray for all who are haunted by this event.

May the victory gained by Jesus give you hope in a bad news world.

Holy God, loving Father, in a Romans 8 type of way, words escape me and so I ask that Your Spirit may intercede with mine as it groans with sighs too deep for words to express. Grant Your suffering and mourning children the hope of the resurrection and may they cling to You during this time and always. All glory and honor and praise and worship be to You, holy God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Just do it and bring glory to God

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. [1 Corinthians 10:31]

The context of this verse is Paul urging the Corinthians to honor God in what they eat/drink or don’t eat/drink, for everything belongs to the Lord. For example, in verse 27 Paul says that if an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you feel compelled to go; eat what is placed before you and don’t make a scene on the basis of conscience (for example, if you know the food was offered to a pagan god, eat it, it won’t kill you). Why turn the unbeliever off from the faith based on things they don’t understand now. Don’t use your freedom in such a way that it causes a “little one” to stumble.

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

And isn’t that the purpose of our lives right there; to glorify God?

My wife shares the story of when she was doing a home visit, in her previous job, with an Hispanic family. When she arrived they offered her something to drink but all they had was orange juice (my wife hates orange juice). But to turn down a gesture of hospitality would have been offensive, especially considering the language barrier. So my wife bravely drank the orange juice, with a smile on her face the whole time. For her, it wasn’t worth risking offending this family and possibly ending any chance she had to share her faith with them in some way. The juice didn’t kill her and it definitely didn’t offend God.

Sure, there are things we need to stand up for and not do based on conscience and belief. I am not going to attend a drunken orgy on the off chance I could possibly pray with the people there. And I think you get the point. We are to bring glory to God and not use our freedom to cause others to stumble in the faith or to stumble before they even come into the faith.

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

So basically we need to be mindful of how we act or don’t act, especially when it is known that we are Christian:
~ How do your actions or in-actions bring glory to God?
~ How are people seeing your faith being lived out?
~ Do your actions or in-actions cause others to stumble in their faith?
~ Are you giving God a bad name in how you live?

In whatever you do (or don’t do), are you bring glory to God?

Meditate on this today and contemplate what changes (if any) you need to make to your public (and private) display of faith. We are here to glorify God, through Jesus Christ, so just do it.

Praise be to God and Amen!

The Pastor -|—

Our God

The world is big but God has overcome the world.
Satan is powerful but God has defeated Satan through Jesus.
We are weak but God is strong.
Life can be overwhelming but God is for us.
We are limited but God is infinite.

To quote Chris Tomlin from his song Our God is Greater:

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God you are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God...

Nothing in this life can take away the fact that our God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-57).  You may feel overwhelmed, you may feel defeated, you may feel outmatched, but our God is bigger, stronger, more powerful than anything that Satan and this world can through at us.

Because the fact of the matter is that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the grave to overcome this world and to defeat Satan. Jesus also died and rose that our sins would be forgiven and that we could have hope in the resurrection to eternal life through faith.  God’s grace encompasses us even though (and because) we are sinners.  God’s love is massive and true.  God’s compassion is abundant.

Satan is strong.  This world is powerful.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Embrace this Good News and celebrate, but more importantly worship — Worship our awesome God.

Why?

Because…

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God you are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God...

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Use us

A morning prayer as you prepare for your day.  May you know the blessings of God and wonders of his awesome love.  Let us pray…

Loving and gracious Father…you have given us a mighty task; to use our spiritual gifts for the common good.  But too often we are swayed by the world to promote ourselves therefore misusing those gifts.  Please grant us the faith to see what you have done for us so that we may do everything in our power to use what you have given us for the common good.  May we not be so selfish, conceited, arrogant or puffed up that we miss golden opportunities to advance the Gospel.  And…as we use our gifts, may you be glorified in all that we do and say.

Awesome God ~ I lift up to you this morning all who preach your Word.  May they be faithful to the Word and proclaim your promises through Jesus Christ with boldness and confidence. May those servants not conform to the world but be instruments that transform the world by the renewing of hearts and minds.

Faithful God ~ I also lift up to you all those who will hear your Word this morning.  Create faith where it is lacking; strengthen faith where it is weak; renew faith where it has grown stale.  May the power of your Word do its thing as it leads us out to advance the Gospel.

Oh God, you are an awesome God.  You saved us.  You remade us.  You gave us hope through Jesus Christ.  May you be glorified for you are worthy.  All praise, worship and honor be to you, Oh God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

The pastor -|—

The most excellent way

Monday is the day I boot up my Logos Bible study program and print off the lectionary texts for the up coming Sunday.  I did that as usual this morning and read the second lesson text: 1 Corinthains 12:12-31.  I read this and my mind starting running like mad with thoughts and possible sermons directions.  thinkerHere’s a snippet of what my mind did:

~ A messed up church (the Corinthians…or any church today).
~ The gifts that are given vary from person to person.
~ Sometimes we get jealous of gifts we don’t have.
~ Sometimes we get arrogant about the gift we do have.
~ Believe it or not…sometimes we don’t get along.
~ Various gifts are needed and important for the Church.
~ God knows what He is doing.
~ There is a more excellent way (indeed there is but that is for another sermon).

And that is where I got.  So much to preach on but I am liking the cliff hanger idea.  I wonder if that will fly very well.  And “no”…I am not going to say anything more about the cliff hanger idea in case any Salem and/or Belmont people are reading this.  You will have to wait until next week to read about what I did.

[Hey…I just incorporated a cliff hanger.  What do you know :)]

Anyway…that is it.  Nothing too deep and theological today just some random sermon prep thoughts but maybe that gets you thinking.  It has me thinking.

Have a good one 🙂

The pastor -|—

Firm footing

Psalm 62:1
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

I have never experienced an earthquake before but from what I have heard from others it is an unsettling experience.  Something that is supposed to be firm, stable and safe is all of a sudden shaky, unstable and dangerous.  The ground is supposed to be a safe haven.

This same mentality is true in other areas of our lives where we put our ultimate trust in people or things.
–Financial markets
–Relationships
–Career
–Talents
–Family
–Intelligence

…and the list could go on.

I am reminded of the verses from 1 Corinthians 10:12 that reads, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!”  Paul goes on to talk about temptation and how God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle; always providing a way out for us.  But the problem comes when we become over-confident in our so-called firm standing.  A firm standing that is outside any relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

There are many well meaning people who think they are standing firm based on their worldly success and material possessions.  But as we have seen in this fragile economy, worldly success can come crashing down very quickly.
–People of high social standing can succumb to temptation and fall.
–The strongest of relationships can be torn apart.
–Careers can come to an end in a blink of an eye.
–A pop of the knee can end a promising athletic future.

Earthquakes of all kinds happen…and they happen everyday.  People we never thought would fall have fallen.

Maybe even you.

But…

When we find refuge in God.
When we place our future in God.
When we stand on God’s promises.
When we trust in God’s faithfulness.
When we find our treasure in God’s love.
When God is our fortress…

…then we will not be shaken.  As Psalm 46 says, “…though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…” we will stand firm.

In the midst of a shaky world, find your rest in God through Jesus Christ.  Find stable footing on the promises of our faithful God; for the foundation of God is the only thing that will ultimately stand.

-edh-