Sermon teaser for Palm Sunday

Here is the opening paragraph for this Sunday’s sermon. May God be glorified…

The holy bookends of Palm Sunday and Easter, encapsulate a holy drama that ends in a sure and certain hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the king of peace, is later mocked as the King of the Jews and then bursts through as the victorious King; one who obliterates sin, death and the power of Satan. We enter this morning in jubilation but leave somber and reflective as we contemplate the events of Holy Week. We enter worship this morning shouting, “Hosanna” which means “save us now” and leave hearing how Jesus does just that. The scope of this day is a microcosm of the holiest week of the year but may we not be satisfied with only this, rather, may we encounter the Passion of Jesus Christ anew as we listen to our salvation unfold and the power of death crumble into oblivion.

May God bless you as you journey through Holy Week; coming through the darkness and emerging into the Light of Easter morning.

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 -|—

The Mystery

The mystery is told,
the mystery is this,
through faith in Jesus,
we will live in bliss.

Our bodies will perish,
our bodies will decay,
but at the last trumpet
we’ll go by Jesus way.

Why can we proclaim this?
Why can we be joyous?
Death has been defeated,
and Jesus is for us.

All praises be to God.
All honor be to Him.
The vic’try has been won,
for through Jesus we will win.

The Pastor -|—

For My Friend, Jeannette

A void is present
without your life now
and we wish that you were still here.
Life is not the same without your big smile
and so we mourn and shed our tears.

Difficult it is,
to accept your death,
we remember your life so sweet.
Sharing our stories of a life well lived;
knowing that we will again meet.

Cancer took your life;
thinking it has won;
and robbing us of your sweet life.
But cancer’s loud and futile vic’try cry
is swallowed up in Jesus Christ.

And so we thank God
who has won the fight,
through shattering Satan’s strong hold.
So thanks be to God who gives us true hope,
that we too may live a life bold.

Until we meet again, Jeannette…

Praise be to God, always and forever!

The Pastor -|—

Lifeline

The ocean is wide and vast.
The ocean is deep and dangerous.
It is a scary place of desolation and death.

And there are people in the ocean

People are struggling to stay afloat.
People are gasping for breath.
People fighting for life.

Slowly drowning

And if you have a lifeline why not throw it?
Why not shout, “Here it is”?
Why not jump in and help people to the boat?

Why not?

Remember that you were once lost.
Remember that you were once drowning.
Remember that you were once dying.

But…

Jesus became your lifeline.
So I ask again,
if you have a lifeline why not throw it?
Why not shout, “Here it is”?
Why not jump in and help people to the boat?

People are drowning.
People are lost.

Toss the lifeline.

The Pastor -|—

Groaning and Sighing for Charleston

This pastor’s heart is breaking today over the senseless killing of 9 people (including the pastor) in Charleston, SC yesterday by a disturbed gunman who felt it necessary to commit such an atrocity. These people were gathering at their church for prayer; lifting up their petitions and cries and confessions and praise to God. These people were gathering in a seemingly “safe” place as they were in a “safe” place.

[54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” [55] “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV]

This is the first text that came to mind when I started perusing the news this morning. I don’t know if this gunman thought he had gained a victory by killing 9 unsuspecting people in a church prayer group, but the victory is not his. I don’t know if Satan honestly thinks that he gained some sort of victory by leading this young man to open fire like that, but the victory is not his. Worldly corruption has not gained a victory. Sin has not gained a victory. Despair has not gained a victory.

There are no words that can explain what happened yesterday and why. There is nothing that can come from the gunman’s mouth that will make this easier to digest. There is much that I don’t know but one thing I do:

[57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For me, this is the truth I cling to. Yesterday I wrote about Good News in a bad news world, well, this is yet another prime example of the need for the Good News in a bad news world. Instead of trying to make sense of why some man would walk into a church and kill people, go to scripture and listen to God. Don’t bestow a false victory on this gunman or Satan or death or what/who ever. Acknowledge the victory already won by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Place your faith in him and the victory of all victories is yours.

