Nothing

Holy, awesome and mighty God,
I praise and worship You,
for through Jesus Christ I am sure that
neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present
nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate me from Your love.
And so may I live with patience and hope
knowing that I have already won the victory through faith.
In Jesus Christ I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Living Worship

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [Romans 12:1]

Weekly gathering for corporate worship is just part of what we do as members of the body of Christ. We worship not to become Christians, we worship because we are Christians. Worship is not a have to; a duty, but rather a get to; a want to; a joy. That’s part of our worship life. Another part of our worship life happens “Monday through Saturday” as we present our bodies; our very lives to God. We offer our lives to God as a living sacrifice; forsaking all others and all things; placing God first. We live in such a way that is different from the world and that, right there, is really what is at the core of worship. You see, everyone worships. It is just a matter of who or what. What makes Christians different; holy, is that we worship a living, eternal God, not a finite, powerless god. We worship a God that is holy and thus demands that we be holy. God does not demand just part of our life, but the whole thing.

When you present your body to God as an act of worship you are saying to God, “Here I am. Mold me, shape me, guide me, direct me. Help me be more like Jesus. Help me be more holy as You are holy. Here I am, all of me.”  Don’t mistake worship as a weekly event but rather see your worship as a 24/7 way of life that submits to and glorifies God. When we divide our worship out or only present part of our bodies/lives to God, there is conflict and tension within our lives and our very being but when our whole being and life is presented to God, then you are at peace. Don’t divide your life up, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. In the words of a popular praise and worship song…

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

The Pastor -|—

Death is No More

Death is the stark reality that we must face every single day, and therefore this is the motivation behind Jesus’ ministry. He was on a death-destroying mission. So when Jesus comes face to face with death, while at Lazarus’ tomb, he is moved to deep and powerful emotion that gives us a glimpse into what kept him focused on the cross. Jesus is so angry at sin that he is obedient to the Father’s will and stays on the cross even though he had the power to call down a legion of angels to protect him. Jesus remains on the cross because the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23) Jesus defeats death and thus we have hope. Now, our weeping is not over death’s victory. We weep because we will miss our loved ones but also, through faith in Jesus, we can weep tears of joy over what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Cling to the hope of the resurrection, oh weary soul.

The Pastor -|—

.blog

Hey all,

The Heart of a Pastor is now the owner of http://www.heartofapastor.blog.  I decided to streamline my blog address as the new .blog domain names just became available. This shouldn’t mess people up (too much). I believe my old (and longer) address will redirect you to my site.

In any case, nothing is changing with this site, just the shorter address. So to close, I am not going to leave with you just an administrative update but rather with the Word of God:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Have a great day 🙂

The Pastor -|—

Don’t be a Jerk

I saw a Facebook post recently that said:

“Sometimes the best evangelism is simply telling people you’re a Christian and then not being a complete jerk.”

There is some truth to that but it definitely does not go far enough in today’s world. There are way too many people who claim to be a Christian but do not follow Jesus (which doesn’t make sense to me). For some, “Christian” is just a title to be used when it suits them but when opposition comes the title is abandoned. Then there are people who claim the title “Christian” but under a new and “relevant” definition. It’s like a Twitter post I saw recently,

“Saying you’re a new kind of Christian with a new kind of Christianity is basically saying you’re an old kind of heretic.” [Burk Parsons]

To “simply” say you’re a Christian doesn’t tell me much now days, which is kind of sad. “Christian” used to mean something but now it is just a watered down title. So now what? Well, you can’t simply tell people you are a Christian and then not be a complete jerk. In today’s world, Jesus-following Christians need to confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead. That is salvation and that is the message that needs to be proclaimed.
Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus died for you.
Jesus was raised for you.
Through faith, when you confess your sins, you are forgiven.

So don’t “simply” stop at Christian, but confess with your mouth what you believe in your heart…and THEN don’t be a complete jerk.

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Play God

image

You know, it’s just not worth it…

Someone does something evil to you and you do something evil back, and then that someone does something evil back to you for the evil you did back to them for the evil they did to you and then you do something else evil back to them for the evil they did to you for what evil you did back to them for the evil they did to you and then…

It’s just not worth it, but rather…

Someone does something evil to you and you respond with something good; messing with their heads.

[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21 ESV)

Or that works too.

Let God be God.
Let God deal with evil.

Besides, you don’t bring glory to God if you are playing God. So bring glory to God by doing good to everyone and always. And think about it, isn’t it more fun to mess with people’s head AND bring glory to God than to get caught up in evil and thus destruction? And you never know if your head-messing might just get to their heart…

…and thus bring glory to God.

Yup, that sounds better 🙂

Let the head-messing commence.

Father God, may I have the faith to respond with good rather than evil and thus bring You glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

“See you later”

No, I am not going anywhere…

[I’m imagining sighs of relief from 10s of people out there :-)]

…but rather this is something I learned from a saint of this congregation nearly 11 years ago.

Still wet behind the ears; I began serving and serving with Salem Lutheran Church on June 1, 2004. I was fresh off of seminary graduation on May 23 and wondering what in the world I was doing.  My ordination was coming up on July 2 and my own wedding on July 3. My head was spinning from a busy May, from what was coming up and from just moving into the parsonage over Memorial Day weekend and then jumping into the saddle. And it was a saddle that I thought, a month previous, I would jump into after the wedding, but Salem wanted me sooner and I thank God that I began when I did.

I preached my first sermon at Salem that following Sunday, June 6 but then was gone the next Sunday (June 13) for synod assembly. A few days later I would meet a family and a saint of this congregation that would change how I look at funerals forever. Hence, my gratitude for starting when I did.

Shirley was dying, and the family called me in. I hadn’t met this family yet and they had not met me. I rushed to see Shirley and was blessed we got to see each other before she died shortly after that. While planning for worship I learned a lot about Shirley and became even more saddened that I did not have the chance to get to know her when she was alive. One of the things I learned about Shirley, though, was that she never said “good bye” to people. Shirley believed that in Christ there is no such thing as “good bye“; only “see you later“.

The theology of that made sense to me but I had never heard it in such a way nor met anyone who lived it quite like Shirley did. And to this day, I share that quote with families and friends at nearly every funeral I preside at. No, I am not making a God-like judgment on someone’s salvation but rather proclaiming the truth of Romans 6 as Shirley lived:

[3] Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [4] We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Through faith, Shirley believed she was united to Christ; and therefore, if you placed your faith in Jesus, then Shirley believed she would see you again. Seems like a logical conclusion to make and one that brings great joy to this believer.

And now today, I am planning a funeral service for Shirley’s widow, Jim, and thus this flood of memories flowing out of my fingers and onto this keyboard. Meeting with the family; children I haven’t seen in nearly 11 years, we seemed to have picked up where we left off.

What a holy time.

And I so I remember, share with you and hold dear what Shirley taught us about the Good News of Jesus, and I smile 🙂

See you later, Shirley.
See you later, Jim.
See you later fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

And praise be to God!

Holy God, through faith in Jesus You unite us to his death and resurrection. May that Good News continue to give strength to Shirley and Jim’s family and may that Good News bring joy to all who call themselves Your children. You are an awesome God and we praise Your name always and forever; in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—