Father God, You have prepared the Wedding Feast; the marriage of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to his bride, the Church. You have spared no expense for Your glory has no price. You are more precious than diamonds and more costly than gold. Your worth has no number for You are holy beyond anything I can image or know in this life. And though I am a sinner, You have extended the invitation — to me. Through faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit, You clothe me in righteousness. In the here and now, I continue to walk through dark, dangerous, and scary valleys, but I do so with my Good Shepherd leading the way. May my eyes always be fixated on Your rod and staff; Your holy provision, faithfulness and love. May I stay the course with You; having my soul refreshed and sustained until that day I dwell in Your house forever and ever. To You be all glory and honor through Christ Jesus my Lord, Amen.
The following is the opening paragraph of the sermon I am preaching tomorrow; Sunday, October 11, 2020, on Matthew 22:1-14 – the Parable of the Wedding Feast. To God be the glory!
We live in the here and now, but through faith in Jesus, we also live with one foot in the Kingdom of God and with our noses enjoying the savory fragrances of the Wedding Feast. We are not yet seated at the table, but the invite has been proclaimed. All is ready. Come to the Wedding Feast. And so that savory fragrance is a reminder of our King’s grace and faithfulness as we live in the hope that everything has been prepared for us. And upon entry into the Feast, a garment will be given. No, not something from Macy’s or dare I say, Kohl’s, or anything else of our creation or effort, but rather something far more glorious. Something that only can come from the King of kings. It is a garment like none other, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. But in the meantime, our Shepherd sets a table for us in the midst of our enemies; anointing us with oil and refreshing our souls, until that day we dwell in the house of the Lord forever, feasting sumptuously on fine wine and fine food. Come all is ready. Come to the Wedding Feast.
The following prayer is something I wrote for this past Sunday. It is a prayer that was placed on my heart to prepare me for preaching. But really, this prayer could be used by anyone who speaks and proclaims the Gospel. Whether you are talking with your neighbor, leading a Bible study, answering a question from a child or whatever, as a Christian, we have the responsibility to handle the Word of God rightly. And handling it rightly is something we cannot do without help for on my own I would surely bring it all to ruin.
And so I commend this prayer to you. Use it as you wish as share your faith and teach/preach the Word. Let us handle the Word rightly. Way too many people take the Word lightly. This is God’s Word, so ask Him for help and He will be pleased to do so. After all, to God be the glory 🙂
Father God, I now come to this holy moment and awesome responsibility of preaching Your Word. For Your Word through Jesus Christ is Life and salvation. It is the Gospel of reconciliation. It is the Truth. To mishandle it is to commit a grave sin and thus lead people astray. No one should enter this moment lightly, and without fear and trembling. You are sovereign and thus You are worthy of all obedience, thanksgiving, worship, honor and praise. You are King and reign on high. You are Creator and thus I am clay in Your hands. May I rightly handle this text and boldly proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ. May I stand firm on Your promises and not water anything down. May Your Spirit take these words and use them to bring life to those who would hear. Oh holy God, this is indeed an awesome responsibility. Please help me, for on my own I would surely bring it all to ruin and give Satan a platform to deceive Your flock. To You be all glory through Jesus Christ Your dear Son and my Lord, Amen.
Father God, You are mighty in power. Your love knows no bounds. Your grace is absolutely amazing, and Your mercies are new every morning – great is Your faithfulness. My worship of You, in the here and now, is never enough and therefore You have created me for eternity through Jesus my Savior. In the here and now I cannot sing Your praises enough, therefore I look forward to shouting Your praises with all the saints in Your holy courts. In the here and now my words are insufficient to speak of Your greatness, therefore I look forward to seeing You face to face and seeing the fullness of Your glory. Oh God, through Jesus Christ, Your Son and my Lord, I long for nothing but You, in the here and now. Amen.