In the mean time, join me in praying for those families who are mourning the death of loved ones. Pray for those who are left with the memories of this tragedy. Pray for the Charleston community. Pray for law enforcement as they investigate and sort through evidence. Pray for all who are haunted by this event.

May the victory gained by Jesus give you hope in a bad news world.

Holy God, loving Father, in a Romans 8 type of way, words escape me and so I ask that Your Spirit may intercede with mine as it groans with sighs too deep for words to express. Grant Your suffering and mourning children the hope of the resurrection and may they cling to You during this time and always. All glory and honor and praise and worship be to You, holy God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Kill Jesus (John 11:48)

If we let him (Jesus) go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” [John 11:48, ESV, Bible.com/app]

Earlier on in this chapter, Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and greatly troubled over the people’s lack of hope. Later, when at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept. He didn’t weep because his friend was dead and gone, but rather  Jesus wept because the people were in a state of hopelessness; they didn’t believe that Jesus could do anything. But Jesus knew what he could do and therefore wanted the people to have hope that death is not the end. Jesus wanted people to believe in HIM.

Following the raising of Lazarus scripture says that many people believed in Jesus but others went and reported this to the pharisees; the religious leaders of the day. Their response was troubling (the verse above) as…

They were only concerned about their jobs and not the people.
They were only concerned about their “Church” instead of the Kingdom.
They were only concerned about their job descriptions.

The people were coming to faith in Jesus and that would change the course of the “Church”; the course of history, and (as they feared) the course of their nation. So something must be done (as we read in the rest of the chapter):

[53] So from that day on they made plans to put him (Jesus) to death.

Kill Jesus
Stop this Gospel
Get control of the situation
Stay relevant

Wow, that sounds familiar (and not because I have read this text before). This is familiar because this is happening today in a couple ways:

(1) The Gospel, the Church, biblical interpretation are changing because many feel if they don’t change these then the Church will get left behind. And so in order to “protect” the church; 2000 years worth of doctrine is changing, interpretation of the Bible is “evolving”; and all in a effort to help the Church become/stay “relevant”. So this Pharisaical concern is nothing new as leaders are trying to protect their jobs, positions and status.

(2) This Pharisaical concern is also happening in the local church. This appears through churches afraid to take a stand for what they believe. “Let’s just go along with how things have been done and not upset the apple cart”.Let’s just continue with what the higher ups tell us is the truth,” The fear is that change will cause a disruption in the peaceful status quo.  And so the status quo is fought for, tooth and nail, when fighting for THE Gospel should be the way.

We can not allow things to go on like this. THE Gospel of Jesus Christ is what we should be clinging to and not this Pharisaical concern of relevancy. The Church can not let the culture dictate it’s doctrine. Our doctrine comes from God and God alone through Jesus Christ. Our doctrine is the unaltered Bible; the Word of God. This hasn’t changed and it is not going to change. People need to hear THE Gospel and not some watered down version that meets their needs. To do that causes great harm as anything watered down loses it potency.

Jesus (and him alone) is the Resurrection and the Life. All who believe in him, though they die, will live; and all who lives and believes in Jesus will never die. That is the Good News. Do you really believe this?

If so…

Worship GOD through Jesus Christ
Spread THE Gospel
Give GOD control of the situation
Stay in Scripture

Cultural relevancy is something Jesus never advocated but rather Gospel faithfulness; no matter what the culture thinks or says.

So with Jesus I weep and thus pray…

That the Church remains faithful/returns to faithfulness
That Christians stand strong for what they believe against all odds
That the authority of scripture is held high and untarnished
That the unaltered Gospel is proclaimed with boldness
And that in the face of relativism, the Church does not budge

JESUS is Lord and King. Let’s boldly and proudly announce this and stick with this confession…

…and not kill Jesus.

God, King of all creation, make us bold in our faith that we may boldly proclaim Your glory. Make us strong to stand, that when push comes to shove; as relativism tries to assert it’s so-called claim on the culture, that we stand. Make us unashamed of the Gospel that our hope may be secure in Jesus. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—