GOD IS GREAT!

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How does one not shout, “GOD IS GREAT!”, when one contemplates God’s salvation? I suppose the person who looks at salvation as a theological concept or myth to be studied. But if God’s salvation is your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, then, “GOD IS GREAT!”, just flows out of your mouth. If it doesn’t, then maybe you don’t realize what this salvation really means.

You are a sinner condemned to hell.
You can not save yourself no matter how hard you try.
God’s wrath is something you can not escape.
You are worthy of judgement.
You have no logical defense against God.

That right there is damning. Even for this sinner, when I contemplate my rightful place before God I shudder and shake. But enter Jesus…

JESUS was born unto you.
JESUS was unjustly judged, convicted and condemned.
JESUS was sinless.
JESUS was punished, beaten and tortured.
JESUS was mocked, spit upon and sentenced to death.
JESUS crucified.
JESUS suffered greatly.
JESUS died,

for you.

But…

…JESUS rose from the dead,

for you.

Now, think about all of that. That is salvation for you. That is life for you. And if that does not bring out a shout of,”GOD IS GREAT!”, then you have no idea the gravity of your terminal disease (sin). If you are not entering worship with joy then you really don’t know this awesome God of ours. If you are not seeking God on a daily basis then you are lost; seeking for the wrong things/people.

Stop and reflect on your terminal disease.
Stop and reflect on the awesome love of God.
Stop and give thanks to Jesus.
Stop and worship.
Stop and praise God.

Stop and shout, “GOD IS GREAT!”, for the whole world to hear.

Awesome God, when I stop and reflect on my sinfulness I am in awe of the salvation Jesus won for me. I shudder to think what I am worthy of but leap for joy what you have decreed for me through faith in Jesus. Oh God, you are indeed GREAT! All praise and worship and honor and glory be to You, through Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

I Give You Thanks, O God

Awesome and holy God,

the sound of the rain,
the singing of the birds,
the peacefulness of the morning;

I give You thanks, O God.

Time with Your Word,
moments of prayer,
worship with the saints;

I give You thanks, O God.

The cooing of my child,
the babbling of my child,
the love of my family;

I give You thanks, O God.

My parents,
my sister,
all my family;

I give You thanks, O God.

The loyalty of friends,
the strength of community,
the joy of Your church;

I give You thanks, O God.

My shelter,
my clothes,
my food;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your grace,
Your love,
Your faithfulness;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your grace,
Your love,
Your faithfulness;

I give You thanks (again), O God.

The beauty of Your creation,
the presence of Your Spirit,
the love of Your Son;

I give You thanks, O God.

A good cup of coffee,
another good cup of coffee,
and another good cup of coffee;

I give You thanks, O God :-)

My Father,
my Lord,
my Savior;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your glory,
Your power,
Your kingdom;

I give You thanks, O God.

Your victory over death,
Your victory over Satan,
Your victory given to me;

I gave You thanks, O God.

For the fact that I could go on and on and on and on and …

I give You thanks, O God, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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May God bless you and keep you as you give thanks and praise to our most holy and awesome God.

The Pastor -|—

Gazing and Reflecting: A Holy Moment

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I was captivated by this figure from the first moment I saw it and was honored that my wife’s grandfather wanted me to have it. It’s a simple piece; beautifully carved in Mexico that, by some divine providence, has made it’s way to my study; where it now sits (actually, it’s kneeling). The figure is seemingly bowing it’s head in prayer as it meditates on scripture; showing me a faithful engagement with God through his holy Word.

The figure’s face is determined, peaceful and focused as it holds the Word of God. I Imagine him reflecting on a passage he just read and listening; listening intently for the voice of God, hence the determined face. He’s at peace because not only is he cradling the Bible but he feels cradled by the promises of God that he is reflecting on, hence the peaceful face. He also seems to be in his own little world as he meditates on God’s Word; not drawn away by the lure of cultural forces, hence the focused face.

I gaze at this figure and notice the cross dangling at his knees. For him it is not just some piece of jewelry or something to adorn his outfit. The cross is something that brings him great joy and hope (as it does me), thus the attitude of worship that I also see emanating from his face.

