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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cultural Preaching June 21, 2017

A sermon on redeeming your crises; Half-ful or Hopeful; and, a chip off the ol' block.
Welcome to Cultural Preaching
June 21, 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 includes a sermon on the powerful witness of suffering faith. In "Pastoral," we'll look at five reasons for optimism in a pessimistic day. In "Personal," we'll consider Michelangelo's David as a metaphor for our souls.

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

An elderly professor once advised me, "Son, be kind to everyone, because everyone's having a hard time." When Christians face suffering, we often wonder why our all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful Father would allow our pain. But we can know that our Lord redeems all he allows.

One way God redeems our suffering is by using our faith in hard times as a powerful witness to others. This week's message, Redeeming Your Crisis for God's Kingdom, develops this theme by focusing on Stephen and his effect on Saul of Tarsus. I hope it is helpful to you.

William Ralph Inge claimed, "No Christian can be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism." Despite the challenges Christians face in America and around the world, God's Kingdom is continuing to advance.

In Half-full or Hopeful? I offer five reasons for optimism in a pessimistic day. If you choose to address the subject of suffering faith (see this week's sermon), these facts and principles may be of help to you.
I enjoy walking in our neighborhood early each morning. There is a small creek in our area that runs alongside a century-old church building. A bench overlooking the creek is one of my favorite places to sit and think.

Earlier this week I was sitting on that bench. The old (likely apocryphal) story of Michelangelo's strategy in carving the statue of David came to mind. When asked how he was able to use such flawed marble to make such a masterpiece, the great artist explained, "I saw him in the stone, then chipped away everything that did not look like him."

I have seen Michelangelo's statue at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence and can attest to his stunning achievement. As I stood before it some years ago, the thought occurred to me: God wants to do with me what Michelangelo did with David. He seeks to conform me to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). To do this, he must chip away everything in me that doesn't look like Jesus.

Here's where the analogy breaks down: unlike the marble used by David, I must choose to cooperate with the Artist in his creation. I can decide that I want the world to see me more than it sees Jesus in me. I can seek to impress people with myself when I preach, teach, and write.

Or I can say with John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

The great theologian J. I. Packer was right: it is impossible to convince you at one and the same time that I am a great preacher and that Jesus is a great Savior. Choose wisely.
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, June 18, 2017

06182017 - 1st Sunday After Trinity - “God is love, we who abide in love, abide in Him (1 John 4:16)”

June 18, 2017
“God is love, we who abide in love, abide in Him (1 John 4:16)”
Recently in Minnesota, a clergy friend of mine was presented with the most divine and honorable privilege and challenge.  On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, numerous ships were damaged or destroyed and many lives were lost.  For those who have visited Pearl Harbor’s National Park monument it is a clear reminder of the scope of loss and how some individuals’ remains were not recovered and how some individuals upon their passing wish to return to be with their shipmates as a final resting place.
Now decades later, a young man killed that day whose remains were found, but never identified, finally with today’s technology was identified.  He was from Minnesota and his name was Glaydon Iverson.  He was killed on that faithful day aboard the USS Oklahoma.  And only last month was finally able to be returned to his family.  After years of uncertainty for the family he was finally able to be laid to rest back home at Emmons Lutheran church in Minnesota.  He was honored and given the burial in his hometown with full military honors that his family desired surrounded by his community and especially his church.
Some would ask, why does God allow things like Pearl Harbor to occur?  Others would immediately ‘get angry’ and ‘blame God’ for everything that is happening in life.  Whether the tragic loss of life during war, the weather that causes roofs, windows and siding to be replaced, like last fall here in Goodland, hail storms that mow crops to the ground or moisture that comes at the wrong time and causes not just Plan B, but even Plan C.
Easily, we could blame God for everything, because He is the one Who created the World.  Yet, what we at times forget is that we who live today cannot ‘buy and sell’ God like a possession or commodity, nor can we gain His favor nor get what we want all the time.  We like the VBS theme for the pre-school a few years ago, need to Fully Rely On God.
How can we do this?  It takes our exercising our muscles of faith given in Holy Baptism and listening to and leaning fully on the words from John the evangelist this morning.  John wrote this eternal truth we need to remember and hold onto dearly and clearly, “God is love, we who abide in love, abide in Him (1 John 4:16)”. When we understand “God is love”, we can clearly understand that God as love has our best interest in mind in all situations even though it may not seem that way at the time.
Daily we encounter situations where it seems the world is against us, we are lost and we are easily angered at our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and even at God.  But God’s love not only can sustain us, but enable us to understand, when the world seems to be crashing down around us, God is still there, loving us, walking with us and holding us clearly and dearly in the palm of His Holy hands.
Abram, from our Old Testament lesson this morning, shows and demonstrates clearly this faith and the exercising of this faith in God and God’s love for him.  What occurred in Abram’s exercising his faith?  God when Abram exhibited and put his faith in God, God “reckoned it to him as righteousness”.  So if we like Abram believe in God with our whole heart, we to not only will be embraced by God’s love, but “we who abide in love, abide in Him”.  And with our ‘abiding in love’ and ‘abiding in Him’ God will not only embrace us, but when it is our time to enter the church triumphant, we will be welcomed into eternity and fully embraced by the love of God that we find in what His Son, Jesus Christ willingly did on the Cross of Calvary for each and every one of us.
Today on this Father’s Day, there is for us a final example and demonstration of love for one’s fellow man from that faithful day in December when so many lost their lives.  The Chaplain on the USS Oklahoma Father Aloysius H. Schmitt was also tragically killed, but during the recovery after, they found him and his chalice and Latin Prayer book.

