To Be a Witness

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
[Luke 24:45-49]

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
[Acts 1:8]

Holy God,
through Jesus Christ
You have called me to be Your witness
to the ends of the earth.
And why not, for…
I have seen your glory,
I have heard the truth,
I have tasted that You are good,
my sins have been forgiven,
I have been given hope,
I have been redeemed.

This is joyous news, so…

May the Good News of Jesus,
that has transformed me, now,
always be upon my lips.
Reveal to me opportunities to witness to the resurrection
that those who see and hear
may be drawn to You.
May I never hold back.
May I never seek self-glorification.
May I never twist the truth.
May I never judge.
For I am called to be a witness,
to all the world;
to all people.
All worship, praise, honor and glory
be unto You,
o
h God,
through Christ Jesus my Lord,
Amen.

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 -|—

My Abba

Holy Father,
Jesus said, “let the little children
come to me and do not hinder them,
for to such as these belongs the
Kingdom.”
Oh God,
may I have the child-like faith
to run into Your holy arms.
May I receive Your Gospel as a baby excitedly receives their milk.
May I cling to Jesus as tightly as my children do to me as I try to leave for work.
May I gaze upon You as a newborn does unto their parents.
Holy Father,
I thank You that You do not hinder me coming to You.
I may stumble and fall along the way,
but You are quick to scoop me up.
Loving Father,
here I am; hold me.
My Abba. My God.
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Narrow Door

God of grace and mercy,
through Jesus Christ You paved the way
through the narrow door
and by Your Holy Spirit
You give us access through faith.
Keep us on the straight and narrow
as Satan works to lead us astray.
Grant us boldness of faith
to resist the wide and easy gate
that leads to destruction.
All praise and glory be unto You,
oh God,
through Christ Jesus our Lord,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Change

And going into the house they (The magi) saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. [Matthew 2:11-12]

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. [Luke 2:20]

And Jesus said to him (Bartimaeus, who used to be blind), “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. [Mark 10:52]

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he (Jesus) saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus [Matthew 4:18-20]

What do all these texts have in common? It’s OK, you can go back and read them again. I’ll wait…

[Cue Jeopardy theme]

…waiting…

…waiting…

…did you see it?

In all these situations/encounters, the people leave changed. They encountered Jesus and they are changed. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God. The Magi returned by another way (and I would say figuratively as well; meaning THE Way). Bartimaeus listened to Jesus and went “his way” which happened to be the way of Jesus. Peter and Andrew meet Jesus and when invited/commanded to follow, they dropped everything and followed.

And it makes sense, really. I mean, how does one meet Jesus and not be changed? How does one encounter the Son of God and return to your former way of life? How does one hear, “I love you and I forgive you” and say “That’s nice“? How does one receive the Gospel and not say anything about it?

Jesus changes people.

And so I am lead to conclude that if you are not making your way the way of Jesus then maybe you haven’t met Jesus yet. If you are not proclaiming the Gospel through word and deed then maybe you haven’t received it yet. If you are just going with the flow of culture then maybe you haven’t been confronted by the Son of Man. For you see, when the Good News of Jesus Christ takes hold of you, it takes hold of you. I am not saying that you will be perfect in your following but at least you will know where to turn when you do fall. You will care about the fact that you sinned against God and therefore will seek reconciliation through the blood of the Lamb. Repentance will be your desire. Holiness will be your goal. Worship of God Almighty will be your life.

Jesus changes people.

Therefore I can’t imagine peering into that manger stall without being blown away by the love that had just entered the world through a tiny baby. I can’t imagine standing face to face with Jesus and not dropping everything to be near him. I can’t imagine being powerfully healed by Jesus and not shouting “Alleluia!” for all the world to hear.

Jesus changes people.

I look at what is going on in the world and it saddens me but I am not angry with people. I am not angry with our government. I am not angry with our leaders. I am just saddened because I am part of an institution that has not done enough to introduce people to Jesus. But instead of just sitting here feeling sorry for myself, I need to do a better job of introducing/proclaiming Jesus.