I gaze at this figure and I almost feel guilty; like I am invading his privacy as he worships. Sounds weird and goofy and maybe a little disturbing, but as I am gazing I notice something else. I notice that I am being drawn into worship as I reflect on him reflecting and on whom he is reflecting. I find myself drawn to enter a time of prayer; engaging God through scripture; and I like this. For there is much the world wants me to embrace as truth but I refuse to embrace that truth. For me, THE Truth is God almighty through Jesus Christ my Lord. And that Truth is found in God’s most holy and inerrant Word.

I gaze at this figure and see a person; loved by God and loving his God. I see a person who would readily acknowledge that he is a redeemed sinner. I see a person who devotion to God is not only in his moments on his knees but in every moment of his life. And I like what I see.

I gaze at this figure and see a beautifully crafted piece of wood but I also see a God who loves me beyond anything this world is able or willing to do. Weird, goofy, disturbing; call it what you may, but for me, I will gaze and listen and pray and listen and worship and listen and read and listen and remember and listen and…

Holy God, I am thankful for the many ways You speak to me and proclaim Your amazing love to me. You do so through Your most holy Word. You do so through people in my life. You do so through “usual” means which just shows You are not limited by anything or anyone. Thank you, Father, for the right to be called a child of Yours, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

As you gaze at that figure, what do YOU notice?

The Pastor -|—

Prayer of Discernment

As I am constantly praying; seeking God’s will and direction in my life. As I speak to people who are doing the same, the prayer at the end of this was placed on my heart.

Are you searching,
wondering,
looking,
floundering,
lost,
confused,
frustrated?
Are you seeking God and looking for a black and white answer? Whatever it is, lift it up to the Lord and then…

…listen.

I am not writing a discernment prescription. I am not guaranteeing a black and white answer for you. Rather, I’m encouraging you to do something you already know…

…PRAY.

So let’s do that…

Oh God, holy and mighty, immortal and omniscient,

You see the whole picture for You are the whole picture. You have my life in Your mighty hands for You are the giver and sustainer of life. You keep my going out and my coming in, now and forever more.

And so I appeal to Your wisdom and ask for Your Holy Spirit.

I feel caught in between what seems to be a myriad of
options,
paths and
opportunities,

and I don’t know where to go. One moment I think “This is the path” and then the next moment that doesn’t look good. And then, “Maybe that is the path” and then I am not so sure. Oh God, my wisdom is fleeting and flawed and incomplete.

I’m so discouraged. So,

I ask for Your wisdom so I may see.
I ask for patience that I may listen.
I ask for courage that I may follow.
I ask for boldness that I may lead.
I ask for faith that I may show Your glory.

And I ask for Your will to be done through me. Holy and mighty God, hear my prayer and glorified through Your holy will through me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

May God bless your day :-)

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Play God

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You know, it’s just not worth it…

Someone does something evil to you and you do something evil back, and then that someone does something evil back to you for the evil you did back to them for the evil they did to you and then you do something else evil back to them for the evil they did to you for what evil you did back to them for the evil they did to you and then…

It’s just not worth it, but rather…

Someone does something evil to you and you respond with something good; messing with their heads.

[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21 ESV)

Or that works too.

Let God be God.
Let God deal with evil.

Besides, you don’t bring glory to God if you are playing God. So bring glory to God by doing good to everyone and always. And think about it, isn’t it more fun to mess with people’s head AND bring glory to God than to get caught up in evil and thus destruction? And you never know if your head-messing might just get to their heart…

…and thus bring glory to God.

Yup, that sounds better :-)

Let the head-messing commence.

Father God, may I have the faith to respond with good rather than evil and thus bring You glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

“See you later”

No, I am not going anywhere…

[I’m imagining sighs of relief from 10s of people out there :-)]

…but rather this is something I learned from a saint of this congregation nearly 11 years ago.

