John 14 Sermon teaser…

The following is the opening to the sermon that I am preaching tomorrow, May 10, on John 14:1-11. The worship live stream will start at 9:30 AM (PST) on our YouTube channel (Living Word Lutheran Church – Graham, WA)


Fear has a way of rendering people paralyzed – unable to think clearly or make smart, rational decisions. When everything safe around you is threatened, the natural reaction is embedded deep in the primal part of our brain. It is the fight or flight response. We instinctively either, fight for the safe place we have – trying to restore order – or we retreat and search for another safe place. We do this without thinking or planning or evaluation. In a lot of ways this is a gift from God that enables self-preservation. For example, if I were to encounter one of those “murder hornets” that are supposedly here in Washington, I am not going to evaluate too long whether I should retreat or not. But sometimes this fight or flight response becomes a hinderance to common sense. For example, there are people in Washington holding “COVID-19 parties” – purposely exposing themselves to get it out of the way so they can return to their safe place sooner. Truth be told, there is no science to this and thus not safe for the public. And then, this fight or flight response often gets in the way of trusting God – refusing to believe or accept His promises – thus Jesus’ commands in John 14.

Yes, our safe places have been threatened, but God is still sovereign. And so, let us hear the Good News in John 14 so we can stop fighting or flighting (is that even a word?) and start trusting. Let us pray…

God Kicked My Butt

God kicked my butt today. Actually, the butt-kicking started yesterday as a series of tech problems halted my plans – plans that I thought were brilliant and would be joyfully received by the worshiping community. But when our ways are not God’s ways, well, we are not going to win that battle. You see, up to this point I had been live streaming worship on YouTube from my living room but it dawned on me this past week that I could use the church’s video camera that we use to video record my sermons,. I could record a service on Saturday from the sanctuary, instead of my living room, and then upload it on Sunday. I felt this would be more worshipful – to be where we always held worship. People would be excited and that made me happy. So that was the plan. It would be great.

Take one: So, I went to the church building on Saturday afternoon to record a worship service. I set up the chancel area and positioned the video camera. The sermon was done, and my worship notes were ready. I put on my alb, stole and pectoral cross. I knew exactly what I was going to do and what I was going to say. Lights, action, camera – and off I went. Everything went great. I thought I had hit it out of the park until I went to stop the camera. When I hit the record button again to stop the recording, the counter started – as if I was just turning it on. In panic, I hit the button again, pulled out the memory card and ran to my office to upload the video. No video. The worship did not get recorded. The camera said the card was full but there should have been plenty of room. I got a little frustrated, but I quickly settled down and took this as God’s sign that I should do this in the morning.

Take two: Sunday morning came, and I got up at my usual time. I went through my usual routine and then drove to the church building. I got set up again – lighting candles, making sure my notes were ready, my microphone pack was turned on and I got dressed in my worship garb. Lights, action camera – again. I led worship and everything went great. Another homerun – or so I thought. I went to my office to upload the video from a card that was empty when I started. But when I open the card directory there were three files. “That doesn’t make sense.” I thought. Apparently, the worship service stopped and started a couple times giving me separate three files. Grrr… Strike two on the recording. Resigning myself to “settle” for a live stream, I packed up my stuff and rushed home – praying along the way. “Why God, why? I am supposed to have a worship service ready to go for people this morning.” After some more praying and then some listening, I finally heard what God was saying, “Worship is not an event to watch.” All weekend I felt something was off about me recording a worship service, but I thought it was just nerves about how everything would turn out. Apparently, the uneasiness I felt was God tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Don’t do this.

Take three: With a big smile – as I realized the lesson God had just taught me – I prepared my living room for a live stream of worship – no frustration, no anger, just thankfulness. How could I have been so vain to think I could choreograph a worship service production for people to watch later and then call it good and God glorifying. After getting set up, I prayed some more and just listened. I tossed away the bulletin and just led worship – I don’t think the church in Acts had a worship bulletin. And you know something, the Holy Spirit took over and HE hit it out of the park – Grand Slam!

