Jesus Lives, AMEN

Death is the great equalizer,
for no one is immune,
and death is the great divider,
for some are not attuned.
For Jesus conquered this enemy
and shattered its mighty power,
therefore some will be on his right,
and others will be left to cower.

Death still runs wild,
threatening to devour.
Death still strikes blows,
trying to exert it’s power.
But Jesus lives and reigns,
thus I will live too.
So take your best shot, Death,
for you will be left the fool.

So when Death comes a knocking,
to claim another life,
just shrug him off with a smirk,
knowing that he is not right.
For my Lord has won the victory,
thus I will live again.
Death can have its moment now,
but Jesus lives, AMEN!

The Pastor -|—

Post-Easter Thankfulness

The Pastor is on vacation.

I am currently resting with family and friends; relaxing and reflecting on another Lenten and Easter season and the verdict is in:

It was good.

Notice that I did NOT say (with a sense of relief):

It is finished.

The jokes are out there, you see, that pastors are so shot after Easter that they feel like crawling into and curling up in Jesus’ empty tomb for a while.

“Don’t talk to me for a few days.”

I don’t feel that way. I feel energized and content and happy and filled. No, I didn’t take a 46 day vacation between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s just that the congregation I serve with, served together and thus I don’t feel drained but filled. I gave it my all but was never disconnected from the True Vine. I am not bragging but just thankful. I led worship and preached twice a week, but also worshiped and listened to what I was saying. Lent was refreshing, not life-draining.

And this is the way it should be. Looking back at a season that focuses on our mortality and sinfulness; worshiping while reflecting on Jesus’ last moments and death on a cross and then seeing an empty tomb and then hearing that proclamation: HE HAS RISEN! How can one not feel energized and thankful and joyful.

It is (indeed) finished and I am (indeed) thankful; thankful that Jesus finished what he came to do. Thankful that I have the hope of the resurrection. Thankful that I have been refreshed and ready for another season.

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Holy God,
You have refreshed me
through this Lenten and Easter season.
You have reminded me
who we are and whose I am.
You have shown me the extent of Your love.
May I cling to this Truth.
May I dwell in Your love.
May I proclaim this Good News.
May I continue to know Jesus better.
Oh God,
You are an awesome God.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The (thankful) Pastor -|—

 

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 -|—

Sermon teaser for John 11:17-44

This week I get the privilege of preaching on John 11:17-44, twice; this Sunday and then again on Tuesday during our last midweek Lenten worship service. The following is the opening paragraph for Sunday. For more, keep an eye on my congregation’s website:
http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com

The raising of Lazarus gives us a sneak peek into the death-destroying, Satan-stomping, sin-eradicating power of God through Jesus Christ. The disciples knew Jesus as someone who could do amazing miracles, but really had no idea the length and depth of his power. Martha had an idea as she says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Martha dared to believe that if Jesus asked God for the life of Lazarus, that God would grant his request. That is a bold faith, but even Martha had no idea the lengths that Jesus would truly go to destroy death’s grip. In this story, Jesus overcame death’s hold on Lazarus, but through his own resurrection, Jesus would proclaim his victory over death and death’s hold over all those who believe in him.

The Pastor -|—

 

Gripping the Cross

image

The hand that grips this cross
is sinful and stained,
but thankfully the one who died upon the cross
is holy and perfect.

The hand that grips this cross
is in need of help and rescue,
but thankfully the one who died upon the cross
has won the victory through his resurrection.

The hand that grips this cross
falls short of God’s glory continually,
but thankfully the one who died upon the cross
extends grace and mercy endlessly.

The hand that grips this cross
will one day give way to death and decay,
but thankfully the one who died upon the cross
has risen that the possessor of this hand may live eternally.

The hand that grips this cross
doesn’t always treat people as they ought to be treated,
but thankfully the one who died upon the cross
doesn’t treat the person of this hand as they ought to be treated.

and therefore,

The hand that grips this cross
will always cling to the promises secured therein;
thankful for Jesus, the one who died upon the cross
FOR YOU and FOR ME.

The Pastor -|—

Why God, Why

This pastor’s heart is heavy this morning after reading news about a reporter and her cameraman in Virginia being gunned down and killed on live TV this morning. I won’t go into details here as you can click the link above.

As I read this story, my heart broke and immediately send me into a series of questions, many consisting of: “Why God, why?” as I instinctively started looking for answers. It’s a natural response to a tragedy as one seeks consolation, comfort, hope and maybe even an explanation. Something, anything to help make sense of the evil and sin in the world. I hear this “Why” question a lot and ask it myself.

And there are no good answers to explain why this tragedy happened, but there IS hope. The hope? OUR hope?

