Facing Jesus

I was struck by a convicting thought during our congregational text study this morning. The Gospel text for Sunday is Matthew 14:22-33; Jesus walking on the water. As we were discussing this I began to think about facing fears. Peter was afraid in that boat as the wind and waves were causing havoc out there on that sea. To top things off, a “ghost” was heading straight towards them. Upon seeing it was Jesus, Peter asks to be near Jesus and thus it happened. Instead of facing his fears, Peter was facing Jesus and eventually, face to face with him out there on that stormy sea. It wasn’t until Peter looked at the wind; his fear, that he began to sink.

As we continued to discuss this text the issue of North Korea came up. All the talk about them attacking Guam and potentially the main land of the United States. It’s kind of scary when you dwell on that but why am I dwelling on it. I began to reflect on the fact that I normally close my day by watching the news and then going to bed. On many nights, the final images and words in my brain are the crap going on in the world. How dumb is that. It seems like a no-brainer. Face my fears or face Jesus. The answer is pretty simple.


Off went the T.V.

Now if you will excuse me, I’m climbing out of the boat…

The Pastor -|—


A wretched mess

[14] And he (Jesus) called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: [15] There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” [17] And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. [18] And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, [19] since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) [20] And he (Jesus) said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. [21] For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, [22] coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. [23] All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” [Mark 7:20-23]

This is the sermon text for Sunday in the Gospel of Mark sermon series I am preaching. And as I read and re-read and pray about this text I am thinking…

Stuff that goes in our stomachs does not defile us since it enters NOT the heart. So what is entering our hearts that is defiling us? What kind of images are we seeing? What things are we hearing? What is messing up our hearts to a point that it spews out the crap in verse 21? And since we ARE defiled (for we are all sinners) that means we are unclean and separated from God. 

Wow…what a wretched mess we are. Who shall save us from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)

Praise be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yup…I think this text will preach 🙂

The Pastor -|—

Psalm 15 — “holy hill” living

This week I have been drawn to Psalm 15 (the assigned Psalm for this Sunday, Aug. 30).  I am not sure if I am preaching on this yet…I am still pondering it and praying about it.  Here are some of my initial thoughts thus far, but first here’s the text:

1     Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

2     He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart

3     and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,

4     who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
5     who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things
will never be shaken.

Verse 1 contains a question about who may dwell in the sanctuary; who may “live on your holy hill”.  Following this question the psalmist goes on to answer his own question.

Verse 2 is about faith; about what’s in the heart.

Verse 3 flows out of verse 2.  What’s in our heart will dictate how we will speak to and about other people.  If we live blameless lives, do what is righteous and speak truth from our heart then we will naturally speak well of our neighbor and do them no wrong.

Verse 4 – 5a flows out of verses 2 and 3.  This verse talks about our actions.  It is one thing to say we have faith in Christ and talk a good game, but what do our actions say.  James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.” (oddly enough that is part of the second lesson for Sunday).

And when all is said and done, the ending of verse 5 says, “He who does these things will never be shaken.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always follow the “formula” in verses 2 – 5a.  So I guess I will not dwell in God’s sanctuary and live on his holy hill…

…but maybe this is not a Psalm of law or one prescribing certain behaviors before I can enter God’s presence, but rather describing how a believer lives outside the sanctuary; outside the walls of the church building.  Maybe Psalm 15 is descriptive rather then prescriptive…”He who does these things will never be shaken.

Those are my thoughts now…as I am still processing.  Feel free to share you thoughts.  God bless!


Out of the storm

In Job 38 verse 1 it says, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm…“.  And then in chapter 42 Job realized how foolish he was to not trust God.

In Mark 4:35-41 the disciples (with Jesus) are in the midst of a storm.  When called upon Jesus answered out of the storm…and the storm was quieted.  But the disciple are amazed and still have no clue who this Jesus is.