~ Being more bold in my faith
~ Being more bold in practicing forgiveness
~ Being more bold in encouraging people
~ Being more bold in calling people to repentance
~ Being more bold in advocating for the Word of God
~ Being more bold…(God, You fill in the blank)

Change me, oh God, to be who You need me to be for the sake of the Gospel.

Meet Jesus and then “go your way“; following the one who has redeemed you from your sin and show people the love our your Savior. Let the Holy Spirit work through your life and give praise and glory to God our Father.

Let Jesus change you that he may change the world.

Holy Father, send Your Spirit to change people. Send Your Spirit to embolden people. Send Your Spirit to save people. And in the end may Your children praise and worship You. Glory be to You, oh God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Preparing for worship ~ Sight

This is the opening prayer I wrote for worship this morning and I share it with you as you prepare for worship.

So…

Let’s come before God with thanksgiving and praise; holding nothing back. Let’s come before God in all humility. May God’s name be lifted up and honored. See and believe. Hear and receive. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Let’s pray together…

Sovereign God, giver of life, giver of peace, giver of sight; accept our praise here this morning, even though it is still not sufficient; for You are worthy of so much more than what we give.

Oh God, we are so filled with sin that we can not see Your beauty. And because of our dimness of sight, we get distracted by the powers of this world and seek after other gods, blindly following them. When Satan presents to us the kingdoms of the world, we don’t turn him down as your son did in the wilderness. Rather, we joyful accept the offer thinking we will be happy and fulfilled, but it doesn’t take long to realize that that too is not sufficient.

But only You, oh God, through Jesus Christ, can fill our hearts to overflowing and bring us a peace that surpasses all understanding. So may you grant us the sight to see Your son as our Savior, and not the gods of this world. May we see in Jesus the gateway to eternal life and may we have the faith to turn Satan’s offer down. And not only the faith, but the strength to stare down Satan and send him away.

Father God, restore in your children, here, the joy of falling in your arms and resting in your love. Grant us humble hearts to hear and accept that we are sinners, and grant us the determination to turn away from sin in order to glorify you to the max and to see Your beauty.

Holy God, we worship your holy name and lift our praises to you. Hear us, receive us, restore our sight. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Much Sin. Much Love

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” [Luke 7:47]

Your love of God is proportional to the sin that has been forgiven you.

If you believe your sins are not that bad or that someone else is a worse sinner; if you believe you are doing fine, then your love of God will be reflected in your faulty view of reality.

Very little love.

You will not obey as you should and you will not worship as you should. And it makes sense, if you think you’re not that bad then why would you need Jesus. Your thankfulness will be empty and your praise will be shallow and your worship will be silent.

But if you believe you have been forgiven much; that your sins are many; that you deserve the worse place in hell (if there is such a thing) then your love of God will be reflected as such.

Very much love

You will then be driven to obey and worship God. You will be driven to glorify God’s name and honor it. You will be driven to proclaim the name of Jesus through your words and actions. Which makes sense. If you believe you have received the best gift of all time, then there is no way you are going to keep it quiet AND there’s no way you’re going to turn your back on the giver.

But we do.

We turn our backs on God.
We don’t worship as we ought.
We don’t obey as we should.
We don’t proclaim the name of Jesus loud enough.
We don’t love much.

Miserable sinners that we are.

Oh God, forgive me.

Our sin is ever before us, our condemnation is just but God’s mercy and grace and compassion is endless.

Praise be to God!

We are in the midst of Lent; a season of reflection and self-examination. A season of remembering and contemplating our sinfulness. A season of repentance and drawing closer to God. So I urge you, brothers and sisters, to reflect on your sinfulness and the fact that you deserve hell. Reflect on your mortality and the fact that your bodies are decaying until death.

from dust you came and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

Remember your sin and then contemplate the cross; that Jesus died there and then rose from the grave that your sins would be forgiven. Accept the fact that you have sinned much but through faith in Jesus you have been forgiven much. Try to wrap your brain and heart around that and then worship and praise this awesome God of ours.

You are a sinner, but God our Father is our redeemer through Jesus Christ. Turn to Him and love much and praise much and worship much.

What an awesome God!

May you see your sin as filthy and therefore your sentence of death. May you see Jesus as your Savior. May your love overflow for the God of creation.

Have a great day worshiping God in every second of your life.

The Pastor -|—