I wish God had given me a clear Post-it note on my computer or something, but some of the best lessons are learned the hard way. When worship is Spirit-led in the moment, God is glorified. All of man’s efforts to produce something that is too scripted, runs the risk of self-glorification. That is what happened to me. In John 4, Jesus said that the Father is looking for people to worship Him in Spirit and truth. Yes, that is worship and that is what finally happened this morning. Thank You, God, for teaching me that lesson. To God be all glory, honor, praise — and worship — through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Hope

Tomorrow’s (March 29) preaching text is John 11:38-44 — the raising of Lazarus. What follows here is the opening paragraph to the sermon God has placed on my heart. May He give hope to hopeless hearts. May He lift up the downtrodden. May He speak life to dry bones. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.


Have you ever wept without hope? Have you ever stood before a proverbial cave with a weighty stone rolled in front of it?
Maybe it was the loss of a dream.
The death a loved one.
The fading away of a long-held hope.
Have you ever cried so much that your tear ducts seemed empty but there was still more crying to be done? Have you ever cried yourself to exhaustion? It is an awful place to be – standing in front of an immovable stone sealing your hope away. But God gives life to dry bones, restores lost dreams and revives sealed-away hope. God wipes away tears as He breathes the Spirit of life into the redeemed through Jesus Christ our Lord. God uses what seems to be lost and hopeless to shine the light of His glory in this sin-fallen world. Wait on the Lord and hope in His word, for He will never fail to deliver.

Blindness

The following is the opening to the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday, March 22. The text is John 9:35-41 — the ending of the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. I will be live streaming on YouTube at 9:30 AM (PST). I will lead worship and we will partake in Holy Communion together. “How?” you may ask, well, tune in and find out – just make sure you have your bread and wine/grape juice (or whatever) ready to go.

The church’s website, that will give you live streaming instructions, is: http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com


People who are blind have learned to adjust to their blindness. They have learned to rely on their other senses to help them navigate their darkness. They have resources, people and other aids to help them do everyday tasks. In every sense of the word, they can lead somewhat normal lives just like everyone else. I’ve never been blind, so I am simply speaking as an outside observer – so please forgive any blindness on my part. I have, though, been in dark, dark places where I could not rely on my sight, but rather, on my other senses and knowledge of the environment – like walking through a dark room. But no matter your knowledge of your environment or the keenness of your senses, there is always a stray Lego on which to step.

Now imagine, being blind or in a dark, dark place – unfamiliar to you – and you hear a low, scary growl. That is enough to send fear coursing through the strongest of people – not knowing where to turn. My friends, we are in a dark and unfamiliar place and the low, scary growl is all around us. To whom shall we go in this darkness? To whom shall we place our trust?

To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Night

The following is a sermon teaser for the sermon I am preaching tomorrow (March 8) on John 3:1-8 — Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. The complete sermon can be viewed on my congregation’s website early next week: http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com


I came across this quote from Paul Washer that he proclaimed at the 2020 Shepherd’s Conference. Paul said, “We preach to dead men, and there is no crowbar from the secular world we can use to pry them out of a tomb.” [Paul Washer, 2020 Shepherd’s Conference] – let that sink in for a moment.
You really need to listen to Paul Washer deliver that quote as it will kick you in the butt to battle the darkness. It sure kicked me in the butt.

You see, we live in a world of darkness and we’re surrounded by people living in the darkness of their own tombs – but through Jesus Christ, the light of the world, we have the ultimate weapon to battle that darkness – The Gospel of Jesus. We must wield this weapon with love and gentleness, not with frustration and force, and let the Holy Spirit blow as it may. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night – the darkness – and heard from the Light of the World. Let us, too, hear from the Light of the world…


To God be the glory as I fine tune this message. May the light of Jesus transform and lead us into the darkness.

