Mayah Day

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Today is Mayah Day.

Two years ago today and at this very hour, my wife and I were in a hotel room with our brand new daughter. After the wild up and down ride that was our adoption process, we were finally parents. And now today we were celebrating Mayah’s birthday (which was last week) with some family and friends. Our little girl has grown up so much.

So today there is nothing too deep and theological for you; just a happy daddy thanking and praising God for entrusting this little girl to us.

Father God, words escape me to express my thanks to You for bringing Mayah into our lives. Help me be a good father as I raise my little girl to know and love You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Worship prayers for 04/26/15 (Belonging to Christ)

I offer these prayers to you for the glory of God; prayers written/compiled for worship on Sunday. A common thread running through many of these prayers is the theme of “belonging to Christ”. The sermon text is Mark 9:38-41 with the focus verse: [41] For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. 

May God be glorified in our worship.

Opening prayer [the italicized portion are the words of Charles Spurgeon]
“Hallowed be Thy Name.” Oh that all the earth would ever reverence it. As for ourselves, enable us by Thy grace to use it with awe and trembling; and may a consideration of the glorious character which is intended by Thy gracious name, ever lay us in the very dust before Thee, and yet lift us up with holy joy and with an unwavering confidence. We come before Thee this morning through Christ Jesus to express our entire confidence in Thee. Oh God, may our songs and praises be pleasing to your ears as we come before You in humble obedience. All praise and worship to you, holy Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prayer before the sermon
Holy Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, for You are worthy, oh God. May we be found faithful and obedient to Your Word and to Your commands. So please send Your Holy Spirit to give life to the words that I speak here this morning; that they may create and/or nourish faith. May the ears of those listening be turned away from me and directed towards You. May any praise that comes from the lips of those listening be directed towards You and not towards me. And therefore may all praise and glory and honor and worship be to You, holy Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prayer after the sermon
Once again, holy Father, I ask that Your Holy Spirit may take the words I have spoken here and use them for Your glory. May those hearing these words this morning see their lives as belonging to Jesus, for without Jesus there is no life. It’s a hard thing to be submissive like this; to turn everything over to Jesus; including our very lives, but it’s our very lives You came to redeem from sin and death and the power of Satan. So send us forth as beloved children belonging to You through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Offering prayer
We offer these gifts this morning as an act of faith and worship; remembering that all that we have belongs to You. Be pleased to use them for Your glory and multiply these gifts as You see fit to advance Your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom we belong, Amen.

Benediction/Blessing [based on Colossians 1:11-14]
May you be strengthened with all power, according to HIS glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. So go and make disciples; proclaiming this Good News, as people belonging to Jesus. Amen.

May the joy of the Lord give you hope and peace this day and always.

The Pastor -|—

Hungering For Others and For God (Matthew 5:6)

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For the next 30 hours, there is going to be plenty of “hunger” in my life.

You see, there is a group of kids from my confirmation class who will be participating in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine to raise money and awareness for world hunger. The famine started at 12 noon today (Friday) so there’s not a lot of hunger going on yet, but there will be.

The kids will arrive at church at 6:30 PM for a lock in, where they will doing some activities and Bible studies tonight. Tomorrow (Saturday) they will go on a scavenger hunt for the food shelf in town and then volunteer there for a couple hours. They will do some other services projects along with more activities and Bible study. At 6 PM (Saturday) we will gather for worship and Holy Communion and then break the fast with a bountiful spaghetti dinner.

And even though we will be getting pretty hungry maybe tonight but definitely tomorrow, it will be nothing compared to those who go without food for days or longer. Really, most of us have no idea what real hunger is like. For the most part we have food to eat everyday. And even if you don’t, there are food programs and food shelves and feeding ministries and the like readily available in this country (for the most part). But hopefully these kids get a taste of what hunger is like and feel more empathy for those who go without. Maybe next time they will go the extra mile to help the food shelf in town. Maybe they will notice that classmate who doesn’t get much to eat. Maybe they will reach out even farther to support world hunger initiatives.

But even more than doing the tangible thing of feeding people, my hope and prayer is that their hunger and thirst for God increases and drives them to serve their neighbor, not out of guilt or pity, but out of love for them. For when we hunger and thirsty for the righteousness that only God gives through faith in Jesus, then we will be driven to feed others (physically and spiritually).

So I ask you to be in prayer for these kids for the next 30 hours (and beyond). May God increase their hunger for Him and for their neighbors all over the world.

Father God, may we never lose our hunger for you. May our thirsty for the living water of Jesus never fade. And may we not lose sight of those who hunger and thirst in any way. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Call on Jesus

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Amen!
Praise be to God!
Alleluia!

But this verse is not hocus pocus.
It’s not a magical incantation.
The name of Jesus is not some name to be used to get what you want.

This verse is an act of worship; an act of submission. Notice that it does not say, “calling on the name of Jesus” but rather “Lord”. It is definitely referring to Jesus but instead uses the title that describes Jesus’ relationship to you.

To call on a lord is to recognize their authority over you. You aren’t going to call on a lord if you don’t think they can save you. But in this case, calling on THE Lord, Jesus, is something one does because they already know Jesus can and has saved them through faith. A person is not going to do this willy nilly because they want to save their butts from the eternal flames, but one does this out of love for the one who forgives sin through amazing grace.

