"Dearly Beloved…" That's the way I started out my last wedding sermon. I know it's a little bit of a throwback. We don't call too many people "beloved" anymore, but I hope you know what I mean. Today, I want to think about why that's a perfect way to greet one another…"beloved."
You call yourself a Christian, right? You do realize that just by doing that, you are taking on a very specific job description. You are now "His witnesses". You are the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth". You are "Christ's ambassadors", a "holy priesthood" you are to be "Declaring the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light". Do I have to go on? Realize it - you have a job, whether you like it or not, you are blessed to serve. There is no such thing as a part ...
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." You've heard that, right? How about, "The pen is mightier than the sword"? I'm sure you've heard both. But both can't be true. Which is it? Do words have no power or are they more powerful than armies and tanks?
"I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God said that (Jeremiah 29:11). Have you ever felt like saying, "Yeah, right" when you hear it? Intellectually, we can say that we agree. We know God is in control and he knows what he's doing and he's working for our good. We can say that with our mouths….but do our hearts always buy it? Do we always live like it?
Last week, we saw how intimidating it is to see what God expects of us as Christians. If you missed it, check out the 7/13/14 sermon at www.abidinggrace.com. For now, let's just say that Jesus made it pretty clear that we'd suffer for following him. Only once we realize what God expects of us and how far we fall short, and the punishment we should have for that, only then are we ready to read the rest of this section of Scripture where Jesus sends out his disciples as workers in his harvest field.
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Last week, we saw the righteousness that Jesus "filled up" for us – and put on our record in our baptism. We saw him doing everything that was "fitting" for that righteousness, living a perfect life, more perfect than even the most polished celebrity at the most posh event could ever be.
Some things are just fitting, aren't they? They are just supposed to be a certain way. Take the Golden Globes. Did you see the show? Everyone who is anyone in Hollywood was there. And everything was just right.
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.