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Friday, May 19, 2017

05142017 - Fourth Sunday After Easter - "Receive the Word implanted in you which is able to save your souls"!

May 14, 2017
“Receive the Word implanted in you which is able to save your souls (James 1:21)”
If you would look at all of human history to determine a thread that remains the same, the one thing that consistently remains is the oral word.  Whether told around the campfire, the hearth, to entertain or keep warm or a park bench to pass the time, the kitchen table with a meal or even today when families get together and remember the history that has formed and shaped generations, the oral word is how we communicate.  Recently the movie “Beauty and the Beast” showed that at one time, only the rich or highly educated were able to own books, but today with our phones, tablets, computers and the internet, everyone is capable of reading on the go, in planes, trains or automobiles.  Yet, when the first printing press was invented, the world began to change.  The word that had been spoken and which we pass down even today shows not only great value, but also the potential to either alienate or engage, and also the opportunity to enrich or definitely enjoy.
This morning here at Emmanuel, we have heard from a book of the bible that Martin Luther was not the biggest cheerleader of, whether the doctrine or the message.  But Luther still believed it should be a part of Holy Scripture.  The most iconic quote from the book of James is “Faith without works is dead” from James 2:26.  But James also has a meaning and purpose that in our reading this morning reveals not only the power of the Word of God, but its clear application for us today.
Last week we not only watched and participated in the next faith step of Olivia as she made public profession of her faith, the faith in which we baptize.  We acknowledged and confessed alongside her our firm conviction that the Word of God is not only powerful, but life changing.  James states and reaffirms this truth clearly when he wrote, “Receive the Word implanted in you which is able to save your souls”.
What we receive in the Word of God is the most precious, powerful and profound thing known in our universe.  When we receive the Word of God, we not only receive the book we know as the Holy Bible, we receive the Word made Flesh and Who dwelt among us, none other than Jesus Christ.  Our culture would like to claim Jesus as only a myth or as a prophet, but we receive more than a myth and more than a prophet, we receive from the lectern, the pulpit and especially when we read in our own homes the Word of God, we receive Jesus Christ, the Word.  And when we bring children for Holy Baptism, we confess and believe in His power.  For in our Baptism as James said it clearly, we “Receive the Word implanted in you which is able to save your souls”.  This is not only the capability of the Word of God, but the power that changes our individual and collective reality and promises us eternal life out of God’s love for each and every one of us.  And it begins with the oral word that we hear, heed and if we dare to change it or its meaning or application will deeply affect us and how we are seen and received and even our eternal destination.
Today we gather, as a church family honoring the Word of God, Jesus Christ, but we also honor and remember how one individual impacts each of our lives, this person is our Mothers.  Mother’s come in all shapes and sizes, have and provide us different ways of showing love and clearly have differing skills, but what does not change is that one woman whether by blood or by adoption, by circumstance or comfort, by impact or inspiration added value to our lives by the word they spoke to each and every one of us.
In 1994, the now iconic movie, “Forrest Gump” changed our cultural understanding of so many different ideals.  It wasn’t the typical ‘feel good’ movie, because it touched on issues like determination, bullying, war, relationships and even the most profound, love.  From the beginning of the movie sitting on a park bench, Forrest tells the story of his life.  One of the most tender moments in the movie comes, when Forrest is given the greatest and most profound wisdom by his Mother on her death bed.  She says, “Life is a box of chocolates, Forrest, you never know what you will get” and she continued, “I was destined to be your momma…and I did the best I could”.  And her parting words reach out to us today and resonate with what we have heard from James.  “You have to do the best with what God gave you”.

