A Walk in a Park

The sermon for this morning is from Luke 9:57-62. This is about the call to follow Jesus. It is a very timely message for the congregation I am serving. The following is the opening paragraph to the sermon that God has placed on my heart. The video of the whole sermon will be posted on the church website this week. To God be the glory!

I saw an internet meme recently that said, “Raising kids is like a walk in the park – Jurassic Park.” We chuckle, but there’s a lot of truth to that. One could also substitute “Following Jesus” for “Raising kids”, and still chuckle; understanding that the meaning is still the same. You see, following Jesus is not easy. Following Jesus is not simply a peaceful walk in a beautiful park. Following Jesus has twists and turns; hills and valleys; roadblocks and straightaways. Following Jesus requires the faith of the father in Mark’s Gospel who says to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus calls you to follow – now – and not to look back. But as you follow him, he also walks along side to encourage you along the way. You must never follow Jesus with rose colored glasses but understand what a life is discipleship requires: Faith. For if following Jesus were really that easy, don’t you think more people would be doing it?

Plowing Forward

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:62 ESV]

When Jesus calls you to follow, he is not looking for excuses.
When Jesus calls you to follow, he doesn’t mean finish your to-do-list first.
When Jesus calls you to follow, you are not to long for that which you left.
When Jesus calls you to follow, you are to follow with eyes wide open and focused on him.

For when Jesus calls you to follow, he is to be the priority above everything and everyone else. Yours eyes are to be firmly fixed on him; moving forward without hesitation. But why is this such a struggle for people? Why do people cling to what they have or look back at what they left? It is simple, really. They don’t truly trust that Jesus knows what he is talking about. When times got tough for the people of God that Moses was leading in the wilderness, what did they do? They started to long for their captivity in Egypt. This didn’t sit well with God (to put it mildly). God demanded trust and so does Jesus when he calls you to follow.

When you begin to follow Jesus but keeping looking back at what you left, you quickly veer off course. Jesus words about the hand on the plow and looking back are poignant. If you are plowing a field, your eyes need to be focused on a fixed object on the horizon, otherwise your row will be crocked – every single time. You WILL go off course.

Jesus is the fixed object on the horizon – AND – is the one who walks by your side. When He calls you to follow, trust the fixed destination and the one who walks with you. When your eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus you will never, ever go of course. The course may get bumpy and scary and troublesome. But come on, people, it’s Jesus. He’s got this.

When you put your hand on the plow and move forward with Jesus, keep going and do not look back. I promise you, you will not regret it and will never miss what you left.

Liturgy of Repentance ~ Fishing

The following is the Liturgy of Repentance for our final Lenten midweek worship tonight. The scripture focus is Matthew 4:18-22; Jesus calling Andrew, Peter, James and John. We are called to radical discipleship; to leave all and become a fisher of people. This is scary and impossible on our own, but Jesus has promised to show us the best fishing holes 🙂

Redeeming God,
through Jesus Christ You have called me to follow.
You have called me to submit.
You have called me to trust.
You have called me to obey.
Oh God, I am blown away.
I have no credentials that would make me worthy to speak for You.
I have often messed up.
I have fallen short of Your glory.
I have sinned.
And You have called me?
Me?
A sinner?
You have called me to radically follow you.?
And to be a fisher of people?
But I don’t know how to fish for people.
I don’t know the right spots or the right methods.
But there is someone who does know.
As Jesus showed his disciples where and when to cast their nets,
show me.
You know where the fishing is good.
You know the best methods.
You know the best timing.
Forgive me, oh God, for when I take these matters into my own hands.
Forgive me, for when I fail to trust You.
Forgive me for trying to be my own fishing guide.
Forgive me for doubting my call.
Forgive me.
Oh Lord, my God, hear my cry: I repent…

Following unto Life

Holy God,
You are awesome and great;
mighty and wonderful.
You call us to leave behind all that we have
in order to gain so much more;
Life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grant us faith to see that what we have in stuff
doesn’t even come close to Your infinite worth,
and thus may we boldly carry our cross
and follow Jesus.
Oh God,
we praise You,
for You save sinners such as us.
In Jesus name we pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Avoid One and Done

I have discovered a proliferation of door to door sales people here in Washington as compared to rural Minnesota where I lived for 44 years. I’ve had people come by trying to sell me home security services, pest control and lawn services. I listen to their sales pitch but I tell them that I am not going to buy anything now but rather I want to do my own research. I want to get to know their company and what they are selling. I want to trust them before I make an investment. They usually don’t like this response as they want the sale now.