When you are in the midst of a storm, do you expect Jesus to answer you out of the storm; in the midst of a world crashing in all around you?  And when Jesus does answer, what do you expect?  I think people expect God to calm the storm that is raging all around us, but what God wants to do is calm the storm within us.

It is the calm that is within us; the peace that surpasses all understanding, that powers us through the storms raging all around us.  When Jesus died on the cross…FOR YOU…and when Jesus rose from the grave…FOR YOU…Jesus paved the way through the storm.  This is not a scheme to make out lives better now, but rather it is Good News…NOW (which does make our lives better).  But it’s already been done; Jesus has won; the storms have lost their power; and Jesus is already in the boat with you.

What do you need to do?  Nothing…but look behind you…Jesus right there.



I love storms…

…especially if they don’t cause lots of damage and no one gets hurt.   When a good ole fashioned summer thunderstorm rolls in I am all eyes and ears.  One time when I was in seminary, a tornado warning was issued for my area.  People in my dorm were heading downstairs to the storm shelter but I took a detour…I went outside to see if I could see the funnel.  No such luck.  Recently I attended a storm spotters training session lead by a guy from the National Weather Service out of Sioux Falls, SD.  I went not to become a weather spotter, but because I like storms; I want to know what I am looking at.  I learned a lot and plan to attend more spotter training classes to hone my weather knowledge…because I love storms.

Casting Crowns sings a song that my wife and I really like called “Praise You in the Storm”.  Since this is a Christian song they are obviously not talking about a summer thunderstorm, but referring to the ole cliche…”the storms of life”.  We all encounter them but the difference is how we react to them: Do we run and hide; crumble under the pressure; curse the storm (and maybe curse God); or do we look at the storm as something that can build us up.  In the Gospel text for this Sunday (Pentecost 3) from Mark 4:35-41, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus when a nasty storm pops up.  Jesus is sleeping but the disciples are scared silly.  Pushed to their breaking point they wake Jesus up and accuse him of not caring for them.  Jesus rebukes the wind and the storm becomes quiet.  He then says “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?

In Job, Job is questioning God about why this suffering has come upon him when God finally speaks up and says “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Etc, etc… Job has no other reply than “I know that you can do all things; no plan of your can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)  The storms of life will not “thwart” any plan that God has and therefore we can have faith and trust that God has still won the day.

How do you respond to “storms”?  Do you run and hide?  Do you crumble under the pressure?  Do you curse God?


Do you “Praise Him in the Storm”?

We can praise God in the storm because God has overcome this world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ FOR YOU and FOR ME.  A mere thunderstorm can never define you.  A tornado can not take away what God has given you.  A hurricane can not have power over God.

God may not take away the storms in your life, but one thing is for sure…God will be with us through the storm; we will never be alone.  When the next storm brews and threatens all you have…give praise to God for the life you have in Jesus Christ and let the world’s storms take their best shot…you already have a home that no thunderstorm can destroy.  For that…I will praise God in the sun, wind, rain, clouds…and…I will praise God in the storm.

Praise be to God…ALWAYS and forever, Amen.


Getting peed on

I went to text study this morning at Shalom Hill Farm, as I do most Tuesdays (O.K…some Tuesdays) and I experienced a first…

…I got out of my car and was greeted by the dog they have out there.  Nice little dog.  Wags its tail, but doesn’t get overly excited and jump on you.  Since I have a allergy to dogs I don’t pet the little guy.  Maybe it took offense to this finally because when I turned around (I am not sure why) I saw the little creep (notice my tone changing) lift its leg…and…pee on the bumper of my car.   Not the tire, but the bumper.  By the time I got over there to shoo it away,he had finished his business…and I a swear…I saw a little smirk on his face as he walked away.

I went inside (with my bumped dripping) and saw a couple colleagues.  I told them the story (which they got a kick out of) and soon I began to laugh along.  Of course…immediately…we went into “pastor mode” wondering if there is a sermon illustration in there some place.

