3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Live in the Light
Text: 1 John 2:3-11
What if I told you I steal. I take things a lot. Nothing big. I haven’t robbed any banks. No armed robbery. But I steal, and I steal a lot. Sometimes it’s a moment of weakness. I can’t help myself. But other times I have good reasons. I have a terrific wife. I have wonderful children. I want them to have nice things. I want them to live the good life. So I’ll take money here and there. I’ll skimp on this and that. I’ll fudge the numbers of falsify information. Yes, I know God says not to steal. But I really love to have that money. I love to provide for my family. I love to have nice things. So I steal.
Don’t worry, that’s not true! But what would you think if I told you that? Or better, what would you think about me if I told you that? “Oh, great pastor we have there! Unbelievable! What kind of pastor is that? What kind of Christian is that? How can you know what God says, and still do the opposite and sin? How can you say you are a Christian but act like an unbeliever? What a phony! What a fake! What a hypocrite! What a liar!” Read the rest of this entry
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Text: 1 John 5:13-15
Wow! That was awesome. Were you paying attention? Did you follow closely with the words? It’s worth looking at again. Hymn 443:
Rejoice, my heart, be glad and sing; a cheerful trust maintain,
For God, the source of everything, your treasure shall remain.
Why spend the day in blank despair, in restless thought the night?
On your Creator cast your care; He makes your burdens light.
Did not his love and truth and power guard every childhood day?
And did he not in threatening hour turn dreaded ills away?
He always will with patience chide; His rod falls gently down,
And all your sins he casts aside in ocean depths to drown.
His wisdom never plans in vain nor falters nor mistakes;
All that his counsels did ordain a happy ending makes.
Upon your lips, then, lay your hand, and trust his guiding love;
Then like a rock your peace shall stand here and in heaven above.
Absolutely incredible! How does one do that? How do you get to the point where your heart rejoices and is glad and sings and maintains a cheerful trust? On your Creator cast your care; he makes your burdens light. If only it was that easy! If only I could trust that his wisdom never plans in vain nor falters nor mistakes and all that his counsels did ordain a happy ending makes. How do I get to the point that I can trust his guiding love and have peace like a rock here and in heaven above?
Beautiful words! They are more incredible when you know the context of who wrote them. I’ve shared the story of Paul Gerhardt once or twice before. This pastor in the mid 1600s went for many years without a job. Not many churches were interested in the truth of God’s Word that he was preaching. He was chased out of several towns. He was very poor at times. His wife died and four of his five children died. Yet Pastor Paul Gerhardt could smile through the tears and still write Rejoice, my heart, be glad and sing; a cheerful trust maintain, for God, the source of everything, your treasure shall remain.
How inspiring! But oh, how difficult! Trust like that is the last thing my heart wants to do. I want something solid to stand on. I want something I can see and believe. I want results. I don’t want sickness. I don’t want big doctor bills and a host of tests. I don’t want stress. I don’t want heartache. I don’t want tragedy. I don’t want death. I . . . I . . . I . . . Read the rest of this entry
6th Sunday of Easter
God is Love . . . What are You?
Text: 1 John 4:7-11
I could be very cliché as a writer and a speaker and tell you that if you googled the question, “What is God?” 1,650,000,000 results pop up on the internet. Or if you type the same question and search for books at Amazon.com, 338,815 related books pop up. Needless to say, a lot of people have a lot of things to say about what God is.
I could continue this very stereotypical sermon introduction and tell you that if you then googled the question, “What is love?” interestingly 4,980,000 (3 times more) results pop up on the internet and 266,243 related books show up on Amazon.com. A lot of people have a lot of things to say about what love is, too.
Then, I could put the cherry on top of the most stereotypical sermon introduction ever and tell you that Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “God” as “the supreme or ultimate reality, the being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshiped as creator and ruler of the universe.” The same dictionary defines the word “love” as “strong affection for another” or “unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”
Yes, I could say all of those common, cliché, and stereotypical things . . . OK, so I already did. But all of it is an exercise in futility and a huge waste of time. Set your dictionary aside. Don’t bother looking at four billion websites (We Americans have been dumbed down by the internet enough, anyways). Instead open up your Bible (or your service folder today) and let God himself explain in the most simple of words. What is God? What is love? Simply put: God is Love. Read the rest of this entry
Text: 1 John 4:1-11
What is the condition of your heart? How good are you at fighting off temptation? How do you go about fighting your natural desire to be selfish? How do you motivate yourself to show the selfless love of Jesus? We all need to fight temptation, we all need to show true love to the world because, “Whoever does not love does not know God.” If we don’t know God we can be sure he doesn’t know us and if he doesn’t know us we can bet that heaven will not be open to us.
On our own we are all pretty pitiful at keeping the devil out of our hearts. Every day the devil prowls around like a hungry lion looking for someone to devour and if we try and fight him alone we will very quickly see how weak we are. Our hearts would much rather be full of malice and deceit than love, so if we plan on going to heaven we need a heart makeover. We need help to fight off the assaulting temptations of this world.
Martin Luther knew a thing or two about fighting the temptations of the devil. Martin Luther, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, knew a thing or two about Christianity… “When the devil comes knocking on the door of my heart and asks, ‘Who lives here?’ Christ my Savior answers, ‘Martin Luther used to. Now I do.'”
“This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” While our hearts were loveless God showed the ultimate form of love for us. In faith the forgiveness of sins won by Christ sweeps our hearts clean. In the place of selfishness, greed, envy and lust our hearts are fill with love, they are filled with Christ. We are equipped to overcome this world because, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Dear friends, since God loved us so, we also ought to love one another!
Prayer: Heavenly Father forgive our selfish hearts. Send your Son into our hearts so that we can we can fend off the attacks of the devil. We believe in you, help us overcome our unbelief. You showed us what it is to love when you gave your own Son for us, help us emanate your love each and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Text: 1 John 3:18-24
You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?
The saying has been used (and abused) by many for ages–athletes, politicians, celebrities. You can say you are a great team, but can you walk the walk and win the Super Bowl? You can say you will fix the economy, but will you really improve things during your presidency?
Interestingly, the apostle John says much the same in the devotion today: Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. Christians aren’t merely to talk a good talk of love, they are supposed to follow through and actually live a life of love, too.
It’s kind of scary to hear John continue in that paragraph by saying that God knows everything. That means God knows all the times our words have been empty and vain and our actions have been cold and loveless.
Thankfully, our entrance into heaven doesn’t depend on the amount of love that we put into action. If it did, we would never make it! Rather, our entrance into heaven depends on the amount of love that Jesus did put in action. So God gives us one simple command: believe in Jesus Christ.
Trust that Jesus is your Savior. Trust that he loved you enough to die for your sins. Trust that he loves you enough to forgive your sins every day.
That trust in our loving Savior is what moves us then to go on and live in love for others. As he has loved us, we will love others. That love of the Savior is what leads us not only to talk the talk, but also to walk the walk.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Loving Savior, in boundless love you suffered and died for me and my sins. Now fill me with that love that I may daily serve you and others with such gracious love. I pray in your saving name. Amen.