To Silence Satan’s Laugh

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.[John 17:11]

I listened to a sermon recently where the pastor talked about oneness as the Father and the Son are one; using the above text. But something he said really caught my attention. He said that when we, as a church, get caught up in disputes or controversies or anything that takes our eyes off of Christ, Satan laughs.

He laughs.


Satan laughs because he won as he managed to get the church to take their eyes off of Christ. And ultimately that is what Satan is trying to do with all people. For you see, sin is a turning inward to see yourself as god; trusting oneself over God almighty. And when we look inward, we see only our agenda and our will. And let me tell you, our agenda and our will is not God’s.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8-9]

And Satan knows this and thus tries get us to focus on ourselves. For if Satan can divert our attention away from Jesus, then the church is not going to be the church as God wants. In scripture, the relationship of Jesus and the Church is like that of a husband and a wife, but only better. But if a wife (the Church) is not focused on her husband (Jesus); or worse yet, looking for another, the marriage is in trouble. And therefore, as the Church, we need to be one with Christ. For it is only by looking to Christ that we see his purpose and will for our lives. And that purpose? Is to be one as the Father and the Son are one. And when we are in one accord with the Father, the Kingdom of God is advanced. We are called to glorify God through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ whereby letting the Holy Spirit add to “the numbers”.

But that won’t happen if the church is turned in upon itself. The Church MUST be Christ focused. The Church MUST humble itself before the throne of God. The Church MUST lay it’s burdens down and trust God to care for it’s needs. The Church MUST remain focused. The Church MUST be one as the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit) are one.

And so my prayer for the Church; the congregations I am leaving and the one I am heading to shortly, is that we are one; one in purpose. May our eyes remain fixed on Jesus, so much so, that we give no occasion for Satan to laugh.

All praise, honor, glory and worship be unto God our Father through Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Pastor -|—

P.S. If you want to listen to the sermon I referenced at the beginning, follow the below link.

Sermon by Pastor Gary Jepsen, May 1

The Pass

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. [John 5:24 ESV]

I lived in the state of Washington for a year while doing my internship just north of Seattle. It was my first time living that long outside of my home state of Minnesota. It was great living out there but I still longed for home.

After some time I became homesick for some snow so I decided to drive up to Stevens Pass, one of the ski resorts in the Cascade Mountains. So on my day off I set out on my little day trip but as I started ascending the mountains I came to a check station. The state police where stopping vehicles; highly recommending chains on tires. Of course I didn’t have chains (because us Minnesotans don’t use them) and so I was worried they wouldn’t let me satisfy my craving for snow. When I approached the check station the officer said they were recommending chains due to the heavy snow on the mountain pass. I told him I didn’t have any since I was just out here for a year from Minnesota. He asked for my drivers license (My guess he wanted to confirm my story) and said,

“OK then, being that you’re from Minnesota, you’re probably going to be fine. Go ahead.”

And he let me pass. I was still nervous since I had never driven in mountain snow before but once up there I found that navigating the pass was no problem for this experienced winter driver.

The pass was passable for me.

But the “pass” from death to life is NOT something that can be navigated by the strong or the experienced or the intelligent or wealthy. The “pass” can not be traversed through right thinking or big dreaming. The “pass” from death to life can not be negotiated through force of will.

The “pass” from death to live is only survived because of the One who survived it first: Jesus. When you hear the Word of God and believe in Jesus Christ, you receive eternal life right then and there. No, you are not transported to heaven at that moment; but rather given the hope of the resurrection; which is eternal life here and now.

And it is that hope that gives me strength now as I see the junk and chaos and death that is all around me. It’s the the hope of the resurrection that gives me joy when the world and culture are attacking the Church. It’s this hope that gives me courage when Christian liberty and freedom are being taken away; knowing that my true freedom is through faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s not me that defeats the “pass” but rather the cross of Christ; God’s love and grace for defiant sinners.