Trust is an essential building block for every healthy relationship. It is what makes the world go around. Without trust, marriages are not fruitful – if they last at all; friendships are shallow; life in community is lonely; children do not feel safe, and life in general becomes combative and competitive where the survival of the fittest is the rule. Trust must be earned. Often, earning trust can be a long process, but losing trust is swift. Trust is also an act of love. My children trust that when they go downstairs in the morning, I will feed them. My children trust that when they are scared, I will comfort them. My children trust that when they get hurt, I will put a band-aid on their wound (blood or no blood). My children trust me and thus I will do everything in my power to ensure they will always trust me, otherwise, they will not feel safe. You see, I want my children to feel safe and comfortable talking to me about anything. And that is the life we want in community – one of trust – but sadly, trust is lacking in many communities. Elected leaders have let people down over and over. Parents have violated the trust of their children through abuse. Husbands and wives have violated trust with each other through infidelity. Clergy have violated trust with congregations through misconduct. Many people have become jaded and thus the chaos and disharmony we are seeing in the world today. If only someone would step up, someone who we can trust, someone who can heal our wounds and bring people together.
Someone has stepped up and his name is Jesus.
God has never failed to follow through with any of His promises. God has never done anything to violate trust. God has never been unfaithful. God has always been there. Throughout scripture God promised to restore creation. Starting in Genesis 3 following the fall of man, God promised to send a Savior to defeat Satan once and for all. As you march through scripture, you see time and again, God following through. Ultimately, God proved His love and faithfulness through Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and rose from the dead to give forgiveness of sins and thus peace with God. You see, even though you are a sinner, God followed through on His promises. Even though you break promises with God, God never deserts you. Even though you are unfaithful, God remains faithful.
You will never find perfect community in this world. But through Jesus Christ, you have a God who perfectly loves you. And that is something you can trust, even in the midst of chaos, illness, sadness and death. You can trust that He is near. You can trust that He hears you. You can trust that you are His. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) This is a sure and certain promise, one you can trust. Amen.
Sovereign God, I acknowledge that there is nothing above you. I acknowledge that there is nothing outside Your power. And, I acknowledge that You are in perfect control. I do not understand this virus. I do not understand why it is persisting this long. People are dying and suffering. Lives have been turned upside down. So much frustration. So much confusion. But through it all, You are my constant. You reign on high. You are the giver of life. You are my God. So, I boldly ask that you destroy this virus – I know You can, but thy will be done. But whatever Your will may be, mold and shape me through this time. I do not want 2020 to be a bad number that passes my lips, but may 20/20 be the vision that I have of You in the midst of this pandemic. You have never left me and never will. Heal and strengthen my faith that I may always look to You through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
A little while ago a series of events unfolded, leading me to reflect on the sum of those events taking place all in one day: Wildfire smoke from eastern WA; wildfires around us in western WA; a power outage (that ended up lasting 40 hours); poor air quality means we should not open windows; and the First day of school was postponed. And all of this in the midst of a pandemic. I posted my list on Facebook and concluded my list with a funny movie reference and then asked, “It cannot possibly get any worse, right?” My intention was to be funny, but many people did not see it that way. Some people concluded I was struggling, maybe even depressed. They offered words and prayers of support. A congregation member asked me later if I was doing better. Even though I was trying to be funny, I think my heart was trying to show me something I was forgetting. Soon after I posted my list on Facebook, a seminary classmate commented: “Pandemic, civil unrest, and the heat wave coming tomorrow. Yet Christ’s promises to you remain unchanged.” YES! Christ’s promises to me remain unchanged. A couple days later my morning devotion was about Peter walking on the water with Jesus. When Peter looked at the raging storm around him, he began to sink. I had taken my eyes off Jesus and I was sinking along with Peter.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” [Matthew 14:31]
I do not know, but what I do know is that my faithful Lord and Savior reached out to me as my heart cried out. He sent people into my life to proclaim the Truth. He clung to me with those nail-pierced hands and carried me safely to shore. When Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, he declared those whom he saved – saved. He declared that Satan no more has a hold on you. Jesus defeated hopelessness and fear. Jesus reigns on high now, and forever more.
And so, instead of a list of woes and other negatives going on, I am focusing on the blessings in my life: two beautiful children excited for school, a healthy family, less arthritic back pain, the wildfires did not touch my home or church. So much for which to thank and praise God, and when I do, my heart is led to worship. Look to your blessings and not the challenges of this year. Below is a poem I wrote in June 2015 that speaks of my heart today. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.