But also, one doesn’t not submit to a lord if they still want freedom over their own life. You don’t submit to a lord if you’re too proud to admit you need help. You don’t submit to a lord if you want your cake and eat it too. But the fact of the matter is we need help and with Jesus you get something better than the proverbial cake. With Jesus you get THE Lord of lords who takes great joy in saving your life.

Amen!
Praise be to God!
ALLELUIA!

So go on, call on Jesus, submit to him and praise his Holy name.

Father God, you’re an awesome God. Thank you for sending Jesus to be Lord of my life to save me from myself. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Belonging to Christ (Mark 9:41)

“For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” [Mark 9:41]

The text for preaching on Sunday is Mark 9:38-41. And as I pray about and ponder this text I am caught by the phrase, “belong to Christ”.

And as I reflect on this phrase a few thoughts come to mind:
~ There is a big difference between Christ belonging to you and belonging to Christ.

~ Saying, “I’m a Christian” is not the same as belonging to Christ, often that simply reflects that Christ belongs to you.

~ If Christ belongs to you then you are in control of the relationship.

~If you belong to Christ, He is in control of the relationship, and you’re glad about that.

~ Belonging to Christ implies commitment and love.

~ Christ belonging to you implies manipulation.

~ If Christ belongs to you then you are less apt to share that which belongs to you.

~ If you belong to Christ you are more apt to shout this from the mountains tops and worship him.

Just a few thoughts as I prepare for the sermon on Sunday. What do you think? Does anything here resonant with you? What does it mean to you to say, “I belong to Christ”?

Here’s what it means to me:
Jesus is Lord of my life. He has saved me through his death and resurrection and therefore I owe him everything; especially including my very life. On my own I am weak and vulnerable but under Christ’s Lordship I am safe in his loving arms. But that’s not why I gather under his wings like chicks with a hen. I am drawn to Christ because of his awesome love for me; a love that I know will never fail despite the fact that I am a miserable sinner. And so therefore, I worship Christ and praise his name. I belong to Christ and gladly submit to him.

Now you’re turn…

Holy Father, thank you for coming to us in Jesus Christ. My life is yours. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

The Pastor -|—

Your Peace Is Here

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Oh Lord God,

at the break of day, your peace was there.

In my work,
in my play,
with my children,
with my wife,
with my friends,

Your peace was there.

In the midst of conversations, Your peace was there.
While pondering your will, Your peace was there.
Immersed in study, Your peace was there.
Pouring my heart out to You, Your peace was there.
Struggling with temptation, Your peace was there.
Grappling with decisions, Your peace was there.
Receiving a hug from my little girl, Your peace was there.
Melting while my little boy gazes into my eyes, Your peace was there.

All through my day; in all situations; through the ups and downs, Your peace was there.

And now…

Relaxing at home, Your peace is here.
Reflecting on my day, Your peace is here.
Remembering Your grace, Your peace is here.

Your peace was with me throughout this day and now Your presence overwhelms me as I prepare to commit my tired body to the vulnerable state of sleeping. And I am thankful for…

Your peace is here and Your presence is here and therefore…

I shall not fear.

In the name of Jesus Christ, my Prince of Peace I pray, Amen.
——————–

May the Prince of Peace give you comfort and peace this night.
The Lord be with you all.

The Pastor -|—

Whom to Fear (Matthew 10:26-33)

[26] “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. [27] What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. [28] And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. [30] But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [31] Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. [32] So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.(Matthew 10:26-33 ESV)

These verses come to mind this morning as I read a story on Twitter about ISIS allegedly killing 30 Ethiopian Christians. And sadly, this is a story that will get very little media attention; 30 Christians (link included) going to their deaths because of their faith. I weep for the families affected and for the Ethiopian people but I also praise God with them that these 30 were found worthy to die for the Way. I probably will never face anything like that in my life time but I hope and pray that my faith would be strong enough to stare death in the face and cling to the hope of the resurrection.

And for this Christian way over here in this country, there is very little I can do to protect Christians way over there. But one thing that we can all do is pray for the Church:

Pray that the Church is faithful to the Word of God.
Pray that the Church is faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray that Christians remember what and who Jesus died for.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will convict those who oppose Jesus.

And that last prayer request is not out of line. It’s not a fantasy or dream to think that the Holy Spirit could convict those in ISIS. Saul (later became Paul) was a feared persecutor of the Church; killing and imprisoning many Christians. But then Jesus showed up; blinding him and changed his heart. If Jesus could do that to Saul/Paul then Jesus can do that to anyone.

God willing of course.

But in the mean time, do not fear those who can kill the body, rather…
Fear God
Worship God
Praise God
Glorify God
Run to God
Cling to God

and all through Jesus Christ who died that we may live.

This pastor’s heart is heavy this morning but also very hopeful. God is good and God has already won the victory, no matter how many Christians are killed for the Way.

Praise be to God!

Holy God, grant faith to Your holy Church that it may stand under the threat of those who oppose it. May the Good News of Jesus Christ give hope to many as Your kingdom has been and is being established through Your Son. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—