What we need to take away from this iconic movie, this passage from James as the message from God for us today is simply this.  God did not only the best He could, He, through His Son Jesus Christ fulfilled for each and every one of us what we could not.  Jesus Christ out of His love for us gives us the gift of eternal life.  And God in His infinite wisdom places people like our mothers and those who are like mothers in our lives to implant in us the Word of God.  For in our receiving the Word of God we receive the greatest gift known to mankind, Jesus Christ.  And in our receiving Jesus Christ we receive not just an abundant life in Him, but we receive eternal life in His Kingdom for all eternity out of His great love for each and every one of us.  May we daily remember our Mothers as God’s gift to us and understand and be able to repeat the truth, promise and testimony of Jesus Christ found of James that says, “Receive the Word implanted in you which is able to save your souls”.  AMEN.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cultural Preaching May 10, 2017

Cultural Preaching May 10, 2017


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May 10 (1 day ago)
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A new buzz in bagels, a new Bible museum in Washington, D.C. and Denison Forum's executive coordinator's take on motherhood.
Welcome to Cultural Preaching
May 10, 2017
Welcome to this week's edition of Cultural Preaching. I am honored to share this resource with you. Know that I am praying for all who receive this email with gratitude for your service and faith.

This week, the "Preaching" section discusses a new buzz in bagels, a new Bible museum in Washington, D.C. and Denison Forum's executive coordinator's take on motherhood. I've also attached a sermon for this Sunday titled, Loving God for Life.

In "Pastoring," we'll look at David Green's fascinating book, Giving It All Away . . . And Getting It All Back Again. In "Personal," we'll consider the relationship of consecration to revelation.

In addition, I tweet on current news occasionally throughout the day. I invite you to follow me @JimDenison

Buzzed-bagel breakfast?

Many of us start the day with a strong cup of "joe."  Caffeine has a way of jumpstarting one's metabolism - especially for those needing an early morning "pick me up."  While coffee isn't the sole source of caffeine for the slow-to-get-started, have you ever imagined chewing your caffeine? Einstein Bros. Bagels recently announced that it is launching the "Espresso Buzz Bagel." Each pastry contains 32 milligrams of caffeine—about a third of what you'll find in the average 8-ounce cup of coffee. The bakery hopes this "unique and innovative" food offering will be a hit with their tired, caffeine-yearning fans across the country.

What are you expecting from your morning bible reading and prayer?  A caffeine-like spark to your day?  Renewed energy?  When that doesn't happen for you, what are your alternatives?  There's an interesting article from about six ways to find new vigor in your spiritual routine.   Much like a rote physical exercise routine, many of us would benefit from a change.  When daily spiritual exercises become dry and fruitless, consider shaking-up your routine.  While everyday likely won't be a mountaintop experience, finding new ways and approaches might invigorate your day.  Something to chew on.

D.C.'s Museum of the Bible set to open

At presidential inaugural ceremonies and on bedside tables in hotels, the Bible has played a visible role in American life since our founding as a country.  A new, 430,000-square-foot facility, The Museum of the Bible aims to increase its visibility and to offer an "immersive experience to people from all faiths, or no faith, and those who have never even picked up a Bible." The $500 million, eight-story museum is financed entirely by private funds. Just three blocks south of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Museum of the Bible is set to open this November.

Museums are often seen as repositories for old things… even dead things.  They often are designed to assist visitors in recalling what HAS BEEN, rarely on what IS or what WILL BE.  And, while the Bible certainly has a significant place in history and in antiquity, believers see it as a living, vital, ever-relevant document.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…"  Many well-known churches, especially in Europe are modern-day museums.  It's been said that a church is never more than one generation away from being a museum.  Let's pray that the inference of "museum" won't cast a pall on the vitality of God's word in the eyes of visitors.  It's alive.  He's alive.

A Blind Side Kind of Mom

Sunday is Mother's Day in the U.S. and several other countries.  Cynthia Yanoff, executive coordinator for Denison Forum, has written an excellent blog on the role of motherhood, which can apply to others, as well.  Cynthia has something in common with the real mom from the movie, "Blindside".   She shares, "as we prepare to celebrate Mother's Day, let's take a minute to consider some different paths we can take as moms in today's culture. One path is to be thankful for the Lord's provision for our family, but still find ourselves wanting more: more friends for our kids, more opportunities, more vacations, more fun. Or another option is to continuously thank the Lord for his great provision, but spend our days consumed with worry over what may be around the corner and how that may impact our families (I have a patent on this one)."