Peace-filled Night

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” [2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV]

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27 ESV]

The sun is racing across the sky trying to reach its finish line.
There is no stopping its advance.
It will finish its course.
It will dip below the land.
Its purpose none can confine.

Soon darkness will appear on the scene seemingly covering the light.
There is no stopping its advance.
It will darken our doors.
Giving shadows center stage.
Its presence can cause some fright.

But the darkness will not win,
for Jesus is within,
and much to its chagrin,
it will take it on the chin.

So rest your weary head and your fears you can release.
There is no stopping His advance.
God our father reigns on high
His kingdom will never end.
May His love give you peace.

Making a Name

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate and recognize the giving of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. This is also the birth of the Church as the Spirit would send those first missionaries out to share the Good News of Jesus Christ; proclaiming a peace that surpasses all understanding. This is a day about God making a name for us; a name sealed forever in the Book of Life.

Below, is the opening paragraph to the sermon I will be preaching this morning. If you want to watch the rest, I invite you to visit our church website (link on the right hand side of this page) or go to YouTube and search for “Living Word Lutheran Church, Puyallup, WA). The sermon should be posted later today or early in the week. The sermon text is based in Acts 2:1-21, but I will be starting in Genesis 11:1-9 as I reference the Tower of Babel.

To God be the glory!!!

John 14:27, Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. And this fear thing is what people in this world are trying to deal with. They do this through many means, but mainly, through making a name for themselves. Through unity of purpose and thought; through being connected to a group or community of people, many hope to find intimacy, but what they find is a tower that has fallen into a heap of rumble. The only true peace and intimacy that will last, not just through this life, but for all eternity, is what we have with God through Jesus Christ as Paul tells us in Romans 5. It is a peace and intimacy, a purpose and belonging that is only made known through the Helper, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is that moment and manifestation for the believer.

Overcoming

The following is the preface to the Great Thanksgiving for Holy Communion that I wrote. It was inspired by the Gospel text (sermon text), John 16:25-33 — Jesus overcoming the world. To God be the glory!

It is indeed right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and praise to you, oh God, King of all creation. Through Jesus Christ You did battle with Satan and totally obliterated his reign in this world. You destroyed his grip on Your children; redeeming us from the pit. You gave us a victory that we could not hope to achieve on our own. Oh God, lover of our souls, You were pleased to reveal Your glory to us through Jesus Christ and what an awesome glory it is. It is for that reason that we join with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven in singing Your unending praise…

Troubled Heart One

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
[John 14:1 ESV]

Oh, why do you have a troubled heart?
Why do you worry about tomorrow?
Why do you worry about this life?
Oh troubled heart one,
Why do you get anxious about trivial things?
Why do you obsess about that which you can not change?
Why do you fear this world?
Oh, why are you so troubled?
Why?
Do you not trust Me?
Do you not understand that I have overcome this world?
Have you forgotten how much I love you?
My child,
There is nothing I can not handle.
There is no trouble too big.
There is no challenge too difficult.
There is no obstacle too tall.
There is no opponent too strong.
I can handle it.
So why is your heart troubled?
Do you need a reminder, well, do you?
Look at the cross – look at the tomb of Jesus,
What do you see?
Nothing?
That’s because Jesus has risen.
I have overcome the world.
Through Jesus, I have overcome the world for you.
Now, let’s discuss this troubled heart thing, shall we 🙂

Joy Unending

The following is the preface to the Great Thanksgiving for Holy Communion that I wrote for this morning. The inspiration is from the Gospel text, John 16:16-24. To God be the glory!

It is indeed right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and praise to you, oh God, for through the death of Jesus Christ you tore away the veil that separated us from You. Through Jesus’ resurrection You crushed the reign of Satan through the forgiveness of our sins. Now, through the Holy Spirit, we live in joy. Continue to draw us closer to You that we may know this joy more and more as we anxiously await the consummation of Your Kingdom, the coming of Your Son. And so, as we long to dine with You at Your Great Banquet table we join with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven in singing Your unending praise.