Life

Life is fragile and delicate.
Life is valuable and precious.
Only You, Lord, can be entrusted with it.
Only Your mighty and gentle hands can handle it.
But even though these fragile shells – shells that we call a body – will eventually crack, it doesn’t mean that You are careless.
These bodies are precious, from the moment we are conceived, but there is something even more precious, that which Jesus died to save –
my soul.
That’s what’s in Your hands forever.
I hate to see shells
crack,
die
and decay
but I praise You that which is inside is perfectly safe and sound in Your mighty and gentle hands.
My life is precious.
My life is saved.
All praise be to You through Christ Jesus my Lord.
Amen.

Jesus Lives, AMEN

Death is the great equalizer,
for no one is immune,
and death is the great divider,
for some are not attuned.
For Jesus conquered this enemy
and shattered its mighty power,
therefore some will be on his right,
and others will be left to cower.

Death still runs wild,
threatening to devour.
Death still strikes blows,
trying to exert it’s power.
But Jesus lives and reigns,
thus I will live too.
So take your best shot, Death,
for you will be left the fool.

So when Death comes a knocking,
to claim another life,
just shrug him off with a smirk,
knowing that he is not right.
For my Lord has won the victory,
thus I will live again.
Death can have its moment now,
but Jesus lives, AMEN!

The Pastor -|—

Sermon teaser for Palm Sunday

Here is the opening paragraph for this Sunday’s sermon. May God be glorified…

The holy bookends of Palm Sunday and Easter, encapsulate a holy drama that ends in a sure and certain hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the king of peace, is later mocked as the King of the Jews and then bursts through as the victorious King; one who obliterates sin, death and the power of Satan. We enter this morning in jubilation but leave somber and reflective as we contemplate the events of Holy Week. We enter worship this morning shouting, “Hosanna” which means “save us now” and leave hearing how Jesus does just that. The scope of this day is a microcosm of the holiest week of the year but may we not be satisfied with only this, rather, may we encounter the Passion of Jesus Christ anew as we listen to our salvation unfold and the power of death crumble into oblivion.

May God bless you as you journey through Holy Week; coming through the darkness and emerging into the Light of Easter morning.

The Pastor -|—

Death is No More

Death is the stark reality that we must face every single day, and therefore this is the motivation behind Jesus’ ministry. He was on a death-destroying mission. So when Jesus comes face to face with death, while at Lazarus’ tomb, he is moved to deep and powerful emotion that gives us a glimpse into what kept him focused on the cross. Jesus is so angry at sin that he is obedient to the Father’s will and stays on the cross even though he had the power to call down a legion of angels to protect him. Jesus remains on the cross because the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23) Jesus defeats death and thus we have hope. Now, our weeping is not over death’s victory. We weep because we will miss our loved ones but also, through faith in Jesus, we can weep tears of joy over what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Cling to the hope of the resurrection, oh weary soul.

The Pastor -|—

Sermon teaser for John 11:17-44

This week I get the privilege of preaching on John 11:17-44, twice; this Sunday and then again on Tuesday during our last midweek Lenten worship service. The following is the opening paragraph for Sunday. For more, keep an eye on my congregation’s website:
http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com

The raising of Lazarus gives us a sneak peek into the death-destroying, Satan-stomping, sin-eradicating power of God through Jesus Christ. The disciples knew Jesus as someone who could do amazing miracles, but really had no idea the length and depth of his power. Martha had an idea as she says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Martha dared to believe that if Jesus asked God for the life of Lazarus, that God would grant his request. That is a bold faith, but even Martha had no idea the lengths that Jesus would truly go to destroy death’s grip. In this story, Jesus overcame death’s hold on Lazarus, but through his own resurrection, Jesus would proclaim his victory over death and death’s hold over all those who believe in him.

The Pastor -|—

 

Sermon thoughts ~ John 11:1-41

In John chapter 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. He hears that Lazarus is sick and then waits four days. Had he left earlier, Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying, but Jesus waits that God may be glorified. Upon arriving, Jesus meets Martha and then Mary ~ “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Upon asking where they have laid him, they say, “Come and see”. At this we have one of the most famous verses in the Bible, probably because of it’s brevity.

“Jesus wept”

Question: Why did Jesus weep?

Jesus is the Son of God
Jesus can raise the dead
Jesus seemed to know that his delay would end in the dead of Lazarus
Jesus knows what he can do

So, why did Jesus weep?

I contend that Jesus is not weeping over the death of Lazarus but rather over the hopeless weeping that the others are doing. Do Mary and Martha not know Jesus well enough to know that he can raise Lazarus?

So Jesus raises Lazarus. He walks out of the tomb and he tells the people to unbind him. Word then begins to spread, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders. When you see people in hopeless despair, how do you show them Jesus? How do you show them that there is hope? How do you help people move from tears of despair to tears of Joy?

Just some thoughts. What say you?

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 -|—

Don’t Kill Jesus (John 11:48)

If we let him (Jesus) go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” [John 11:48, ESV, Bible.com/app]

Earlier on in this chapter, Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and greatly troubled over the people’s lack of hope. Later, when at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept. He didn’t weep because his friend was dead and gone, but rather  Jesus wept because the people were in a state of hopelessness; they didn’t believe that Jesus could do anything. But Jesus knew what he could do and therefore wanted the people to have hope that death is not the end. Jesus wanted people to believe in HIM.

Following the raising of Lazarus scripture says that many people believed in Jesus but others went and reported this to the pharisees; the religious leaders of the day. Their response was troubling (the verse above) as…

They were only concerned about their jobs and not the people.
They were only concerned about their “Church” instead of the Kingdom.
They were only concerned about their job descriptions.