She continues, "But maybe as we get ready to celebrate Mother's Day we should consider a better way, one requiring us to expand our traditional thinking on what we are called to as moms. What if we made the decision to live a lifestyle where every day we seek ways in which we can share God's "wealth" with others in our circle of influence? In other words, find where the Lord would call us to be a "mom" to those beyond the ones that share our DNA. Because somewhere around you I bet there's a child whose mom has cancer or whose dad is an alcoholic, whose parents are in a struggling or failed marriage. Maybe it's that kid who is ALWAYS at your house, or a classmate your children tend to avoid because he or she is "weird." …I don't know exactly the faces that come to mind for you, but I know every day we pass up real people, with real needs that we can meet. For my family, that "face" came to us fifteen months ago in the form of a foster baby…." Read more here.

Sermon: Loving God for Life

For last week and today, I am providing Mother's Day sermons I have preached in the past. I know that this can be a challenging Sunday for preachers. I hope the messages will be helpful to you.

David Green is known to the world as the founder of Hobby Lobby. The company he founded is now worth $4.6 billion. In Giving It All Away . . . And Getting It Back Again, he tells the story of God's blessing on their family and work. Then he challenges us to use our time and resources for God's glory. To read more, click here.

 Exodus 19 finds Moses and the nation of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Here the Lord will reveal his Ten Commandments, truth that would change the world forever. Before the people could receive this revelation, however, they must prepare themselves for what God would give to them: "The LORD said to Moses, 'Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people" (vv. 10–11).

Here we discover an important truth: Consecration must precede revelation. A holy God must have a holy people. If I pour purified water into a dirty bottle, the water is no longer pure. The Holy Spirit seeks holy vessels through which to reveal God's word to the world.

As a result, our spiritual health must be our highest priority. Only when we are close to God can we speak his truth to our culture. This commitment is the foundation for all we do in serving our King. Since human words cannot change human hearts, it is imperative that the Lord speak through us to those we serve. And he can do this only when we are consecrated to his use and purposes.

Here's the problem: our personal spiritual health is seldom a priority to which others hold us accountable. In twenty-five years of pastoral ministry and forty years of preaching, I have yet to talk with the first person who asked me about the health of my soul. Not one has encouraged me to take more time to be alone with Jesus. As pastors, we speak into the lives of others every day but seldom receive such ministry ourselves. And so the well easily runs dry.

The good news is that our Father is ready to meet with us whenever we choose to meet with him. The Spirit's consecrating power is as close to us as our knees. How close would your Father say you are to him today?
It is a great honor to share this ministry with you. May the Lord empower and encourage you as you serve him today.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

05072017 - 3rd Sunday After Easter - “Do what is right and suffer for it…this finds favor with God (1 Peter 2:20)”