So hear the Word of the Lord:
~ You are a sinner worthy of death.
~ Jesus died on a cross that your sins would be forgiven.
~ Jesus rose from the dead that you may live forever.
~ The passage way from death to life has been secured for you.

And best of all, this is all GRACE.

Let Jesus take you over and through the “pass”. Trust him and praise him always and forever.

Holy Father, words cannot express my thankfulness for Your Son, Jesus Christ, defeating death that I my live. Receive me into Your arms through the gift of faith and may the hope of the resurrection give me joy and courage and thus bring You glory here and now and forever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Thursday ~ Maundy Thursday

[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

[12] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. [14] You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14 ESV)

“Maundy” comes from the Latin word that means “commandment”. And the text we traditionally look at is John 13:34-35 but John 15 12-14 is a great followup and explanation of what this love looks like. So I offer these reflection points as you enter this Triduum, “The Three Days” (Maundy Thursday – Easter Vigil) and look forward to Easter:

(1) Jesus FREELY laid down his life for you. He wasn’t forced.

(2) Jesus calls you friend, not servant, since he has made know to you what the Father has made known to him.

(3) Laying down your life may not mean a physical death for someone but rather humbly serving one another (Washing their feet; see John 13:1-20)

(4) Laying down your life for someone should never feel coerced; if it does then you’re really not laying your life down for them.

(5) If you believe that Jesus laid his life down for you then laying your life down for someone else will be a joy.

(6) If the truly value the Life you have through faith in Jesus, then laying your life down in this life is not a loss but rather a gain.

(7) And as I have written about before, if you truly love Jesus, then following the commandment to love one another is done joyfully and not begrudgingly.

Reflect on these points.
Read these texts over and over.
Give thanks to God that Jesus gave his life for you.
And then go out and joyfully give your life for someone else.

Praise be to God!

Holy God, thank you for Jesus and I praise you that he laid his life down for me, a sinner, that I may have Life eternal. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Hate Your Life (John 14:15 and 15:12-15)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” [John 14:15]

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” [John 15:12-14]

Yesterday was a John 14 kind of day (see “Love and Obedience” from March 24) but today is a John 15 kind of a day.

Yesterday I was struck by John 14:15 that talks about loving Jesus and keeping his commandments; that obedience is an act of love, not an act of duty or something to avoid punishment. We obey Jesus because we love Jesus and we want to please him; not in order to get something in return but because he has already given us something: Eternal life through faith in him.

Now today…

Jesus gives the commandment (which, if you love Jesus, you will be pleased to receive) to love one another as He has loved you. Then Jesus goes on to define the ultimate display of love. Are you ready for this?
Laying down your life for your friends.

Then Jesus goes on to say that you are his friend if you do what he commands. So therefore if you love Jesus you will not only freely and joyfully obey him but you will lay down your life for him. In essence, you will “hate your life in this world” (John 12:25)


John Piper, from his Solid Joys devotional, “How to Hate Your Life” says this:
It means, at least, that you don’t take much thought for your life in this world. In other words, it just doesn’t matter much what happens to your life in this world.

If men speak well of you, it doesn’t matter much.
If they hate you, it doesn’t matter much.
If you have a lot of things, I doesn’t matter much.
If you have little, it doesn’t matter much.
If you are persecuted or lied about, it doesn’t matter much.
If you are famous or unheard of, it doesn’t matter much.
If you are dead, these things just don’t matter much.

But it’s even more radical. There are some choices to be made here, not just passive experiences. Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone serves me, let him follow me.” Where to? He is moving into Gethsemane and toward the cross.

To love Jesus is to die to this world and cling to the eternal life you have in him. If you are truly clinging to the hope of the resurrection, then what happens in this life really matters very little; for this world can not take away that which God gives through Jesus Christ. But if you are “loving” this life; clinging to it, then you are not looking to Jesus and therefore not loving Jesus.

