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 -|—

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 -|—

Worship prayers for 06/28/15 ~ Spiritual blindness

Good morning and happy Lord’s Day.

The sermon text for this morning is Mark 10:46-52. This is Jesus’ encounter with blind Bartimaeus on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. This is the last healing story of this Gospel as we head into chapter 11 with the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem (what we call Holy Week). My focus will be on spiritual blindness and the Church’s call to seek the blind with the Gospel of Jesus Christ; for when one calls out to Jesus in faith, he will stop, as he did for Bartimaeus. So the prayers are written with that theme in mind.

May your Lord’s Day be blessed as you worship our awesome God.

Let’s pray…

Opening Prayer
God of Hope, in a world filled with spiritual blindness, we come looking for Your guiding hand; seeking Your forgiveness; seeking Your Truth. For You are God almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
You are our King.
You are our Life.
You are our Light.
And so we plead with the words of the blind Bartimaeus, Lord, have mercy on us. We humbly beseech You to stop and turn to us as Jesus did on that Jericho road.
Receive our worship.
Receive our praise.
Receive our thanks.
Restore our sight.
For You are worthy and thus we are worthy of judgment, but have mercy upon us as You heal our blindness and make us so bold that our way becomes the way of Jesus. So here we are. May our worship be pleasing to Your ears, in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Prayer before Preaching
Mighty God, our great Physician, You are the opener of eyes, the healer of faith and the giver of hope. Through Jesus Christ You heard the call of the blind man and did for him what he had asked through faith, that You may be glorified. You then sent him on his way; healed and redeemed. And so we gather here on this dusty road of life as blind beggars; seeking Your Word and healing touch. May all who hear Your Word cast off all that would hinder their coming to You and may they run with haste to get a taste of Your glorious Word. So I humbly ask that You would send Your Holy Spirit to open our eyes that we may proclaim the glories of Your awesome name. Heal all the ails us, not according to our will but may Your will be done. Drive away despair. Bury our sin. Grant us hope through Jesus Christ our risen Savior, Amen.

Offering Prayer
Holy Father; giver of life, nothing we give compares to what You have done for us through Jesus Christ, but it is not about trying to out give you but rather express our thanks through our worship. So receive these gifts collected this morning as our worship to You for the advancement of Your Kingdom, and in turn, may You continue to bless us that we may bless others; for this ministry is not ours but Yours. Let our lives be a living worship service unto Your glory as we serve our neighbors in love. Through Christ Jesus our Lord we pray, Amen.

Benediction
As Jesus opened the eyes of the blind,
may your eyes be opened to the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May you see your lives as fleeting in this world but held secure in the arms of God.
May you see the plight of your neighbor and reach out with the love of our Lord.
May you see the strength of our awesome God as your strength.
May you see the spiritual blindness in this world as your calling to live boldly for God.
And may you see the way of Jesus as your way.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen

Childlike Seeking and Clinging

Good morning and God bless you all.

The preaching text for today is Mark 10:13-16; Jesus receiving the little children. The sermon focus will be seeking the kingdom of God with a childlike faith so hence the opening prayer for worship was written with this text and theme in mind:

Holy Father; mighty and victorious; compassionate and merciful, we humbly come before you with all we are and all we have; for all we are is nothing compared to Your awesome holiness and all we have is insufficient because of our sin. We are stained with the dirtiness of ourselves that is self-seeking and self-glorifying. We are stained with pride. We are stained with complacency. We are stained with the fullness of this life that leads us to eat, drink and be merry without the thought that tomorrow we may die. But grant us a childlike faith to empty ourselves of ourselves and worship you with humility and awe. May the wonder of childlike faith not be lost on us as we praise Your awesome and holy name this morning. May we run to you as a skinned-knee, tear-soaked little child; running to the loving arms of mama and daddy; holding back nothing. May we embrace You and cling to You as my little girl clings to my neck in the midst of danger.  All praise and worship be to You, Oh God, our Rock, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Worship prayers for 05-03-15

Below are some more prayers I prepared for worship tomorrow (I posted the opening prayer yesterday). The text for preaching is Mark 9:42-50. This is the text of Jesus talking about the seriousness of sin. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…” For the sermon, I begin with some opening words from Jonathan Edward’s sermon from 1741 titled, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It’s definitely one of those “fire and brimstone” type of sermons. I wish I had more time to share more from that sermon. If you haven’t read it, simply Google that sermon and you can find a copy to read. I would suggest finding an audio version to listen to.