I love You in the morning,
I love You in the eve;
for You are always with me,
and ever will You be.
I thank You with my whole heart,
I thank You all my life;
for You are holy awesome,
and ever be my Light.
Jesus is my Lord and Life,
for his life did he give.
You are always faithful, God,
and ever will I Live.
Oh God, You’ve done so much for me.
Once dead but now I am free.
Eternal life You did decree.
Now to You I bend my knee.
Oh God, You’ve done so much for me.
To me You showed great mercy.
To Your arms I’ll always flee.
Through Christ I abide in Thee.
Oh God, You’ve done so much for me.
Your love is to the Nth degree.
My heart is full of so much glee.
It’s Your face that I long to see.
Oh God, You’ve done so much for me.
The following is the article I submitted to The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday. To God be the glory!
Let’s get right to it – we are all sinful and thus we make mistakes every single day. We say and do stupid things. We hurt people with our words. We sin through omission. We sin through turning a blind eye or deaf ear to an injustice. There is no getting around it. We all find ourselves in moments where confession is warranted and, for the most part, forgiveness is expected.
We see this over and over again through the media. Some out-front personality makes a mistake. They say something offensive and social media goes wild. After some time, an apology is issued. Immediately the words of the offender are critiqued: Is the apology sincere? Are they only apologizing because they got caught? Did they actually apologize, or did they just craft some words together to make it look that way? Sometimes the apology is simply overlooked as people continue to fixate on the offense. So really, it is not about the apology, but rather for the offender to admit their offense so they can be further punished through the court of public opinion – a court that rarely shows mercy. Soon the offender loses sponsors, business ties or even their job because these businesses fear the court of public opinion. They do not want to be the next victim. Does this sound familiar? If not, just wait, I am sure that the next offender will be coming along anytime now, and the court will be in session to judge and convict. It almost makes a person paranoid. We do not want to be the next victim in this merciless court. But praise be to God that His mercy is boundless.
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son (Jesus), much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” [Romans 5:10-11]
This is the Good News: You were enemies of God, but Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins that you may now have peace with God. The world may not necessarily want peace with you, but God was so serious about peace with you that Jesus suffered on the cross. That is true love and grace. Even if the world befriends you, it will eventually turn its back on you. But once you are in Christ, that is forever. He will never turn his back on you and thus you never have to worry about a merciless court or God throwing you under the bus. Our amazing God desires reconciliation and thus He desires your faith-filled, humble confession so He can announce to you forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
So go ahead – confess your sins. Confess boldly before the Lord. Confess even your darkest and most embarrassing sins to God. Confess, and rest assured that through faith in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Amen.
In the midst of hardships and tragedies, our awesome God is not absent but ever present – longing to calm the storm. Maybe he does not calm the storm raging all around you, but through Jesus Christ he calms the storm in your heart. For these storms do not define you and they definitely do not direct your destiny. These storms are not your eternal reality and they are definitely not sovereign over you. Yes, storms do rage and toss you to and fro, but Jesus not only walks on the storm, he tramples it as he reaches out to you with grace and compassion. In no way are you required to fight the waves to get to a safe haven, but Jesus simply reaches out his hand upon your faith-filled plea for help.
No, storms are not a sign of God’s absence but just the opposite. Satan wants you to fail, crumble, knuckle under and give up, but God will be gloried and thus He will give you what you need to make that happen. Do not cry out wondering why God left, rather worship Him and know that He is faithful to not let Satan consume you.
Maybe you are not going through a storm at the moment, but someone is. Pray for them that they may see God through Jesus Christ. Pray for a hedge of protection around them to keep Satan at bay. Pray for God’s glory to shine through their storm. Pray, pray and then pray some more. God is not an absent God. He is an ever-present God in times of trouble. Do not forget this.
GOD – IS – NOT – ABSENT!
God is faithful and God is FOR YOU. Call out to Him. Go head. God is listening.
All glory, honor, praise and thanksgiving be unto our awesome God through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen!