Category Archives: Advent

JOY

Holy God,
we are ever reminded that
the JOY of this season is not found in
gifts
or food
or decorating.
Our JOY is not in
stuff
or vacations
or even in our families.
True and unending
JOY is found only in
Jesus;
something that can not be taken away
by anything
or anyone
of this world.
May that JOY overflow in abundance
that you may be glorified through our lives.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Groaning

My most recent article in the Tacoma News Tribune (TNT)…

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [Romans 8:22-25]

I don’t know about you, but I have been doing a lot of groaning recently. I wrote in my last article about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in our culture and called for men to step up and change this culture of abuse. Since writing that article, things have continued with more “big name” people being fired, and more politicians being accused. No, I didn’t expect my article to have an immediate impact, but I am still groaning at the depth of this sin in our culture.

I also groan over the hurt in people’s lives close to me. I groan over the hate that continues to run amuck in the world. I groan over the rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. I groan, I sigh, and I lift my eyes to the heavens. I cry out to God for redemption. I cry out to God for renewal. I do all of this in hope, though, remembering God’s promises that came to us at Christmas time.

Yes, it is that time of the year, yet many people see increased tension as to-do lists become longer and household budgets get stretched. The Christmas season is upon us with Advent beginning on Sunday. “What is Advent?” you may ask? Advent is a time of waiting; a time of preparation. No, I’m not talking about decorating or searching for that perfect gift. Advent is a time of preparation as we wait for our Lord Jesus. It is a time to prepare our hearts and make room for him, and not just make room, but clear house.

Advent is also a time of hope as we groan, for the birth of Jesus signaled the beginning of the end of God’s plan of redemption for creation. It is not just us groaning but all of creation and thus we wait in patience; knowing that Jesus’ birth means that our groaning will soon come to an end. Thus, this is a season of joy and peace and love. This is a season of celebration and expectation and anticipation.

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Jesus was born. Jesus lived on this earth. Jesus was crucified. Jesus rose from the dead. These are all verifiable facts. Now we wait for Jesus to come again. That is where my hope is placed. We live in a world of groaning, but Jesus is coming to end all groaning. Prepare and make room for Him, for Jesus was born for you.

Happy Advent
and
Merry Christmas

The Pastor -|—

Bearing Fruit

The follow is a sermon teaser for tomorrow (Dec 18) on Matthew 3:1-12.

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance is John’s call for an authentic Jesus following life. It’s one thing to come to worship, confess your sins, put an envelope in the offering plate, and serve in the presence of others, but is your life bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. Do you abhor sin? Does what happened in the garden sadden you or are you enjoying the temporary freedom that Satan gifts you with? Bearing fruit in keeping with repentance is about turning away from sin, not just in words but also in deed. It is making a 180 degree turn and fleeing from that which draws you away from God. The fruit is a God-glorifying, Jesus-exalting life that leads people to the throne of God; where the true treasure lies, not some fool’s gold.

May the Gospel of Jesus Christ transform your life to the glory of God our Father through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

It’s All about Jesus

I attended a worship service while on vacation, recently, that left me scratching my head (and not because it inflamed my dandruff). What left me scratching was the sermon. The topic?

Ebeneezer Scrooge

I kid you not. This was part of a larger Advent theme titled, “The Redemption of Scrooge“. Now, I am not criticizing the Advent title because there is much you can do with it that is inline with the Gospel. What bothered me was the sermon content. Four times the name “Jesus” was referenced but never as the topic. I can’t tell you what the scripture text was because that was never referenced. Some other random scriptures were thrown in but I struggled to find the connection.I waited and waited. I waited for Jesus and was denied. And that in lies the problem.

If the sermon is not about Jesus, then it is not worth preaching.

I went to worship my awesome God through Jesus Christ and to hear the Gospel proclaimed to me but I left with a message about a Christmas character that is not even found in the Bible. Did that sermon really need to be preached for the advancement of the Kingdom?