Still wet behind the ears; I began serving and serving with Salem Lutheran Church on June 1, 2004. I was fresh off of seminary graduation on May 23 and wondering what in the world I was doing.  My ordination was coming up on July 2 and my own wedding on July 3. My head was spinning from a busy May, from what was coming up and from just moving into the parsonage over Memorial Day weekend and then jumping into the saddle. And it was a saddle that I thought, a month previous, I would jump into after the wedding, but Salem wanted me sooner and I thank God that I began when I did.

I preached my first sermon at Salem that following Sunday, June 6 but then was gone the next Sunday (June 13) for synod assembly. A few days later I would meet a family and a saint of this congregation that would change how I look at funerals forever. Hence, my gratitude for starting when I did.

Shirley was dying, and the family called me in. I hadn’t met this family yet and they had not met me. I rushed to see Shirley and was blessed we got to see each other before she died shortly after that. While planning for worship I learned a lot about Shirley and became even more saddened that I did not have the chance to get to know her when she was alive. One of the things I learned about Shirley, though, was that she never said “good bye” to people. Shirley believed that in Christ there is no such thing as “good bye“; only “see you later“.

The theology of that made sense to me but I had never heard it in such a way nor met anyone who lived it quite like Shirley did. And to this day, I share that quote with families and friends at nearly every funeral I preside at. No, I am not making a God-like judgment on someone’s salvation but rather proclaiming the truth of Romans 6 as Shirley lived:

[3] Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [4] We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Through faith, Shirley believed she was united to Christ; and therefore, if you placed your faith in Jesus, then Shirley believed she would see you again. Seems like a logical conclusion to make and one that brings great joy to this believer.

And now today, I am planning a funeral service for Shirley’s widow, Jim, and thus this flood of memories flowing out of my fingers and onto this keyboard. Meeting with the family; children I haven’t seen in nearly 11 years, we seemed to have picked up where we left off.

What a holy time.

And I so I remember, share with you and hold dear what Shirley taught us about the Good News of Jesus, and I smile :-)

See you later, Shirley.
See you later, Jim.
See you later fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

And praise be to God!

Holy God, through faith in Jesus You unite us to his death and resurrection. May that Good News continue to give strength to Shirley and Jim’s family and may that Good News bring joy to all who call themselves Your children. You are an awesome God and we praise Your name always and forever; in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Worship prayers for 05-10-15 (Mother’s Day)

Good morning and blessings to you on this Lord’s Day and Mother’s Day. Below are some of the prayers I have written for worship this morning. I usually get this out earlier in the weekend but the chaos of life prevented me from doing so. Hopefully I can get back on track next week :-)

So with that I commend these to you; praying that God is glorified in your worship.

Opening prayer
Holy God, on this Mother’s Day, we come first and foremost to worship You. For it is You, though the love of mothers of all types, who show what it truly means to love a child. For it is through the death and resurrection of Your one and only son, Jesus, that we have eternal life. And that right there is deserving of our worship and thanks.

But also, Lord God almighty, we honor those woman You have used as instruments of Your love in our lives. In whatever form they come, we thank You, oh God. In whatever role they have played in our lives, we thank you, oh God.

May women not see the passage of DNA as a barrier to living out their calling to mother someone. And may You continue to raise up Your children through the self-sacrificing love of a mother. To You, oh God, be all worship and praise this day and always. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Prayer before preaching
Holy Father, Creator of heaven and earth. I am about to embark, once again, on the awesome task of proclaiming Your holy Word. This is something not to be taken lightly so I humbly ask for Your Spirit to guide and give life to these words. My words are dead words and with no power, but Your words, oh God, have power to create and destroy; resurrect and heal; kill and bring to life. Your Words are grace and truth; law and Gospel; command and freedom. Your Word is awesome and so I approach Your holy Word with fear and trembling; committing everything to You. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, oh God, our Rock and Redeemer, Amen.

Post-Communion prayer
Holy Father, You have blessed us and fed us with this holy food, the body and blood of Jesus. I ask that You may make us so bold to live lives of hope as we cling to Your promises given through the death and resurrection of Jesus, Your son. And in light of the forgiveness proclaimed to us today, may we live lives of repentance as we strive to be more like Your dear son, Jesus Christ our Lord and in whose name we pray, Amen.

May God bless your day as you love on your mothers :-)

The Pastor -|—