OUR AWESOME GOD THROUGH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD

[Isaiah 43:1] But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

[1 Corinthians 15:55-57]  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

[Romans 8:35-39, but really, read the WHOLE chapter] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

[John 11:25-26]  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

…and there are many more, but hopefully this is a start for you. This world is nasty, sin-stained, filled with death, but…

Our God is love, pure and perfect, and filled with Life; a life that is your’s through faith in Jesus Christ. So as chaos reeks havoc in this world, cling to Jesus. May the only answer you search for and cling to be

JESUS.

Mighty and holy God, I lift up to You those affected by this tragic shooting. May family, friends and loved ones know Your love and the hope of the resurrection. Evil may have it’s day in this world but You have overcome this world. May we cling to THAT reality. All praise, glory and worship be to You, oh God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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 -|—

Good News in a bad news world

News

Teen dies after ‘simple, common wisdom teeth extraction’

Mpls. police investigate fatal shooting

Teen charged with murder in toddler’s violent death

Man found guilty of attempted murder at party

Heavy rain from Bill threatens new floods in North Texas

Bad news, bad news, bad news; it’s all around us. And these are just a few headlines I found on the website of a local TV station. And as you look further out into world news, it doesn’t get much better:
~ ISIS
~ Wars
~ Terrorism
~ Extreme poverty/hunger
~ Genocide

Closer to home, your news may seem even worse:
“Your prognosis is not good”
“I want a divorce”
~ “Your position is being eliminated”
~ “There was an accident…”

And just reading those headlines makes me depressed. Sure, there are those feel good stories that the late evening news shows from time to time, but it’s not enough to numb the pain and heart ache that dominates the headlines. A story of a young child saving her mother, who was having a diabetic reaction, warms your heart and puts a smile on your face, but then a following story about ISIS seemingly takes that all away.

Bad news, bad news, bad news.
We need some Good News.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. [Psalm 112:7]

And then I read this verse from the Psalter; not afraid of bad news. Why? Because of the Good News that the psalmist has in his heart: trusting in the Lord.

The bad news that seems to dominate headlines (because for some reason that seems to grab more ratings) is only truly bad news if your hope is only in this world. If you are putting all your eggs in one basket; putting all your senior officers in one shuttle craft, then there is much to fear when all hell seems to be breaking lose.

But…

If your hope is in the Lord; trusting in His promises, then THE Good News (Jesus Christ) will dominate your headlines and snuff out that life draining bad news that Satan is trying to promote. Feel good stories are great and give us a glimpse of God working in the lives of people, but the ultimate “feel good” story is Jesus Christ dying for your sins and then rising to New Life that you may have the hope of the resurrection. And after the resurrection; no more bad news.

I like that and now I feel much better.
Joy has been restored.
Good News trumping bad news.

So…

Bring on the bad news, Satan, for you can not top THE Good News of Jesus Christ; for it is this Good News I will focus on and thus trust in my God.

Holy God, when bad news threatens to steal my joy remind me of the Good News of Jesus Christ; whereby my hope is placed. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Thief is Coming

image

Are you ready?
Are you waiting?
Are you looking for the Lord?
Are you longing for the Lord?
Are you being complacent?
Are you clinging to worldly peace?

My friends, the Lord is coming. He has risen and now is planning his return. The only thing not certain (to us) is when, but I fear that many people either don’t know this or are taking this for granted. But if we truly fear this then what are we doing about it? It’s one thing to proclaim the Easter message and but are you talking about getting ready for the Lord, and not getting caught eating and drinking and making merry.

So the question shouldn’t be, “Are you ready?” but rather, “What are you doing to get others ready?

Our politicians are so focused on providing peace and security for people that many get drawn into these messages of worldly hope. And as people get drawn in, then Christ gets left in the rear view mirror, barely an after thought. But this is dangerous stuff, for the Lord will return like a thief in the nigh and catch many off guard.

Don’t be one of them.
And don’t let your neighbor be one of them.

We can’t afford to be complacent and say, “I’ll take them tomorrow”, for tomorrow may never come.

Living Easter hope, as I mentioned in my post from yesterday, is not about getting better in this life, but preparing ourselves for the next Life through holiness, though obedience to God and following Jesus to the cross. And living Easter hope is being hold and courageous in your faith, because really, what do you have to lose.

Fear not those who can destroy the body but the one who can throw the body and soul into hell.

So let’s get ready for the “thief” as he steals away our souls for eternal worship of God our Father.

And don’t forget about your neighbor.

Holy God, may I never forget about why Jesus died and the place in your mansion that he went to prepare. May I be found ready when Jesus returns. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—