So with that context I commend these prayers to you. May God bless your Sabbath day as you worship and praise our awesome God.

Prayer before the sermon
Oh God of power and might; worthy and righteous; holy and awesome. You hold our lives precariously in Your holy hands, and as sinners this should cause us to pause and shutter, because really, we are deserving to be dropped into the fires of hell. But You are also a God of compassion and mercy; love and forgiveness; A just God who sees our fallen-ness and our need for a Savior. So it is through Jesus Christ that we worship You and give You thanks.

Oh God, send Your Spirit that those who are here gathered, listening to Your words, may come to a holy fear of You but yet also run to You for mercy and know Your holy love. May sin be adhorant to us and may repentance be our daily worship of You. Through Jesus’ most holy name I pray, Amen.

Offering prayer
This offering here is an extension of our worship of You, oh God; as we place our lives into Your gracious and holy hands. We don’t give these gifts as an investment program; hoping to receive even more from You. We give these gifts because You are worthy and we give them as a matter of trust that You will continue to bless us to be a blessing to others. And so may these gifts bring glory to You, oh God, as we continue to share the love of Christ in this mission field. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Post-communion prayer
Holy Father, You have fed us with Your holy Word and now You have fed us with this holy food. And so with these may Your Spirit drive us to our Savior, Jesus Christ, as we humble ourselves with the fact that we are sinners worthy of hell. But through Christ’s redeeming work, You have shown amazing mercy. Send us forth, now, to live lives of worship and praise of You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Worship prayers for 04/26/15 (Belonging to Christ)

I offer these prayers to you for the glory of God; prayers written/compiled for worship on Sunday. A common thread running through many of these prayers is the theme of “belonging to Christ”. The sermon text is Mark 9:38-41 with the focus verse: [41] For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. 

May God be glorified in our worship.

Opening prayer [the italicized portion are the words of Charles Spurgeon]
“Hallowed be Thy Name.” Oh that all the earth would ever reverence it. As for ourselves, enable us by Thy grace to use it with awe and trembling; and may a consideration of the glorious character which is intended by Thy gracious name, ever lay us in the very dust before Thee, and yet lift us up with holy joy and with an unwavering confidence. We come before Thee this morning through Christ Jesus to express our entire confidence in Thee. Oh God, may our songs and praises be pleasing to your ears as we come before You in humble obedience. All praise and worship to you, holy Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prayer before the sermon
Holy Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, for You are worthy, oh God. May we be found faithful and obedient to Your Word and to Your commands. So please send Your Holy Spirit to give life to the words that I speak here this morning; that they may create and/or nourish faith. May the ears of those listening be turned away from me and directed towards You. May any praise that comes from the lips of those listening be directed towards You and not towards me. And therefore may all praise and glory and honor and worship be to You, holy Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prayer after the sermon
Once again, holy Father, I ask that Your Holy Spirit may take the words I have spoken here and use them for Your glory. May those hearing these words this morning see their lives as belonging to Jesus, for without Jesus there is no life. It’s a hard thing to be submissive like this; to turn everything over to Jesus; including our very lives, but it’s our very lives You came to redeem from sin and death and the power of Satan. So send us forth as beloved children belonging to You through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Offering prayer
We offer these gifts this morning as an act of faith and worship; remembering that all that we have belongs to You. Be pleased to use them for Your glory and multiply these gifts as You see fit to advance Your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom we belong, Amen.

Benediction/Blessing [based on Colossians 1:11-14]
May you be strengthened with all power, according to HIS glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. So go and make disciples; proclaiming this Good News, as people belonging to Jesus. Amen.

May the joy of the Lord give you hope and peace this day and always.

The Pastor -|—

Belonging to Christ (Mark 9:41)

“For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” [Mark 9:41]

The text for preaching on Sunday is Mark 9:38-41. And as I pray about and ponder this text I am caught by the phrase, “belong to Christ”.

And as I reflect on this phrase a few thoughts come to mind:
~ There is a big difference between Christ belonging to you and belonging to Christ.

~ Saying, “I’m a Christian” is not the same as belonging to Christ, often that simply reflects that Christ belongs to you.

~ If Christ belongs to you then you are in control of the relationship.

~If you belong to Christ, He is in control of the relationship, and you’re glad about that.

~ Belonging to Christ implies commitment and love.