No!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to criticize the above, unnamed church I attended but rather bring to light something I have heard many times before (or not heard). Too many times I have listened to a “sermon” that had nothing to do with Jesus but people left thinking so because the name “Jesus” was mentioned or the pastor was holding a Bible or because they were in a “Christian” church. I wonder, sometimes, if people are really listening to the sermon. Knowing the congregation I currently serve, if I ever preached a sermon about Ebeneezer Scrooge, I would have to answer to the leadership about my sermon content.

As a pastor, I preach the Gospel from the pulpit. The Gospel is about Jesus, period. So therefore, any sermon that is not about Jesus fails to do it’s job, period. That is why I am opposed to preaching politics in the pulpit. I will preach about biblical topics that are political but Jesus is always at the center. If I ever preach a sermon that is not about Jesus, I hope my congregation will slap me up across the head.

It’s all about Jesus.

I write this in hopes that pastors will be very aware of what they are preaching. Is it about Jesus? I also write this in hopes that the people in the pews will be aware of what they are hearing. Was that about Jesus? And if you ever hear a sermon that is not about Jesus, I hope you will feel free to talk to your pastor about it. As pastors, we need to be held accountable. We are human after all and are susceptible to being lead away.

All of life is about Jesus so make sure that Jesus is the topic and not just a passing mention. Preach Jesus, and not just pastors but everyone and give glory to our awesome God.

It’s all about Jesus.

The Pastor -|—

 

“Inconvenient” Peace

Below is an opening paragraph for the sermon this coming Sunday (Advent 2). The theme is peace and the context is your life. The text doesn’t follow the lectionary but I’ve never been one to stay in line 🙂

So here you go:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. [Luke 1:26-27]

We’ve heard this situation over and over again; a young girl betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was going to become pregnant during an inconvenient time. Actually, for Mary to become pregnant during the betrothal period, even by her own husband, would subject her to stoning; something that many of you have heard before. And to some it may sound like I am belaboring some basic biblical story details but these details are important. These details set the scene for the peace that Mary would soon receive following some incredible news. Because really, these details highlight the chaos in our own lives. They set the scene for God to enter our lives with Good News and at times that may seem inconvenient or at times we do not expect. And that’s exactly how God works. God works in situations and at times that we would not expect. God does this that God may receive the most glory because it is only God that can give peace during those “inconvenient” moments. And when one sees that God is in control in those moments, something amazing happens, as we will see with this young, betrothed, peasant girl.

May God surprise you during this Advent season and bring you an “inconvenient”peace. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Christmas, Enough Said

Waiting
Anticipation
Excitement
Joy
Celebration
Fellowship with family and friends
Worship

CHRISTMAS!

But…

What are you waiting for?
What are you anticipating?
Why are you excited?
What is causing your joy?
What and why are you celebrating?
Why are you in fellowship?
Who/what do you worship?

You see…

The answers to the above questions vary for some. For some Christmas is about the wrong answers. For some Christmas is about the wrong reasons. For some Christmas is about worshiping false gods. For some Christmas is nothing more than a holiday for which you get time off from work or school.

But…

Christmas is about Jesus; born for you, who later died for you, and then rose from the dead for you. Christmas is about hope, peace, love and joy. Without Jesus, Christmas is not Christmas.

Christmas
Jesus
Enough said.

The Pastor -|—

Getting Closer ~ A Prayer

God of hope.
God of Joy.
God of glory.

As Advent winds down
we continue to wait with anxious anticipation
as we long for the coming of our
Lord Jesus.
We look forward to worshiping this week;
giving You thanks and praise
for the Christmas gift to beat all Christmas gifts,

but more importantly,

we long for the second coming of Jesus.

May we not look past the manger
and miss the joyful Good News contained within.
May we not see only a cute little baby
born to humble parents in humble circumstances.
May we not only enjoy the pageantry of the season
but may we also see our salvation story
being played out before our longing eyes.

May we see our hope.
May we know true joy.

So we humbly ask that You may send your Holy Spirit
to fill our hearts with the hope of the resurrection
through faith in Jesus.
May we know and live the true meaning of the season.
Jesus Christ,
our victorious Lord and Savior.
And may the joy on our face and in our voices
show people that we indeed mean business.

Amen.

God bless you, this 4th Sunday of Advent, as we speed ever closer to the manger. May your Christmas preparations draw you closer and closer to Jesus.

The Pastor -|—