Misplaced Fear

And Herodias had a grudge against him (John the Baptist) and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
Mark 6:19‭-‬20 ESV

Herod feared John.
Herod knew John was a righteous and holy man.
Herod listened to John.
Herod was perplexed by John yet gladly heard him.

THUS…

Herod protected John — for awhile — until his fear of man trumped his fear of John.

Hmmm…interesting, isn’t it. Herod feared and respected John the Baptist and gladly heard him, but nothing about fearing God. Nothing about wanting to know more about this Messiah to which John was pointing. Herod was simply fascinated with the man (John), not God, thus his “fear” was not firmly grounded.

And herein lies the issue — the fear of man verses the fear of God. The fear of man will only take you so far and will eventually betray you and/or the one you claim to fear. The faith-filled fear of God will keep you in awe and never betray you, and will rightly direct your worship.

It’s sad, really, as this worldly fear leads people into false worship. This is evident in how people view /think of Christian worship. The delivery or form or the service itself becomes the object of one’s worship. One’s fear of how worship is done soon captures their heart and veils the one they claim to fear/worship.
They fear not being entertained.
They fear something going wrong.

When these becomes the main fears, then God is not glorified. How can God be glorified when people want…

…entertainment, not worship
…form, not substance
…creature, not Creator
…words, not the Word
…Easter, not Good Friday
…absolution, not confession
…comfort, not suffering

They fear man, not God.

May you not adopt the ways of Herod but walk in the Way of Jesus.
May your fear not be misplaced.
May your worship be directed towards “entertaining” God not in being entertained.

May you be greatly “perplexed” about God, so much so, that you are driven, more and more, to hear God, more and more gladly, so much so, that your holy fear of God is nurtured and cultivated in such a way that God is glorified in every way in your life.

Amen!

The Pastor -|—

Ascribe

Holy God, loving Father,
You anointed Jesus in the Jordan River
and proclaimed him Your beloved Son,
but all too often I overlook this very important fact;
that Jesus is not just your Son
but Your Son who died as the
perfect,
spotless lamb
for the atonement of our sins.
May I be drawn into an ever deeper understanding
of the divine nature of our Lord and Savior,
so much so,
that I ascribe to You what is due Your holy name;
for to see and know Jesus
is to see and know You.
All glory, strength and honor
be ascribed unto You,
oh God,
through Christ Jesus my Lord.
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Seed Sowing in Satan’s Face

In reading the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-20, I am quickly reminded that the call and the joy of the Christian is to sow the Word of God. The joy comes from the fact we are sinners but that God offers forgiveness of our sins by His grace through Jesus Christ. And through this forgiveness, we have the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.

This is the Gospel.
This is the Good News.
This is AMAZING news!

And yet, we often see evangelism as a chore or as something to do later if we have time or something reserved for a certain committee or (and this is my favorite) it is something reserved strictly for the pastor.

Maybe this inattention to evangelism comes from the fact that, more times than not, you get beaten up when you try to seed sow. Maybe someone strongly rejects your Gospel presentation. Maybe someone tells you to keep your faith to yourself. Maybe someone argues with you to the point of exhaustion. Maybe you have been shot down too many times to count and you’re just plain tired of getting hurt or embarrassed. Whatever the case, it serves as a reminder that Satan is hard at work. Whenever you are sharing your faith or trying to present the Gospel or stand up for what you believe, Satan is right there to make life difficult. And he should because the Gospel threatens Satan.

But we must keep seed sowing.
We must keep spreading the Gospel.
We must keep telling people that there is hope.
We must keep showing people Jesus.

For when we stop, Satan wins and thus he laughs.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, seed sowing is hard but look at the bright side. If seed sowing is difficult and it feels like you are being resisted every step of the way, then maybe you’re doing something right. In that case, keep on going in the strength of the Lord and mock Satan knowing that Jesus stands with you and that Satan can not possibly win.

And that is cause to laugh in Satan’s face and praise be to God always and forever!

The Pastor -|—

Waiting ~ A Prayer

The sermon text for today is Mark 13:32-37. May God be praised as you worship.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
[Mark 13:32-33]

Creator and Redeeming God,
from the beginning of time;
when sin entered this world,
You have been guiding us to redemption.
You sent Your Son, Jesus,
to live and die and rise
that we may be forgiven and thus brought back to You.

And now,in the interim, we wait.