<More laughing ensued>

I suggested a baptismal illustration; of God peeing on us and claiming us as his own.

<More laughing ensued>

Then I suggested, “I think I might have to flush that one out some more.”

<And more laughing ensued>

Moral of the story…well…maybe there isn’t one…except that if you pee on my bumper, I will talk about you on my blog.

<I needed a good laugh today>

God bless!


“Give to God what is God’s”

This week is my week to submit a devotional for the local newspaper so I decided to expand more on what I posted yesterday.  The question I asked was, “do we spend time giving God what is God’s or do we spend way too much time debating/arguing over what belongs to Caesar?”  When it comes to taxes, government and politics, people can get really fired up and passionate but when it comes to God…well…not so much.  I mean…how many times have we heard passionate people get upset over “trivial matters” in the church, but rarely of “Gospel matters”:  “You’re not doing this report correctly”, “I don’t like those new light fixtures”, “I can’t believe so and so is doing that”.  Business matters of the church are important, but not at the expense of “Gospel matters”.

Give to God what is God’s
How about all those people who do not know God?  How about those inactive members?  How about discussions on who we can give our money too?  How about a discussion on what service projects we could do next?

What are we to give to God?  God demands and deserves our worship, our trust, our faithfulness, etc.  When we do this, everything else seems to fall into place.  When we give to God what is God’s “trivial matters” in the church seem to become less trivial.  When we give to God what is God’s, love and respect of all God’s people seem to take center stage.

So…”give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” but don’t forget to “give to God what is God’s” Amen.


Monday morning check in

Greetings and salutations…and welcome to another addition of “Monday morning check in” (I have no clue what that was…I guess I am just in a goofy mood this morning).


…if anyone is curious, the Twin Cities marathon web site has some pictures posted of me crossing the finish line.  In a couple of them you can definitely see my pain 🙂  To view these snap shots simply go to the website at:  http://www.mtcmarathon.com.  Once there click on “finisher photos” under the marathon section then enter my bib number: 4387.  There are a couple picture there that are not me.  I am the one wearing the dark long sleeve t-shirt with the red hat (or the one in more pain than the others).  Enjoy 🙂

Paying taxes (Matthew 22:15-22)
How appropriate that we get a text that talks about paying taxes.  In a time of economic hardship the last thing people want to hear about is paying taxes.  Here in Jackson, taxes are a huge issue.  There is a battle currently waging about the proposed construction or renovation of the county Resource Center.  Some want to see a brand new building and others want the current one (the old high school) renovated.  Either way, taxes would go up quite a bit in Jackson.  And this is after the new school referendum passed last year that some people believe the district is misusing.  What a time we live in.

Here in Matthew 22:15-22 the Pharisees are looking for some dirt to nail Jesus with so they try to trap him with the issue of taxes.  If he says that people should pay them then his followers would get upset.  If Jesus says they shouldn’t pay taxes, then the Pharisees could bring that info to Caesar and accuse him of treason.  But Jesus is smarter than this as he responds, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s“.  So the question is what is Caesar’s and what is God’s?  Discuss…

…to be continued…



This past Christmas my wife gave me the seven volume set of the "Complete Sermons of Martin Luther".  Every once in a while I will check these out and see how Luther preached a particular text or a particular church holiday/season.  This Sunday (May 11) is Pentecost Sunday so I decided so check out what Luther said about this day.  The follow is an excerpt from his Pentecost sermon in 1534:

"We desperately need this Pentecost sermon of the Holy Spirit, so that he may give us a courageous heart, so that we, too, may persevere, regardless of who is offended, regardless of how much people may slander us.  And even if cults and sects arise, we will also ignore that.  That’s the kind of courage we need, a courage that remains undisturbed by any of these things and simply continues fearlessly to confess and publicly proclaim Christ, who was so grossly misjudged, condemned and killed." (The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. VI, pg. 163)

Up to this point Luther talks about these scared, timid, uncertain, disciples who, upon the Holy Spirit filling them, started proclaiming to the people (and the powers that be) that the one they condemned and crucified has been raised and is Lord of all.  This One is none other than Jesus Christ.  This proclamation was a bold one and took an incredible amount of courage.  This courage came from the Holy Spirit that allowed them to see that nothing of this world can take away the gift that we have from God through Jesus Christ.  And once they realized this; that nothing of this world could harm them, the disciples boldly proclaimed the Good News.

