Worship prayers for 08-16-15 ~ The Image of God

I am back.

I was off last week for some continuing education and now I am looking forward to getting back into the pulpit and worshiping with the saints/sinners of Salem and Belmont. It’s nice to take a break once in a while but I do itch to get back into the saddle, as it were.

So here you go, the prayers/blessings I prepared for worship this morning. The preaching text is Mark 12:13-17 where Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ question about taxes: Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. What strikes me is that Jesus draws their attention to the image on a coin and then says render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But what is God’s? Well, we are created in God’s image, so therefore what is God’s is that which bears His image. You and me. So this morning I am playing with this glorious reality of being created in God’s image.

May your corporate worship time be pleasing to God Almighty and may you leave refreshed for ministry out in the world; bringing glory to God. Let us pray and praise our God…

Opening Prayer
Holy Father, we enter this time of worship with joy and thanksgiving. We come before with all that we are to perform for You. We enter this space with no other expectation than to sing praises to Your holy name. For this time is not about us. It is not about what we get out of it. It is not about us feeling good. This is about You and You alone for You are worthy of all our attention. You are worthy of all our focus. You are worthy. So may this corporate time of worship be pleasing to You and may our lives the rest of the week be ones that deflect all attention to You, oh Lord, as we continue our worship 24/7. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Prayer before Preaching
Creator God, you created us in Your most glorious image. You created us with a purpose. You created us to worship you. But many have turned to worship the creature rather than You, the Creator. Many have turned away, rendering to Caesar that which belongs to You. Holy God, loving father, may You send Your Holy Spirit that these words may pack the punch needed to turn people back to You and render to You that which is due to You. May people see You as Creator and redeemer, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Post-Communion Blessing
Now may the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ embolden your words and deeds as you live as forgiven sinners; saved by grace through faith, and proclaim the life and death of Jesus to the glory of God our Father. Let us pray…

Post-Communion Prayer
You have fed us with this holy food; the body and blood of Jesus, and now You send us out into this mission field. Strengthen our faith to speak boldly of Your Kingdom and may we be ever mindful of the fact that we are Your image bearers. To you be honor and glory, forever and ever, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

One-liners

Who doesn’t like a good one-liner?

I, for one, have never been very good at coming up with one-liners on the spot and therefore I have much respect for those who have a quick wit. Most of my “on-the-spot” one-liners are thought of moments after the moment has past and thus my one-liner because irrelevant.

One-liners can be funny or destructive. They can draw people in. One-liners can emphasize a point, but whatever the case, they are not meant to be deep and necessarily thought provoking but rather meant to pacify a moment and then move on. That may serve a purpose for a short time but if you want something deeper you need a longer conversation with that person. You need more than just one line.

For those who are friends with me on Facebook and Twitter, you have grown accustomed to me posting “one-liners” (a.k.a short Bible verses) on (nearly) a daily basis. Lately I have gone away from that; not because I am not reading my Bible but because of a Facebook post from a friend that I read a while back about “one-liners”. The post went something like this:

Never read just one verse in the Bible. Read a bunch of them. Read a paragraph; a chapter or more.

The idea of that post is to communicate that by reading only one verse you can lose important context. And as many of you know, you can take nearly any Bible verse and twist it to mean something completely different if you pull it out of it’s original context. Therefore you need more information.

So…

I am doing something a little different now on social media. I am not ceasing my one-liners but rather giving one-liners based on my reading of a whole chapter of the Bible and then directing people to that chapter to “verify” and/or read the context themselves. For me personally, this has proven to be a great spiritual discipline as I reflect on a chapter and then formulate a summary in my head to share. Instead of a scripture one-liner I am sharing a chapter one-liner. My attempt is to be more biblical faithful.

Sure, there may be certain verses that speak to you and ones that are worthy for further reflection, but do so in context. Reflect on your verse but read the paragraph and/or the chapter that contains that verse to make sure you don’t miss the intended meaning. Get the context and by do so, you will be more faithful to scripture and more faithful about your spiritual growth.

One-liners can be good and grab attention, but make sure your focusing attention on the right things.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

Dwell

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord , make me dwell in safety.
[Psalm 4:8 ESV]

Meditate on this verse tonight as you prepare to retire for the evening, and if you are not lying down in peace, then why? What is it that is preventing you from seeing and knowing the Lord? What lie is Satan telling you?

Whatever it is…

…stop it.

Turn to Satan and say, “Go back to hell. I belong to Jesus.”

Now, lie down in peace and trust that God has your life.

Sweet dreams.

The Pastor -|—

Cardboard Prayer

Think about this as you offer up your bedtime prayers:

God is glorified through answered prayer; even when the subject of said prayer is cardboard (long story, but praise be to God).

It matters not the subject of your prayers but rather the god you’re praying to. And God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth; is the god that truly matters.

Have a good night and pray away my friends. God is listening.

The Pastor -|—

Walking Closer

Allow these words from this great hymn to be spoken over you. Let them soak in and drip from your being. Receive these words through faith in Jesus Christ and know the grace of God.