We wait for the glorious coming of our Lord.
We wait with longing expectation.
We wait with eagerness.
We wait with hope.

And when Jesus does return,
may we not be found lacking.
May we not be found sleeping.
May we not be found distracted.

When Jesus returns,
may we be found doing the very things that we should be doing;
glorifying your most holy name.

So tune our hearts to You as we hear Your Word.
May we always live with joy in our hearts at the coming of our Lord
as we live each day as THE day of Jesus’ return.

All glory,
honor,
praise
and worship
be to You now and always,

Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Soon and Very Soon ~ A Prayer

A prayer before preaching on Mark 13:14-31…

Heavenly Father,
Holy God,
Mighty Lord,

we praise you, this morning,
that through faith in Jesus Christ
we can sing with all confidence:
Soon and very soon,
we are going to see the King.
A place where there is no more dying or crying.

What great joy it is to sing this hymn;
hearing You speak words of reassurance through our song.

May we cling to this hope
and may we look
and wait
with longing expectation
the arrival of our King,
Jesus Christ.

May we not grow complacent
and may we not lose hope through tribulation.

And so speak to us.
May Your Spirit move through Your holy Word,
bringing faith to to those who do not believe
and increased hope and confidence
to those who call upon Your holy name.

And so may the words of my mouth
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable to You,
oh God,
through Christ Jesus our Lord
and coming King,

Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Loving God and Neighbors ~ A Prayer

The following prayer is in preparation to preach the Word of the Lord from Mark 12:28-34. This is the account of a Scribe asking Jesus what is the greatest Law; which loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength AND loving your neighbor as yourself.

So may God speak to Your heart this morning and send you out to serve Him through loving your neighbor out of your love for Him.

Holy Father,
we would not know love outside of You
for You are love.
We would not know how to truly love our neighbor outside of You
for You are love.

Many who do not know You, love others
but not in the way that brings You glory.
And so I ask that those here gathered,
who do not know You,
may come to know You in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And in knowing You,
love others with a love that only comes from You.

May You fill hearts,
so much so,
that we are driven to learn and live You holy Law;
obeying You and thus
showing love to our neighbor.
May our obedience bring You glory
and may our love of our neighbors point them to You.
I pray this through Christ Jesus our Lord,
who loved us all the way through the cross and through the grave,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Worship prayers for 08-16-15 ~ The Image of God

I am back.

I was off last week for some continuing education and now I am looking forward to getting back into the pulpit and worshiping with the saints/sinners of Salem and Belmont. It’s nice to take a break once in a while but I do itch to get back into the saddle, as it were.

So here you go, the prayers/blessings I prepared for worship this morning. The preaching text is Mark 12:13-17 where Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ question about taxes: Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. What strikes me is that Jesus draws their attention to the image on a coin and then says render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But what is God’s? Well, we are created in God’s image, so therefore what is God’s is that which bears His image. You and me. So this morning I am playing with this glorious reality of being created in God’s image.

May your corporate worship time be pleasing to God Almighty and may you leave refreshed for ministry out in the world; bringing glory to God. Let us pray and praise our God…

Opening Prayer
Holy Father, we enter this time of worship with joy and thanksgiving. We come before with all that we are to perform for You. We enter this space with no other expectation than to sing praises to Your holy name. For this time is not about us. It is not about what we get out of it. It is not about us feeling good. This is about You and You alone for You are worthy of all our attention. You are worthy of all our focus. You are worthy. So may this corporate time of worship be pleasing to You and may our lives the rest of the week be ones that deflect all attention to You, oh Lord, as we continue our worship 24/7. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Prayer before Preaching
Creator God, you created us in Your most glorious image. You created us with a purpose. You created us to worship you. But many have turned to worship the creature rather than You, the Creator. Many have turned away, rendering to Caesar that which belongs to You. Holy God, loving father, may You send Your Holy Spirit that these words may pack the punch needed to turn people back to You and render to You that which is due to You. May people see You as Creator and redeemer, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Post-Communion Blessing
Now may the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ embolden your words and deeds as you live as forgiven sinners; saved by grace through faith, and proclaim the life and death of Jesus to the glory of God our Father. Let us pray…

Post-Communion Prayer
You have fed us with this holy food; the body and blood of Jesus, and now You send us out into this mission field. Strengthen our faith to speak boldly of Your Kingdom and may we be ever mindful of the fact that we are Your image bearers. To you be honor and glory, forever and ever, Amen.

The Pastor -|—