May 7, 2017
“Do what is right and suffer for it…this finds favor with God (1 Peter 2:20)”
If you were to study Taoist/Daoist philosophy there is the ying and the yang represented by a “Black and White” symbol.  There is equality and there is ‘balance’ according to not only the symbols, but also the belief structure.  Accordingly there is no grey area, yet, for some in our current culture, they do not believe there is grey, nor do they want to see, nor engage in this grey area.  Sadly, this temperament of ‘no grey’ does not allow any flexibility, whether in decisions, life, or especially in relationships.
For Christians, it is agreed, God’s laws are clear, given in the 10 Commandments.  But, what some Christians refuse to believe and understand is that God’s Grace, God’s Mercy, God’s Love and God’s Gospel are in the ‘grey area’ and God can and does overcome even the ‘black and white’ of the 10 Commandments.  Because only the ‘creator’ can rule over that which they created.  If we Christians are rigid and put the 10 Commandments on the pedestal, we will fall and we will fail.  For we have failed and this is a result of Adam and Eve biting the forbidden fruit.  We had and have no control over this, but we have to deal with this reality daily and God knows this clearly.  For the rigidity of the law we live with will always be the pitfall for each of us and it is even more difficult for God’s Glory to be revealed for all of mankind.
However, this morning Peter in his epistle clearly states, “Do what is right and suffer for it…this finds favor with God”.  Peter is looking clearly not at the law, but at the past and to the future.  In the past, Peter looks directly at and through the grace that God lovingly and freely provides specifically in what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.  For Jesus Christ overcomes not only the white and the black of the ying and the yang, Jesus Christ overcomes the grey of our world with the truth that what He has done and was willing to die for us on the Cross and His sacrifice found great favor with God.  Jesus Christ willingness to suffer and die for all of mankind looks not with earthly eyes, but with eternal eyes.
This is the future Peter looks with and to, the eternity that Jesus Christ out of His love for us was willing to suffer to bring us to, looks not with the glasses of the here and now, the latest toys or the latest gadgets.  Not with desire for control, nor manipulation, but only with the forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can and does freely offer.  It is a forgiveness that doesn’t hide come from compulsion, but true change in each and every one of our lives.  It is a change that looks with God’s greatest honor and glory in mind.  This is why we bring children, like Lakyn a few weeks ago, for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  In order that God’s Glory will be revealed and we might understand that God’s grace is forward looking and offered to each of us through our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death, but especially His resurrection.  For in our Baptism, God lovingly picks us up as the broken creatures we are and takes us into His loving arms in order for each and every one of us to receive the greatest gift of love we could receive, eternal life.
These 40 days between our celebrating Jesus resurrection and Jesus Christ Ascension into heaven are an opportunity for us to point to Jesus Christ and His willingness to suffer and His finding favor with God.  For Jesus Christ willingness to go to the Cross of Calvary and suffer for us, sets each and every one of us free through our Baptism and today we not only celebrate what Jesus Christ did, but how now today we celebrate with the graduates, Simon Bassett, Adison Avelar, Kasey Stramel, Kate Zelfer and Kanami Sojima, but also here in a few minutes, Olivia Bassett will shoulder for herself the responsibility of her faith and her future growth in Jesus Christ in her own life.
Today, Olivia with her confirmation will shoulder the mantle of accountability and responsibility, not as a child, but as an adult in the eyes of the church.  Olivia has ‘done what is right’ learning from the Small Catechism, the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed and how the Bible connects clearly with our Confessional teachings.  This is how we as a church have fulfilled our promise made at her baptism, just as we did for Lakyn a few weeks ago.  Yet it is not just the promises we make, but it is also how we will and should now treat Olivia and each of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ as equals in the Body of Christ.  If we treat her or others as children or discount her or others individuality, this is not the Christian witness Jesus Christ died for on the Cross of Calvary.  If we want to ‘find favor with God’ not only should we point to Jesus Christ, we are called to treat each other as if they were Jesus Christ.
The best witness of this I have seen and experienced was last year when we, Olivia and the other confirmation kids went up to Sky Ranch for Confirmation Camp.  It was an experience that had as its core the desire to spiritually enrich Olivia and each of us who went ‘up the mountain’.  Olivia enjoyed living in community, whether eating brownies with her counselors and cabin mates, enjoying the beauty of the wilderness created by God on day hikes, but also in worshiping God in the meadow, where we encountered and were embraced by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It was during these times, whether in the meadow, on the mountain or in community with one another that God was present and during which a simple, but profound question was consistently asked.  “What will you do once you are ‘down the mountain’?”  We were asked this question, not for the leaders to provide a ‘pat answer’, but in order to encourage Olivia and others to change our collective perspective and remind each of us who personally encountered Jesus Christ of His willingness to bear our sins on the Cross of Calvary and heal us. 

Truly the offer of grace we are baptized into and now Olivia will shoulder of the responsibility for her faith and life, isn’t based upon her abilities nor strength.  The grace we receive solely comes from Jesus Christ offer of forgiveness for mankind, but especially for each and every one of us gathered here embracing Him and the opportunity and ability to trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and His offer of grace for each of us.  For in, through and by the Water and Word of Holy Baptism and now today with Olivia’s Confirmation we remember and realize that we are grafted into the tree of life Jesus Christ.  And this offer of grace is freely given, because of God’s love for each of us.  For as we gather today God sees us through the lens of Jesus Christ each and every one of us and we who gather to celebrate Olivia’s Confirmation, find favor in the sight of God because of Jesus Christ and His love for each and every one of us.  AMEN.

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