The people were coming to faith in Jesus and that would change the course of the “Church”; the course of history, and (as they feared) the course of their nation. So something must be done (as we read in the rest of the chapter):

[53] So from that day on they made plans to put him (Jesus) to death.

Kill Jesus
Stop this Gospel
Get control of the situation
Stay relevant

Wow, that sounds familiar (and not because I have read this text before). This is familiar because this is happening today in a couple ways:

(1) The Gospel, the Church, biblical interpretation are changing because many feel if they don’t change these then the Church will get left behind. And so in order to “protect” the church; 2000 years worth of doctrine is changing, interpretation of the Bible is “evolving”; and all in a effort to help the Church become/stay “relevant”. So this Pharisaical concern is nothing new as leaders are trying to protect their jobs, positions and status.

(2) This Pharisaical concern is also happening in the local church. This appears through churches afraid to take a stand for what they believe. “Let’s just go along with how things have been done and not upset the apple cart”.Let’s just continue with what the higher ups tell us is the truth,” The fear is that change will cause a disruption in the peaceful status quo.  And so the status quo is fought for, tooth and nail, when fighting for THE Gospel should be the way.

We can not allow things to go on like this. THE Gospel of Jesus Christ is what we should be clinging to and not this Pharisaical concern of relevancy. The Church can not let the culture dictate it’s doctrine. Our doctrine comes from God and God alone through Jesus Christ. Our doctrine is the unaltered Bible; the Word of God. This hasn’t changed and it is not going to change. People need to hear THE Gospel and not some watered down version that meets their needs. To do that causes great harm as anything watered down loses it potency.

Jesus (and him alone) is the Resurrection and the Life. All who believe in him, though they die, will live; and all who lives and believes in Jesus will never die. That is the Good News. Do you really believe this?

If so…

Worship GOD through Jesus Christ
Spread THE Gospel
Give GOD control of the situation
Stay in Scripture

Cultural relevancy is something Jesus never advocated but rather Gospel faithfulness; no matter what the culture thinks or says.

So with Jesus I weep and thus pray…

That the Church remains faithful/returns to faithfulness
That Christians stand strong for what they believe against all odds
That the authority of scripture is held high and untarnished
That the unaltered Gospel is proclaimed with boldness
And that in the face of relativism, the Church does not budge

JESUS is Lord and King. Let’s boldly and proudly announce this and stick with this confession…

…and not kill Jesus.

God, King of all creation, make us bold in our faith that we may boldly proclaim Your glory. Make us strong to stand, that when push comes to shove; as relativism tries to assert it’s so-called claim on the culture, that we stand. Make us unashamed of the Gospel that our hope may be secure in Jesus. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Children of the Heavenly Father

On Sunday I said some words in response to the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT.   It was difficult to talk about this but I knew that something had to be said.  I shared the hope of Christmas, that God entered this world of suffering and overcame this world in Jesus Christ.  I shared words of peace and Good News.

Following the sermon I asked my small country congregation what hymn they would like to sing next.  And…without missing a beat, someone immediately said, “Hymn #781, Children of the Heavenly Father“.  I had to fight back tears when I heard that.  Here are the lyrics:

Children of the Heavenly Father safely in his bosom gather;

nestling bird nor star in heaven such a refuge e’er was given.

God his own doth tend and nourish, in his holy courts they flourish.
From all evil things he spares them, in his mighty arms he bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord his children sever;
unto them his grace he showth, and their sorrows all he knowth.

Though he giveth of he taketh, God his children ne’r forsaketh;
his the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.

We are indeed his children who are wrapped in God’s loving arms.  Evil, sin and death may cause havoc now, but they have ultimately been defeated through the cross.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Jesus is the answer

As I sit here in my nice, comfortable living room; safe and sound; praying and thinking of those who are mourning the death of loved ones in Connecticut, I find myself speechless (or wordless).  I know there are many people out there that have so many questions.  And as a pastor, part of me feels that I need to come up with some wise answer and response to this senseless shooting.

Why did so many children have to die?
Why did anyone have to die?
What could possibly possess someone to walk into a school and start shooting?
What were they thinking?

So many questions
So much fear
So much anger
So much confusion

But the fact of the matter is this ~ We can’t make sense of this.  One thing we can conclude is that this is a sin-fallen world, but even that statement does not bring any healing.  Actually…it might even offend someone who is mourning. So we can’t just say that and stop.  That would be irresponsible.  It would be no different than how many people have tried to explain tragedies and natural disasters in our past.  Some have even gone so far as to say that God ordained such an event as a way to communicate something or announce judgement.  That too would be irresponsible on our part.

So what can we say now?

In the face of tragedy the only answer we have is Jesus.  That’s it…and that is all we need.

Jesus

Jesus came to us in love
Jesus announced forgiveness
Jesus died on a cross and rose from the grave
Jesus has won the victory and that victory is ours through faith in him

That’s what is comforting me right now, but I am still sad.  A tragedy like this will do that to a person.  So in the mean time I will just run to God.  Running hard with open arms.  Running hard with tears of sadness and tears of joy.  Conflicted but victorious through Jesus Christ.

Don’t try to come up with an answer.  Don’t try to make sense of the senseless.  Run to God and listen.  Run to God and know healing.  Run to God and find hope.  Jesus is the answer.  Alleluia!

Loving and gracious God, our hearts go out to those who are mourning the death of loved ones but our hearts are also mourning and breaking.  Please bring us healing and hope that we may find strength in you to share healing and hope with those who are hurting.  Help us to see the victory over this world that Jesus won and gave to us through faith.  May we run to you and not to worldly wisdom.  Loving God, we worship and praise you in and through this storm.  Amen.

The pastor -|—