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

The Pastor -|—

I Dare You

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
[Psalm 139:23-24]

Have you prayed a prayer like this before?
Have you dared to ask God to show you “any grievous way” in you?
Have you asked God to lead you “in the way everlasting”?

This is a dangerous prayer, but an awesome one. It is one that leads to transformation. If you pray this prayer with all your heart; meaning every single word, how does God not joyfully grant every aspect of this prayer to you? But this is not a magical incantation. This is not a rubbing of the genie’s lamp.

This is a prayer of faith.

God knows your whole being.
God knows the depths of your heart.
God knows your secret sins.
God knows every skeleton you hide.
God HAS searched you and knows you.

So that is not the issue but rather God making this known to us; that we may know that God knows. And knowing that God knows and that God has not left us; that is powerful. That is grace. And when I see that God sticks with me even though God has searched me and has found everything I would rather keep hidden, I am lead to be better. I am drawn closer to God.

Not out of fear but out of love.

And so this prayer is about God,
revealing that which does not bring God glory;
revealing that which draws me away from God.
revealing that which darkens my path, so much so, that I don’t faithfully follow.
And then revealing His grace.

So since God knows you better than you know yourself, confess your sins but don’t stop there. Don’t just rack your brain for sins to confess, but listen as God reveals to you ways you have disobeyed and then receive those “grievous ways”; confessing them as well.

And upon hearing amazing grace: My child, I forgive you. The next part of the prayer is about God leading us in the way everlasting.  This is the repentance part. Confession and absolution falls short if there is not a desire to repent. That’s just cheap grace. And so upon confessing and hearing forgiveness, pray for God to lead you into repentance; “in the way everlasting”.

Wow, what a dangerously awesome prayer.

So I dare you to pray it and then I dare you to listen. Go ahead I dare you. God is waiting to transform you.

Holy God, search me and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting! In the name of Jesus, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Worship for 08-02-15 ~ Amazing God

Good morning and a blessed Lord’s Day to you all. This morning the text for preaching is Mark 12:1-12 with an emphasis on verses 10-11:
Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” This is God’s Amazing Grace. The sermon will focus on these verses as I quote and use the 7 verses of “Amazing Grace”. And so the prayers have that theme.

For the Confession/Absolution I am using words from the hymn “Lord Jesus, Think on Me” from the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book. For the Benediction I am using words from the hymn “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”. I like to connect things to hymns we are singing to help people think more about the words they are singing instead of just flying through them.

May God be praised in your worship and may the Word of the Lord dwell in you richly.

Opening Prayer
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound indeed, holy God, for it has saved a wretch like us. For we were once lost but now through faith in Jesus, we are found. We were once blind but now we see. And it is because of this amazing grace that we gather to worship you. We unleash the joy within us and pour it out as a fragrant offering to you. And as that sweet aroma rises to you, may you fill us with Your Holy Spirit; filling us more through adding joy unto joy. May we see and feel and know the presence of Your love and may our joy spill out for others to enjoy and know. To You be glory and honor as we lift our praises to You, holy God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Confession and Absolution
All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.
All have sinned and failed to keep God’s commandments.
All have sinned and have hurt our neighbors.
All have sinned and have failed to honor God as He is worthy.
And so we gather together as a church to lift our prayers and confessions to God. Let us pray…

(ELW #599, “Lord Jesus, Think on Me”)
Lord Jesus, think on me, and purge away my sin; from selfish passions set me free and make me pure within.
Lord Jesus, think on me, by anxious thoughts oppressed; let me your loving servant be and taste Your promised rest.
Lord Jesus, think on me, nor let me go astray; through darkness and perplexity, point out your chosen way.
Lord Jesus, think on me, that when the flood is past; I may the eternal brightness see and share Your joy at last.
Lord Jesus hear our prayers and confessions…

[PAUSE]

Lord Jesus, You are awesome. You are love. You are grace. Through faith in you renew our strength and keep us on the narrow way.

In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us and for his sake God forgives us all our sins. So as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ and by His authority, I therefore boldly and confidently announce the complete forgiveness of all your sins; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Prayer before Preaching
Amazing and awesome God, we have spilled out our joy through worship because of Your grace and now it is our pleasure to hear a word from You; for You have the words of eternal life. These are not mere words of man, spoken to make people feel better, but these are holy words spoken to create, build, maintain and/or strengthen faith. These words have power not because of me but because of Your Holy Spirit. These words are awesome, not because I formulated, crafted and organized these words but because they are inspired by You. So may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, amazing God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Post-Communion Blessing
May the body and blood of Jesus Christ give you a greater appetite for him, a stronger desire to proclaim his life-saving love, and the boldness to speak into the darkness of this world. Let us pray…

Post-Communion Prayer
Loving Father, You have fed us with a holy food, Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Strengthen our faith and send us out to proclaim this life saving word through our words and deed, that people may run to glorify You. Through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

Benediction
Now may your tongues sing our great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of our amazing God and the triumphs of his grace. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Pastor -|—