We too need this courage (as Luther states) and that is why this Pentecost message (the one proclaimed by the disciples on that first Pentecost Day) is so important.  We need to hear a message that gives us strength because this world needs courageous Christians.  This world needs people willing to share their faith no matter what others think.  This world needs people willing to stand up and speak against injustices.  This world needs people to take their faith into the "Monday through Saturday" world.  This world needs people who are firm in their faith knowing there is hope beyond all the crap going on around us.  This world needs courageous Christians; the world is desperate for them.

We need to constantly and continually preach this Good News.  We need to affirm in people the promise of God through Jesus Christ.  We need to proclaim this hope we all have.  We need to be strong, forward, unashamed and bold.  We need to know and/or be reminded that because Jesus died and rose from the grave; conquering death; and giving us victory, we need not be afraid. 

So boldly go and preach the Good News through word and deed.  Speak out against injustices.  Take your faith into the "Monday through Saturday" world.  Make that unpopular decision to say "no" to Sunday sports and say "yes" to worship.  Dare to give more than you "think" you can afford.  Be courageous.  Be courageous because there is nothing in this world that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Dare to say…"JESUS IS LORD!" Amen.


Text study – John 4:5-42

I was reading and re-reading the Gospel text for this Sunday (3 Lent) when all of a sudden…like a throw from left field…I was hit smack dab in the face with something I hadn’t seen before.

The text is about Jesus encounter with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well…at high noon.  Jesus is tired, hungry and thirsty.  So with Jesus hanging out at the well and the disciples going to town to buy food, a woman shows up to draw water.  To say this woman had shady past would be putting it lightly.  Blown away by the mere fact that Jesus would even talk to her; Jesus and this woman get into a question answer session about living water and worship.  Through this conversation Jesus tells her "everything she had ever done".  Being blown away by this coupled with Jesus revealing to her that HE is the Messiah, she runs back to town to share HER testimony: "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?"  The people come flocking to Jesus to see this "Messiah".

But here is what hit me in a face like a line drive baseball…

Verses 39 says, "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’"  The woman’s testimony wasn’t "Come and see…I have found the Christ!".  But rather she explained her encounter with this person who could be the Christ…then she left the rest up to the people.  The woman shared her experience and allowed others to have their own experience of Jesus.  The woman was not concerned with whether they believed or not.  She just shared her testimony and left it at that.  The Samaritans (like the woman at the well) were thirsting for something…as Jesus said, "You Samaritans worship that which you do not know" (verse 22).  They were searching for "Living Water" but had no clue what they were searching for.  They were searching for relief…they were searching for meaning…but all in the wrong places.  Then comes Jesus…and he gave Living Water.

This woman’s testimony really struck me (as you have already seen).  She shared from her experience and let others have THEIR OWN experience and left the rest up to Jesus.  I wonder if we can learn something from this woman.

But first…

We need to go to Jesus.  We need to ask questions.  We need to talk to him and listen to him.  I think too many people sitting in the pews "worship that which they do not know".  They go through the motions.  And if THAT is the case, then how can they possibly give testimony. 

Telling people what Jesus has done has far more staying power than telling people straight out that he is our Lord and Savior.  For some, "Lord" and "Savior" may have little meaning.  But tell them how your sins have been forgiven unconditionally, then you may grab their attention.

Jesus knows everything we have done and still he died on the cross for me and for you; forgiving our sins.  "Come and see this man who has forgiven my sins.  Could this be the Christ?…You betcha!"