The same mentality is often seen among Christians. One presents the Gospel to someone and then wants to see the fruits of their efforts now. They want to make an instant “sale” and then move on; feeling good that their numbers are going up. This tactic, though, is rarely effective in the long term, especially for the one “buying the product”. One and done evangelism is often more damaging to the one being evangelized. It’s like selling someone a whatchamacallit without an owners manual.

Instead, we need to spend time with people and develop relationships with them.  We can’t have a “one and done” mentality. We need to invest in people, provide for any needs, be a guide and help them along the way as they grow in Christ. When you look at the early church in Acts, the apostles spent time in the towns in which they planted churches. They didn’t just preach and go. They weren’t one and done evangelists. They invested in people.

Door to door ministry can be effective, but only if a relationship eventually ensues. Leading people to Christ can be a time consuming thing but it is important work as we are called and commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples…”. Spend time with people and live out your faith. Show them Christ’s love through your words and deeds. Be a “little Jesus” to them. Walk with them and when the opportunity presents itself, tell them about Jesus. Basically, earn the right to be heard.

So all you door to door sales people, don’t expect me to buy what you’re selling until I get to know you. Make an investment in me and earn my trust. Not practical for you, I know, but for you, Christian, it is. It’s what Jesus and the apostles did. Follow him and walk AS Jesus did and don’t be a one and done evangelist.

The Pastor -|—

Making Disciples

As a church, what are you about?

A church strategy that focuses on getting people to come to you through flashy programs, big events, creative gimmicks or high energy worship technology misses the point of being the church. Jesus never said, “Go therefore and make members of all nations…“. Jesus commanded us to “Go therefore and make DISCIPLES of all nations…“.  The work of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus create Jesus-followers or better yet, those to walk/live/talk/act AS Jesus would. It is a command to live out loud in such a way that people see Jesus in you and thus give glory to God. The work of the church is “out there”, not in the safety of your four walls.

If, as a church, though, you are only focused on bringing in more people so you can cover your budget, you are nothing more than community-minded club. Following Jesus is not a club but a way of life. Following Jesus is messy. Following Jesus is joy in the midst of a messed up, sin-filled world.

As a church, ask yourself this question:
If we evangelize someone; sharing the Good News of Jesus with them, and they come to believe, will we still rejoice if they choose to worship elsewhere?

Think about that. If your answer is no then some soul searching needs to be done.
Why do you exist?
Who are you trying to glorify, yourself or God?
What’s more important, building your kingdom (building) or God’s Kingdom?

Sure, more than likely, if you help lead someone to Jesus, they will come and worship where you worship, but they may not. If they choose someplace else, then still praise God. Praise God they are part of the flock. Praise God they are worshiping him. Praise God that there is another disciple out there ready to do battle with the forces of evil. Praise God.

As I said, following Jesus is messy work but if you are unwilling to get messy, then you will miss the joy that is discipleship. Get out of your neat, safe and comfortable buildings. Hit the messy, dirt road; kicking up some dust along the way and getting dirty; knowing that you are already washed clean through the Holy Spirit.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
[Matthew 28:19-20]

Let’s get messy.

The Pastor -|—

Being a Christian

As a Christian there are three important implications of claiming Jesus as your Lord and Savior. These are implications that I am thinking about for the sermon tomorrow. If you want to hear more then you still have time to travel to Puyallup, WA to hear more or you can just listen to the sermon on the church’s website after the fact at:

www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com

In the mean time, here’s a little teaser for you…

(1) We are to identify with sinners; as the sinners we are. We need to identify with the hopeless, the lost, the hungry, the wayward, the misguided, idolaters, etc. It is only through this identification that we can proclaim the Gospel to them without judgment.

(2) Creating disciples should be our primary focus. Not only does Jesus give us this command at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, but it should be a no-brainer. If you have been transformed by the power of the proclaimed Word then why not also proclaim that same proclaimed Word in Jesus Christ. And when you create a disciple, don’t just let them go like a wind-up toy. Follow up with them and encourage them, lest they go astray.

(3) Be Gospel people. Live the life of a follower of Jesus in deed AND word knowing that people WILL be offended; for the Gospel indeed offends. And when it offends someone (and it will) remember that the Gospel kills (and people generally hate that) but it also raise to New Life. So be persistent. They need you.

There you go. Pretty easy, right? No, but by the grace of God will people come to know God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. Be a Christian, not just act like one.

The Pastor -|—