Tag Archives: Worship

Prayer Before Preaching ~ Running Wild

In preparation for preaching on Pentecost Sunday and on Mark 10:13-16.

Holy God, loving Father, mighty King, I humbly ask for Your Holy Spirit to be given as we hear Your Word proclaimed. May childlike faith bubble up from deep within; from that place it was first born; but sadly now serves as a prison. May those locks be destroyed and that childlike faith be free to run wild. May we not be ashamed to let our guard down and seek You as our “Abba, Father”. Bless now our hearing and bless later our going that our childlike faith may infect people around us. Come, Holy Spirit, and set our heart aflame. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.

May the Holy Spirit run wild in your life.

The Pastor -|—

Childlike Seeking and Clinging

Good morning and God bless you all.

The preaching text for today is Mark 10:13-16; Jesus receiving the little children. The sermon focus will be seeking the kingdom of God with a childlike faith so hence the opening prayer for worship was written with this text and theme in mind:

Holy Father; mighty and victorious; compassionate and merciful, we humbly come before you with all we are and all we have; for all we are is nothing compared to Your awesome holiness and all we have is insufficient because of our sin. We are stained with the dirtiness of ourselves that is self-seeking and self-glorifying. We are stained with pride. We are stained with complacency. We are stained with the fullness of this life that leads us to eat, drink and be merry without the thought that tomorrow we may die. But grant us a childlike faith to empty ourselves of ourselves and worship you with humility and awe. May the wonder of childlike faith not be lost on us as we praise Your awesome and holy name this morning. May we run to you as a skinned-knee, tear-soaked little child; running to the loving arms of mama and daddy; holding back nothing. May we embrace You and cling to You as my little girl clings to my neck in the midst of danger.  All praise and worship be to You, Oh God, our Rock, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Heart of a Child

The heart of the child is something that should be nurtured, cared for and encouraged, because what is planted in the heart of a child, especially at a young age, is something that will pay dividends later in life; for the child and for the Church.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

This past Sunday during worship, I was up front leading the offering prayer and then led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer. As I was praying I started to hear the voice of a child also praying and I quickly recognized it.

It was my 2-year-old little girl.

My heart immediately melted as I stopped saying the words of the Lord’s Prayer so I could listen. Mayah didn’t say all the words of the prayer but she was definitely trying. I knew she had been doing this for a while but I just never heard her before Sunday.

I was one proud daddy :-)

I have heard parents lament over whether their kids are getting anything out of worship. I tell them that they might not understand everything now but they are definitely getting something out of it so don’t give up. Children have amazing recording devices in their brains that are connected to their five senses. They take in information (good and bad) but they may not process it until later; when they are able to decode what their brains were too young to comprehend then. It may seem like you child is just goofing off or not paying attention or just plain bored;

but keep at it (with the good stuff, that is),

keep training them;
keep exposing them to the saints of the congregation;
keep bringing them to the assembly;
keep the rituals of the faith in front of them;
keep talking about Jesus with them;
keep planting seeds.

Granted, Mayah doesn’t understand what she is trying to say now but she is beginning to understand that when we gather in this room every week we say these familiar words. As she grows up she will hopefully begin to comprehend what she is praying. Seeds are being planted now. So all that is left for me to do is to continue to nurture those seeds and be patient; waiting to see what the Holy Spirit will bring forth from them.

So…

parents of young children,
people who worship with parents of young children,
pastors who lead worship for parents of young children;

never, ever resent the presence of noisy children in worship but rather do your part as a member of the Body of Christ to raise children up in the way they should go. Never dampen the spirit of a child as they are trying to make sense of the faith. Never discourage a parent who only wants their children to experience worship with the assembly. Never take for granted what children may be absorbing during worship. Never glare or stare or judge, but rather teach and encourage and nurture. You just never know what children are learning, as it just might be something they will hold on too even when everything else has seemingly left them.

Let’s not show children the proverbial door through our impatience or being annoyed that they are squawking during a “holy moment” in worship, but rather let’s be in the business of planting and nurturing seeds; remembering how Jesus received children…

And they were bringing children to him (Jesus) that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a Church to pass on the faith and it takes a child to teach us adults the humility required to receive the kingdom of God. The circle of faith.

Father God, grant me the faith of a little child; one that receives you as their father. May I be granted the wisdom to teach children and serve as a faithful example of Your love. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

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 -|—

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 -|—

“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 -|—