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 -|—

Filling the hole

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” [Luke 4:8]

Jesus was offered power and prestige and influence and fame. Jesus was offered the world.

But there was a catch (isn’t there always)…

…Jesus had to bow down and worship the prince of this world, Satan. He had to give away his heart and soul for something that would never last. Simply pledge his allegiance to the worker of death and Jesus would have “his heart’s desire”. The problem is that Jesus’ heart’s desire is YOU, not this world and so Satan was spinning his wheels with Jesus, but he gets plenty of headway with us.

As sinners, we seek after that which only leads to death. Satan offers us the world and we take the deal. Satan offers us pleasures now and we take the deal. Satan offers us peace now and we take the deal. The problem is that our true heart’s desire is not in this world. We were made for God but with sin in the picture we have a God shaped hole in our heart that we try to fill with other pursuits. And Satan is more than glad to help you fill that hole with anything and everything that is not God.

But the hole NEVER gets filled.

Sometimes a deal comes along that seems to fit pretty well, but not perfectly. But it’s better than nothing so we follow the giver of this gift and pledge our allegiance. We give our souls to the pursuit of money and more money. We put vicarious living into that God-shaped hole; thinking our children’s athletic success will satisfy; but it never does. We listen to Satan’s sales pitch that includes fame and success and power and we’re intrigued; not putting any consideration into the price of the deal. We give our hearts away to the gods of this world, through sin, hoping and hoping that the hole gets filled.

But the hole NEVER gets filled…that way.

Jesus says, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

This command is a gift.

This command is one that turns our attention to God; who is worthy, because of what God does to fill that God-shaped hole in your heart. Jesus’ death and resurrection is what is takes to fill that hole, anything else will leave gaps that will ooze and drain life and peace out of you. Nothing that Satan offers will fill the gaps. Nothing that this world promises will stop the follow of life and peace out of you.

Nothing, nothing, nothing!

If you want that hole in your heart completely and totally filled, then Jesus is it. So when the too-good-to-be-true deal comes your way, simply look Satan in the face and say:

You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

Praise be to God and Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Something more

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. [Luke 12:29-31]

Life is more than food.
Life is more than having a roof over your head.
Life is more than having the newest, popular gadget.
Life is more than having an athletically successful child.
Life is more than having the right friends.
Life is more than good health.
Life is more than money.
Life is more…

Yet we seek and seek
Yet we search and search
Yet we long and long

for something more.

Sometimes we find something “more” but it’s not complete; it’s not “more” enough.

So we search some more and more and more and…
What a vicious, never ending cycle.

Ugh!

Will we ever learn?
Will we ever figure out that God knows what we truly need?
Will we ever accept God’s loving kindness?

Lord help us.

Let our seeking be for the Kingdom of God.
Let our searching be for that which is already clear: Jesus.
Let our longing be for communion with God.

And may we see that, with Jesus, we had more all along.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Be nice and love…EVERYONE

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. [Luke 6:35-36]

Wow, that’s a tough one. Love my enemies? Do good to them and lend to them? Expect nothing in return? This seems to be asking a lot. And why should I do all of this since my enemies have very little interest in loving me or doing good to me or even lending to me?

In a culture of, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, we are not used to returning good for evil. If someone hurts you then you withhold love and goodness as a form of punishment. But more than that, we often withhold love and goodness as a way to protect ourselves from further injury and pain. We have a tendency to distance ourselves from our enemies

But this is not the way of the Gospel.

Instead, Jesus says love your enemies. What better way to proclaim the Gospel than to show love to those who are not expecting it or to those the world is not expecting you to show love to. This is the whole “heaping burning coals on their head” (Romans 12:20-21) thing; that we should not be overcome by evil but over come evil with good. A tall order. A difficult task. An awesome command.

Lord have mercy and help me.

But consider something else: Who are we to call people evil when we ourselves are evil? That’s right, God shows love and goodness and mercy to you and me; filthy sinners; evil; enemies of God. God sent Jesus to die for us because we are evil and sinful. God did not withhold his love from us even though in the economics of this world he had every right to do so. This, my friends, is what makes God’s love through Jesus Christ so amazing…

It’s undeserved.

Therefore, what better way to show God’s love than to love those we consider enemies, because who knows, we might win a new friend. Better yet, we might win a new brother/sister in Christ.

As God loves you through Jesus Christ, love one another…EVERYONE, to the praise and glory of God our Father.

Have a glorious and blessed day 🙂

The Pastor -|—