Hang in there

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. [Matthew 10:24-25]

Doing some reading for this Sunday’s sermon, I came across this little nugget from Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew“Everyone who wants a safe, carefree life free from danger should stay away from Jesus. The world responds with hostility  to Him. So as we are conformed to Christ more and more, the world will respond to us more and more as they responded to Him. If you want to avoid being betrayed, hated, or persecuted, then don’t become like Christ.

Yup, sounds about right.

Oh, and one more thing. Jesus also said to his disciples, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Don’t forget that promise.

Basically, if you are doing things right then the world will definitely let you know it, but don’t be scared away. He who is with us is greater than they who are with them. Glorify God through standing firm.

The Pastor -|—

Sermon thoughts ~ John 11:1-41

In John chapter 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. He hears that Lazarus is sick and then waits four days. Had he left earlier, Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying, but Jesus waits that God may be glorified. Upon arriving, Jesus meets Martha and then Mary ~ “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Upon asking where they have laid him, they say, “Come and see”. At this we have one of the most famous verses in the Bible, probably because of it’s brevity.

“Jesus wept”

Question: Why did Jesus weep?

Jesus is the Son of God
Jesus can raise the dead
Jesus seemed to know that his delay would end in the dead of Lazarus
Jesus knows what he can do

So, why did Jesus weep?

I contend that Jesus is not weeping over the death of Lazarus but rather over the hopeless weeping that the others are doing. Do Mary and Martha not know Jesus well enough to know that he can raise Lazarus?

So Jesus raises Lazarus. He walks out of the tomb and he tells the people to unbind him. Word then begins to spread, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders. When you see people in hopeless despair, how do you show them Jesus? How do you show them that there is hope? How do you help people move from tears of despair to tears of Joy?

Just some thoughts. What say you?

The Pastor -|—

Speaking ~ good; silence ~ bad

I am finishing the sermon for tomorrow and wanted to share this little tid bit with you before I posting the prayer I wrote for the closing of the sermon:

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14, Jesus is on trial before the high priest. During the trial, (false) witnesses came forward with testimony against Jesus, but with one glaring problem: Their testimony did not agree. More witnesses came forward but still could not agree. And when asked by the high priest to answer these charges, Jesus remained silent. At this point, there was nothing to convict Jesus and thus remaining silent could have meant his freedom because after all, the truth was on his side but also THE Truth was on his side, and thus silence is not an option.

So the high priest eventually chimes in to ask if Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus breaks his silence to speak the Truth; signing his own death certificate. All Jesus had to do, to save his life, was remain silent, but he spoke the Truth to set you free.

And what about you, do you remain silent about the Truth of God; about the Gospel. Sure, it may be easier to remain silent in this world that is hell bent on discrediting Christians, but what does that silence achieve? To remain silent may secure your comfort but it may mean eternal death for someone else if they don’t hear about Jesus. Silence may be easy for you but it may come with a high cost for someone else.

But really, if you truly know the Truth of God through Jesus Christ, how does one keep silent. Speak, for the truth has already set you free. Let’s pray…

All honor, glory and worship be unto You,
oh God,
for the awesome gift of life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All thanksgiving be to You
for giving us Your Holy Spirit to sustain us.
All praise be to You,
Holy God,
for receiving redeemed sinners into Your presence through Jesus.
May we be so bold to speak and abhor silence when it comes to the Good News of Jesus.
May proclaiming Your grace and love be as natural to us as breathing,
as we look forward to that day when we begin worshiping You
forever and ever
in Your glorious kingdom.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, I pray,

The Pastor -|—

I S_ _ _ at Sermon Writing

One of my favorite things to write about or tweet about or Facebook about is the process of sermon writing. It’s a process that never fails to amaze me. For each time a sermon comes flowing out of my fingers it is due to the Holy Spirit taking my fingers and putting life into them. And so hopefully you are not tired of this topic. For me, I am just tooting God’s horn and give God praise through the work of the Holy Spirit.


So today is Thursday, my sermon writing day at my favorite coffee shop. I am once again at my favorite table by the front window that looks out onto the sidewalk and the one-way main street. Vehicles line the street and there is a somewhat steady flow of activity. And in the midst of writing spurts I find myself looking out onto the world to day dream and reflect. And then after my “commercial break” ends the Holy Spirit returns me to the regularly scheduled programming (sermon writing). The characters may vary slightly, the plot is the same but the way I arrive at the message varies week to week. And despite the sameness in the “programming” I never lose interest (and hopefully those listening on Sunday don’t lose interest either).

And as I reflect on this amazing process of sermon writing I am reminded of something my wife’s uncle once asked me: How do you come up with all those sermons? Without batting an eyelash I said to him, God. To which he responded, I know that but how do you come up with a sermon each week? Me: God.