But if you want a more vivid picture, then imagine this:
Clinging to this life/world rather than Jesus (loving him) is like hanging over a fiery pit and clinging to nothing but a small thread. And you don’t need me to tell you what’s going to happen eventually.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Will you lay down your life for Jesus?
He already laid down his life for you.

Awesome, amazing and mighty God; You loved us first. You love us even though we are sinners. You love us even though we are disobedient. You love us even though we seek this life. Turn our hearts towards You that we may see Your love through the cross of Christ. In Jesus name, Amen

The Pastor -|—

Love and Obedience (John 14:15)


It has been a John 14 kind of day as this chapter has been stuck (in a good way) in my brain and heart.

I was out visiting this morning; bringing communion to a couple members at a nursing home and assisted living facility out of town. During the course of the communion service I read from John 14 (since it has been on my mind today) and verse 15 struck me so I tried to make some mental notes on the fly. When I got home, I immediately created the above image through my YouVersion Bible app on my tablet and reflected on this some more. A few thoughts about this verses came to mind:

~ Obedience is a joy because of the one you are obeying.
~ Obedience is trusting the person you are obeying.
~ Obedience is not something to avoid consequences.
~ Obedience comes naturally because of the one whom you love.
~ Obedience out of love is not demanded but freely given.
~ Obedience out of duty is not love.
~ Obedience out of love is not about you but rather the one whom you love.

This is really a beautiful verse in the midst of a beautiful chapter. The love of Jesus should lead you to freely and joyfully obey all that God has commanded. For the one you truly love, you want to please, not because of fear of punishment for disobeying, but because you don’t want to hurt the one whom you love.

Just throwing this out there for you to ponder and reflect on.

The Pastor -|—

Peace in a Troubled World (John 14)

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” [John 14:1, ESV]

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27, ESV]

Beautiful bookends to a beautiful chapter. The beginning of Jesus’ farewell discourse begins with peace and encouragement to not have troubled hearts. Following this and up through verse 27 Jesus talks about:

Going to the Father
Preparing a place for us
Bringing us home to the Father
That he and the Father are one
In the mean time, giving the Holy Spirit
Not leaving us as orphans
Loving Jesus means loving the Father
The Father loves you

And finally: Peace
So therefore: Let not your hearts be troubled

What a beautiful discourse. And what a great reminder, because think about it, how often do you let your hearts get troubled? How often is your peace rattled?

~ You share your faith with your son or daughter, father or mother, friend or coworker and nothing. They still won’t accept Jesus and therefore it’s easy to become discouraged.
~ You just lost your job, money is tight, your health is not the best; and your heart is troubled about the future and whether things will ever get better.
~ A drunk driver kills someone one, yet another report of ISIS reigning terror someplace, the news reporting another murder involving domestic violence; and you wonder if peace will ever be a reality.

But Jesus says, Do not let your hearts be troubled. I got this. I have overcome this world. I have defeated death. Stuff may happen now that is unpeaceful and discouraging, but think on me. I give you a peace like nothing the world can give, so stop looking for peace there.

And it is this peace; the peace that only Jesus gives, that allows one’s heart to not be troubled. It’s thinking on Jesus that encourages our discouraged hearts. It is faith in the crucified and risen One that truly brings peace in an unpeaceful world.

No matter what you do; no matter how hard your search; no matter how hard you try, you are never going to find or create a situation where your heart will be completely free from trouble or discouragement. Maybe you can do something for the short-term, but there will always be something lacking without Jesus.

So turn to Jesus and let not your hearts be troubled. And know a peace that surpasses all understanding and surpasses anything that this world can promise.

Be at peace, my friends, and praise God always and forever.

God of peace, Your love and compassion and faithfulness is what we truly need in a love-less, compassion-less and faith-less world. May we turn to You and be at peace; knowing that Jesus died and rose that we may have a place at the Great Banquet table and a room in Your Mansion. What a joy to think on this promise. What peace. Thank You, oh God, in Jesus name I pray, 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,]

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 -|—