Advent Prayer — Come, Holy Spirit

Father God,
holy and awesome,
gracious and merciful;
we are at the threshold of the anniversary of your glorious and loving entry into human history.
You burst into our lives in humble means
and inaugurated the beginning of the end of Your plan;
Your plan for our redemption through Jesus Christ.
And now,
we anxiously await the coming of the bridegroom
to return to gather up his bride,
the Church;
a glorious promise of New Life.
And so,
as You sent Your Holy Spirit to Mary and Elizabeth,
send Your Holy Spirit to us now.
May we, too, be filled with joy and shout from the mountain tops
that Jesus, our Lord, is coming.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Jesus is Coming!!!

Luke 1:44 (ESV) ~ For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

If you want an excellent argument against abortion, well, an unborn child leaping for joy should do it. Don’t try to tell me an unborn child doesn’t matter. But I digress as I am not here to preach to the choir on this social issue.

Christmas is coming. Jesus is on the way. And an unborn child leaps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice; knowing that Jesus is near. How’s your leaping been as of late? Are you tired of leaping through hoops? Are you tired of leaping over life’s hurdles? Whatever the case; whether you’re tired or not, remember that Jesus is coming…and that is even better than celebrating the birthday of a 2000+ year old man. This is the birthday of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is to come.
Coming to claim you.
Coming to bring you home.
Coming to show you God.
Coming to stomp out death once and for all.
Coming to establish God’s Kingdom.
This Lord and Savior is coming for you. Has you heart leaped for joy yet? No? Then drink some coffee, pinch your arm and re-read what I just wrote.

JESUS IS COMING!!!

The Pastor -|—

Understanding Repentance Rightly

I am working through a devotional series in my YouVersion Bible app called Acts of Repentance. The first two days were great, but day three really bothered me and thus I wrote a correction for them.

Day 1 focused on Psalm 51 where David is writing following his affair with Bathsheba and subsequently being called out on it. The devotion gave a list of four things we should do: (1) Acknowledge our sin, (2) Ask for forgiveness, (3) Ask for renewal, and finally, (4) Ask God for help to use your sin to teach those who are engaged in sin and are in need of repentance. I thought that list was helpful.

Day 2 focused on Luke 13:1-8…
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.

The take away from this devotion was: (1) What fruit are you bearing in your life currently? (2) What sins do you need to repent of in order to start bearing the kind of fruit God desires. Once again, helpful.

But now, day 3…

From 1 John 1:5-10
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Here’s the beginning of the devotion that followed this text:
Repentance results in forgiveness. We repent and God forgives. Repentance and forgiveness are not difficult concepts. Repentance is our action and forgiveness is God’s reaction to us out of His perfect love for us.

NO, NO, NO!!!

What this is saying is that forgiveness is dependent on our action. True, we need to make a confession of our sin but repentance is not something we do in order to curry favor with God so that we can be forgiven, but rather repentance is something we do BECAUSE we are forgiven. Repentance is something we do to honor God because God is worthy. When we make repentance a work, then God’s grace is taken out of the picture. Remember the woman caught in adultery? The Pharisees wanted to stone her for her offense but after Jesus silenced the crowd he turned to the woman and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” The forgiveness came first and the call to repent came next. True, there was no confession on the woman’s part (at least nothing that was recorded) but the point is that Jesus didn’t wait for her to clean up her life first.

God acts first. We respond.

Thus the devotional should have read:
Forgiveness results in repentance. We repent because God forgives. Repentance and forgiveness are not difficult concepts. Forgiveness is God’s action and repentance is our reaction to God because of His perfect love for us through Jesus Christ.

There, that works. I wonder of the author of this devotion will humbly accept my correction 🙂

The Pastor -|— 

Sermon teaser ~ No Peace but Peace

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [Matthew 10:34]

Of all of the head scratching things Jesus has said this is perhaps the head scratchiest of them all. I have not come to bring peace? That doesn’t sound like Jesus, right? I mean, he is the Prince of Peace, right? In John 14 he said, 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. In Luke 2, the angels sing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! Everything we know about Jesus is one of peace. I feel at peace when I am near him. I feel at peace when I am in the Word. I feel at peace when I am praying. I think many of you could say those things as well. So, what is Jesus saying here; Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. That is what we need to explore. After all, if we are going to go out and make disciples of all nations, we had better get the message right because there are many that do not. Jesus did not come to bring peace to earth…but…he did bring peace. The issue at hand is this: What kind of peace did Jesus bring?


I can hardly wait to dive into this text 🙂

All praise and glory be unto God the Father through Christ Jesus my Lord.

The Pastor -|—

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 -|—