I think that frustrated him enough as our conversation quickly ended through some “diversion” that caught his attention. I think what he wanted to hear about was some skill or resource that I drew upon. He was amazed but amazed with the wrong person. As Martin Luther says in his sacristy prayer, If this task were left up to me I would surely bring it all to ruin. And that is the case with sermon writing. Because believe me, when it comes to writing and public speaking,

I suck (sorry about the language).

And so without sounding cocky or proud or anything like that, I am glad I suck at writing and public speaking. For as the apostle Paul says, when I am weak it is then that I am strong. That strength?


But really, where does your strength come from?


That’s it.

Now it time to return to the regularly scheduled programming. Come, Holy Spirit…

And have a great day 🙂

The Pastor -|—

Holy Saturday ~ Limbo

I feel like I am in limbo today.

The past two days we traveled through the cross of Jesus and now today ~ Nothing. Jesus has been crucified and buried, but tomorrow, though, is the joyous celebration of his resurrection. But I’m still in today ~ so nothing, at least for now.

And so I am here in my office reflecting on the cross, my sin and Jesus’ willingly going to the cross for me. And as I reflect on this I am polishing off TWO Easter sermons.

That’s right, I am just crazy enough to do that 🙂

This is something I have never done before. You see, I have two Easter services here at Salem Lutheran Church and one out at Belmont Lutheran Church. Every year I have written one Easter sermon and preached it three times. But there are a couple “problems” that I have never addressed before:

(1) Some people that come to the Sonrise worship service at Salem will come back for the Festival worship service later (I lead the Sonrise service at Belmont in between). And so those people hear the sermon twice, not necessarily bad since I need to hear something more than once to really get it, but I have heard comments.

(2) The crowd at each service is generally different (with a few the same). And so with a different crowd, a different message is needed; a different focus, if I am going to be contextual.

And so I felt the Spirit move stronger than ever, this year, to write TWO sermons. Besides, there shouldn’t be a problem, since I have plenty of material 🙂

Praise be to God!

And so this “nothing” day is turning into something. I am reflecting on the cross and preaching to myself an Easter message in two ways (but yet the same) as I get ready to lead God’s people in worship tomorrow.

What a day
Nothing to something ~ yup, that sounds like God

Holy Saturday, a day of limbo, but also a day of great expectation and hope as we know what is coming, and I am not talking about tomorrow.

God bless you as you wait expectantly for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Come, Lord Jesus, with your glorious Kingdom and praise be to God!

Living God, what a roller coaster ride this week, and now we wait for the glorious return of our Lord Jesus. Bless our waiting, Oh God, and may we feel the passion to share this Good News every single day. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Sermon Writing in the Valley

My sermon writing routine involves walking downtown to my favorite coffee shop; seting up camp and writing while enjoying a beautiful cup (or two or three or, who am I kidding? A lot of) coffee.

(and there are other details involved here but I won’t digress)

In any case, I often get asked, “How do you stay focused while writing in such a public place?” It’s a good question, really, because I seem to get a lot more done here than I do in my office at church.



My quick answer is that question is the background noise serves as a calming and focusing agent. Sounds strange but that’s how I roll. I think another answer (the longer version) is that I am reminded of my vocation.

As I preach the Gospel on Sundays (and throughout my week) I do so in the midst of community; in the valley, not isolated from it. It’s through talking with people and interacting with the public and hearing noises that I am brought back down to reality where the Gospel desperately needs to be preached. It’s the “transfiguration on the mountain and then back to the valley” thing at play here. Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured before them on that mountain, but God doesn’t allow them to build three tents there. Instead, Jesus leads them back down the mountain, to the valley, where they encounter a demon possessed boy that the others couldn’t cast out.

That’s reality.

And so it is through these distractions that I think and pray through a text before and while the Holy Spirit spews out words through my fingers and onto my computer screen. Really, it’s a beautiful process. Praise be to God!

Case in point, I have had a few “distractions” already (including this blog post) that has inspired some word spewing onto my keyboard: People walking by reminding me of situations they are dealing with. A Facebook conversation with a person recovering from another surgery. The busyness of main street reminding me of the faith distractions of many.  All of these noises/distractions are “holy distractions”.

My church office is so quiet that I sometimes just can’t seem to focus on the Word and the valley out there. Sometimes you just have to get out in the valley in order to be reminded of who you are called to be. Mountain tops are great but we are valley people and so this pastor writes in the valley to the praise and glory of God; all the while enjoying  A LOT of coffee (which might partially explain why I can handle multiple distractions).