~ Christ belonging to you implies manipulation.

~ If Christ belongs to you then you are less apt to share that which belongs to you.

~ If you belong to Christ you are more apt to shout this from the mountains tops and worship him.

Just a few thoughts as I prepare for the sermon on Sunday. What do you think? Does anything here resonant with you? What does it mean to you to say, “I belong to Christ”?

Here’s what it means to me:
Jesus is Lord of my life. He has saved me through his death and resurrection and therefore I owe him everything; especially including my very life. On my own I am weak and vulnerable but under Christ’s Lordship I am safe in his loving arms. But that’s not why I gather under his wings like chicks with a hen. I am drawn to Christ because of his awesome love for me; a love that I know will never fail despite the fact that I am a miserable sinner. And so therefore, I worship Christ and praise his name. I belong to Christ and gladly submit to him.

Now you’re turn…

Holy Father, thank you for coming to us in Jesus Christ. My life is yours. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

The Pastor -|—

Holy Monday ~ Victory Is Coming

And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
[Mark 11:7-10]

Yesterday was Palm Sunday; the beginning of Holy Week; as Jesus rode victorious into Jerusalem. But as you begin this holiest of weeks I invite you to ponder this triumphal entry.

Think about it…

…Jesus rode into the city as a king returning from battle, but in this case, Jesus was claiming victory before the actual battle.  The cross (Good Friday) is still a few days away and his resurrection a couple days after that, but yet, Jesus is claiming victory now and giving hope to a hopeless people.

For you, here in 2015, the cross has happened; death has been defeated; and the victory definitely has been won and given to you through faith in Jesus. But now we wait. We wait for Jesus to return with a trumpet blast to bring us home. And as Jesus knew the outcome of the battle before it was fought; through faith we too can know the outcome of our battle in this life. For you see, we still battle Satan, sin and death. We still battle sorrow, pain and sadness. We still battle temptation.

But…

…through faith in Jesus you can know the final victory that is to come. Through faith in Jesus you can know that forgiveness will be declared when you confess your sins. Through faith in Jesus you can know that death will not be the end. That right there is hope in a chaotic and scary world.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV)

Your glory in Jesus Christ is coming; so ride into and through this life, claiming the victory Jesus claimed for you through his death and resurrection; all the while, submitting to Jesus as Lord and King. You will still ride through dark valleys, but because of Jesus and faith in him, you can rest assured that green pastures and still waters are waiting for you (Psalm 23).

Isn’t it comforting to know victory is coming before and during the battle?
Praise be to God!

Awesome God, Jesus won the victory over Satan, sin and death through the cross. May that victory give strength and hope to us in this world as we look forward to and long for the day that we rejoice and worship You forever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Opening prayer ~ Listen to Jesus

The following is the opening prayer I wrote for worship where I am preaching on Mark 9:1-13; the transfiguration of Jesus. The words of that text that captured my attention are the words from God to Peter, James and John when God says, “This is my beloved son, listen to him” 

May you listen to Jesus this morning and always.

Let’s pray…

Oh God, through the transfiguration of Jesus, Your son, you gave those disciples, and us, a glimpse of Your glory. You showed us who Jesus is and for that we bring our worship this morning. You also commanded us to listen to him, but we don’t listen. We don’t obey. Instead, we go our own way. May Your Word draw us in and may we listen intently as You, and You alone, have the words of eternal life. May Your words send us forth to be Kingdom people in this pagan world. And may we not be so content to set up camp here, but may we bravely and boldly leave this mountain top and enter the valley; the shadow of death. But in the shadows may we be guided by the Shepherd’s staff. So holy God, receive our praise here this morning and speak those words of Life and instill in us the faith to listen to your son, Jesus Christ, in whom we pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Dead fish and Salmon (Mark 8:34-38)

A fun “tip” my dad used to share when I was young:
“Only dead fish go with the flow all the time.”

And then you have the opposite:
Salmon struggle to swim up stream to find a place to spawn and lay their eggs.

[Now cue the theologizing of the Pastor as he works on the Sunday sermon]

Only dead fish (“Christians”) go with the flow (of culture) all the time.

Salmon (true Christ followers) struggle to swim up stream (deny themselves and pick up their cross and follow Jesus) to find a place to spawn and lay their eggs (share the Gospel and bring glory to God).

Hmmm…that could work.

Any thoughts on this?

The Pastor -|—