"Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Nearly 2000 years ago, Paul wrote that to Christians, to people he included with himself when he said, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4-5).
I had always thought of the Garden of Gethsemane as some hidden away place. My mind's eye had pictured the Palm Sunday donkey ride as rather long and stretched out. My picture of the Jordan River was more like the Mississippi River. It's not that I didn't understand what the Bible was saying. I had just attached the words of scripture to the pictures my mind developed for them over the years. But then I saw it. And the images that play in my head as I read God's Word all look a little different now.
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Do you ever feel that being a child of God isn't paying out like you thought it should? The childlike confidence that Jesus will make everything better doesn't always seem to play out - when the wound doesn't heal, the need isn't met, the hurt doesn't go away. For us grown-ups, reality tends to set in and tarnishes some of that unbridled optimism.
What is it that eats at you? What is it that sits hidden in your life, that maybe no one else knows about, the thing that you try not to think about, but when you're reminded, it still kind of bothers you? It makes your bad days worse and puts a damper on your best days. Although you usually do a pretty good job of repressing it or excusing it or minimizing it…it's still there.
Have you ever wondered what a preacher's nightmare is? I'll tell you.
Last week, we talked about how the church - this "body" of Christ - doesn't always look so "Christ-like," how so often our sinful selfishness gets in the way and members start fighting against themselves, against their own body. This week, I want us to keep looking at 1 Corinthians 12 and how God works with us when we don't get along, when we aren't acting like one body.
OK - time for true confessions. I have to admit something to you. My church does all sorts of things for the community - Easter 4 Kids, Vacation Bible School, Soccer Camp, Christmas 4 Kids, and the list goes on. In fact, as I write this, we just presented our Fall Festival - free food, games, hayrides, pony rides, face painting, cakewalk, music and so much more. It's a great party. But, I said I had to confess something: We had ulterior motives. We might have kind of tricked some of our guests. It's not that we didn't do what ...
Picture yourself in the courtroom, awaiting the verdict. How are you feeling? It's your verdict … your future. It's a death penalty trial. You're hoping your lawyer did enough, but ... in a moment, you will either be free - or condemned. Not a comfortable feeling, is it?
The shopping mall is a dangerous place. You know that, right? And I'm not just talking about the potential thief in the parking lot or the danger of having someone steal your credit card information. I'm talking about something much worse. I'm talking about danger for our souls.
I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a word in the English language that is more overused and a concept that is more underused than "love."
When's the last time you've felt excited about giving an offering at church - I mean really excited? If you've been reading this column for the past month, you might remember that when I was in Nigeria, I wrote about how excited the Nigerians got about "offering time!" with the dancing and music accompanying the bringing of their gifts, spending at least an hour of their service giving their monetary offerings.
Greetings from Nigeria. Of course, by the time you read this one, I should have made it back already, God willing.
I write this as I sit in the mission house after my first day of teaching at Christ the King Lutheran Seminary in Uruk Uso, Nigeria. By mission house, I mean the home built for the American missionaries our church body used to send here to work among the Nigerians sharing the Gospel. That started 78 years ago.
Wow! That's all I can say. I'm writing this on Sunday night after experiencing something I won't be able to adequately convey in words. A couple of days ago, I wrote to you from our secure hotel in Lagos, Nigeria, the big city of 20 million, home of Nigeria's biggest airport - the one I flew into. Today, I write from a world as far from that as Lagos is from Covington.
Have you ever thought about foreign mission work? Could you do it? Last week, I wrote about redeeming the time - making the most of every moment of every day. So how's this for redeeming the time? As you read this, God willing, I'm in Nigeria teaching at our Lutheran Seminary there.
Last week, we started talking about depression by looking at the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19. If you missed that, you can find it under "sermons" at www.abidinggrace.com. We looked at noticing the signs of depression and seeing the dangers of those tell-tale signs, from focusing on feelings instead of facts, to taking responsibility for things you're not responsible for, to withdrawing to "be alone." We focused a lot on the problem of depression. This week, let's see the solution.
Ten years ago, I was installed as the pastor of Abiding Grace. Now, it doesn't seem like it was that long ago, but I guess the calendar doesn't lie. So, when we come to milestones like this, it makes sense to think again about what we're doing and to ask if it is what we hoped for. Is this working out?