And so there’s your long answer to a short question, but being a pastor, long answers go with the territory 🙂

Happy valley dwelling and praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

In the Valley

[28] And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” [29] And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
(Mark 9:28-29 ESV)

Mark 9:14-29; Jesus healing a boy with an unclean spirit, is the sermon text for this week. Last week I preached on the transfiguration of Jesus in verses 1 – 13; where Peter, James and John had an amazing mountain top experience; one that definitely tops anything I have ever had.

But following this mountain top experience, Jesus and the boys head back down the mountain; back to reality; into the valley, where life happens. Because lets face it, as awesome as mountain top experiences are, we aren’t meant to live on the mountain top.

The battle is in the valley and it’s into the valley that God sends you. So as I reflect on this reality and ponder this text there are three truths that are ruminating in my head and heart as I ponder preaching this text. So I share them with you here to ponder and reflect on:

(1) When Satan confronts you; turn to Jesus.
(2) When in “darkness”; turn to Jesus.
(3) When Satan is turned away; turn to Jesus.

It seems to me that the disciples were struggling with these while Jesus, Peter, James and John were on that mountain. Those disciple were confronted by Satan but tried to cast the demon out without their eyes on Jesus. The disciples were in the “dark valley” but they failed to look at Jesus. And earlier in this Gospel account, the disciples were successful in casting out demons but have now failed to turn back to Jesus.

As Christians, we are called to the valley, but don’t forget to turn to Jesus.

Dear Lord, you have called us to proclaim the Gospel, announce forgiveness and do battle with Satan and his forces. But as we confront that which we have no power to defeat, may we look to Jesus. May we have the faith the size of mustard seed that sends Satan running away as You, oh God, are glorified. In Jesus name I 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 -|—

Sermon Pondering ~ Following Jesus

Mark 8:31-38

Deny yourself
Take up your cross

Wow, this is not normal.

I like myself
I like my life
I like my stuff
So deny? Not normal.

And this cross business?
Carry mine?
That sounds like it could hurt. Again, not normal.

And then it gets even more not normal:
Want to save your life? Lose it.


But what will it profit you if you gain the whole world and forfeit your soul?


What will it profit me?

What will I actually get for gaining the whole world?


…if you lose your life for Jesus and for the sake of the Gospel you will save it.
(Actually, Jesus will save it through faith)

Die? Save your life?

Follow Jesus?

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

Good but short

And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” [Mark 8:4]

Much like me, these disciples have good but short memories. In chapter 6 they witness the incredible miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 men (add in the women and children who were there and you have close to probably 10,000 people). But numbers aside, this was an awesome miracle and display of God’s power through Jesus in which the disciples were amazed, but I wonder if they were really paying attention.

Now they are back in the wilderness with Jesus and have been there for three days with 4,000 people on some kind of retreat, as it were. Apparently there was no food committee because at the end of three days the people were hungry. But being the compassionate person Jesus is, he wasn’t going to send them home hungry, lest they faint on their way.

What shall we do? [of course Jesus knows]

Jesus, how can one possibly feed these people in such a desolate place?

Really? Did they just ask that question? Did they just wonder if Jesus is able to provide for a group of people much smaller than the one he fed earlier? Do they not remember the feeding of the 5000 (and then some)?

But we shouldn’t come down too hard on these guys because really, we’re no different. I mean, think about it. Aren’t there times you wonder if God will actually forgive you? Don’t you ever wonder at times if God is actually with you? Don’t you have moments of fear and anxiety over a situation, wondering if God will provide? Do you ever worry or doubt?

Of course you do.

And this is nothing more than sinful people forgetting about this awesome God of ours. You see, sin has a way of shortening our memories of the Gospel and therefore leading us astray. When we forget about God we turn inward and become selfish. When we forget about God we disobey and wander. When we forget about God his awesomeness and holiness becomes nothing more than a theological concept.

So what does one do? More fish oil to improve your memory?

Not exactly.

Rather you spend time with God every single day.
~ Keep His Word in front of you.
~ Set your mind on the things that are above.
~ Surround yourself with other believers.
~ Make sure that the Gospel is being proclaimed to you on a regular basis.
~ Ask someone to listen to your confession and pronounce the Gospel of forgiveness to you.
~ And, of course, read your Bible and pray.

Do these things and more on a regular basis to help with short-term Gospel memory loss. But be careful and don’t lose the sense of wonder. The disciples may have forgotten about the feeding of the 5000 but they had a chance to be amazed all over again. Don’t let familiarity with the Gospel take away the wonder.

Be amazed that God, through Jesus Christ, would forgive a sinner like you.

May you bask in the glory of God. May you remember his love and compassion. May you always know the hope of the resurrection through faith in Jesus.

And may God bless your day 🙂

In Jesus name, Amen!

The Pastor -|—