Father Schmitt unlike most individuals was alive and tried to escape.  Father Schmitt demonstrated the love of God for us by his willingness to when he could not escape from the ship, he out of his love for his fellow man helped at a bare minimum 12 men to get to safety with his blessing before succumbing to the watery grave.  It is clear his faith in the love of God and His Savior, Jesus Christ sustained him and is a beneficial and clear example for each and every one us of faith active in love.  For the page in his prayer book from that faithful morning was a final word through him to us today from Psalm 8:1.  David wrote, “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth.”  Hence why today on this Father’s Day, when we celebrate Father’s who willingly sacrifice themselves for their families,  we clearly declare, not only that God’s name is majestic, but with a firm faith that “God is love, [and] we who abide in love, abide in Him.”  AMEN.

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06162017 Funeral Sermon for Marilyn Faye Weinaug Martin

June 16, 2017
Funeral for Marilyn Faye Weinaug Martin

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Heavenly Father, we gather here at Emmanuel knowing that today what we hold in our minds eye, are not just memories, but clear pictures of Marilyn’s earthly life which now is completed with her entrance into eternity.  As we mourn her passing, may Your Word, paint a vibrant picture for us reminding us of Who and what inspired her creativeness and enable us to be comforted with the salve of the Gospel.  For it is clear that the love You showered upon her and she shared with those whom she knew and loved, found its ultimate demonstration for her by her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.  May the picture and fulfillment of His love surround us today and enable us to be comforted with the true knowledge that Marilyn was baptized into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection and now rests in her Lord and Savior’s arms, welcomed into her eternal heavenly home, by her beloved Stan as they dance to the music of heaven surrounded by God’s love.  AMEN.

All of us have heard the saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.  When I was discerning the Call to Emmanuel Lutheran almost 7 years ago I received in the packet about the church about 60 pictures.  It included some of the most recent candid pictures of the members of Emmanuel.  As I looked through the stack, one particular picture struck me.  Not only was it a picture of a couple sitting in the last pew at the back of the church, like all good Lutheran’s do, but the picture was of an older couple, the husband was big, bald and built like a linebacker and the wife was petite, prim and proper and had stunning silver hair just like my mother.  As I turned the picture over, I learned their names, but did not realize then the impact they would have upon my life, my family and ministry while here in Goodland.

The picture was of none other than Stan and Marilyn.  My first personal impression when I met both of them was of a loving couple that would do anything for anyone.  Their love not only for each other, but their four kids, Cindy, Sharon, Monte and Marla and their grandkids and great-grandkids knew no bounds and the pride they felt when talking about each and every one of them.  If there was an event occurring across the state or across the country, they were there, come ‘heck or high water’, their attitude was clear, “Get it done” and ‘be there or be square’.  And this willingness to travel even since I came to Goodland, showed their love, commitment and desire to put family first even if it meant a long drive.

Clearly their personal drive was demonstrated by Stan’s always working, whether at the Elk’s, implement dealership or farming, yet behind every man is a great woman who is truly the glue, but behind the scenes.  Marilyn was the glue and demonstrated her commitment to her family in many ways.  In the home by being the homemaker who could bake, cook, clean and ran her house with military precision and meticulous detail, even down to having a special puma stone that travelled when necessary.  Or on Saturday night while Stan was working down at the Elk’s, Marilyn with her girls would watch Green Acres, My Three Sons and of course The Lawrence Welk Show and dance around with them after their hair was made ready for church on Sunday. 

Marilyn was even willing to like a mother hen, nurture not only her own brood of son and daughters, but even the neighborhood children, feeding them if they were hungry, making delicacies like sugar cookies with individual names for special occasions and even by her willingness to be the ‘Blue Bird’ and Campfire Girl leader.  For some being a leader would have been a daunting task, but Marilyn embraced it with her Texas tenacity and can do attitude and enjoyed these times and made the events and the programs special, from handmade and hand sewn items expressing her creativeness given to her by God and her willingness to make the parties fun, from the party favors, the food, games and even with the skits that were the envy of all the other groups.  Everybody wanted Marilyn as their leader, because she was fun, from playing cards, to laughing to planning and executing the best ‘themed parties’. 

Recently one of the young ladies she impacted brought back her campfire vest and shared with Marilyn and her family the lasting impact Marilyn had upon herself as well as many other young ladies.  Once her daughters had ‘flown the nest’ and successfully become independent like her son had become in his own right, even in the face of adversity, Marilyn continued to impact others in the community in the courts and even the girls at the Tech College and especially with her longtime love and dance partner Stan.  And this is the woman I first met when I arrived in Goodland who had many creative friends right here in church who at the time were her kindred and creative spirits that walked with her on the journey of life.

Marilyn sadly though in April 2011, in my first year here, sadly suffered the most traumatic event when she and Stan were vacationing in Texas.  Marilyn fell and it was uncertain what the future would hold.  As a Pastor, I was helpless, because I couldn’t travel to minister to them as I wanted, but when they arrived back here in town, and Marilyn was in the hospital, not only had their world changed, but the next six years brought many mountain top experiences like their 60th anniversary and sadly even some unexpected twists and turns, but the bright tenacious, prim and proper image of Marilyn shined through.

Yet through all of it, there has been a thread that has been the cornerstone in Marilyn’s life, from New Braunfels, Texas to a chance date to a young strapping Airman in San Antonio, and ultimately moving here to Goodland, KS 64 years ago.  And this thread the relationship Marilyn had with God, epitomized in none other than the greatest Psalm that David wrote and that we heard only a few minutes ago.  The 23rd Psalm perfectly encapsulates the journey of her lifetime, but especially the last few years.  Stan, Marilyn and all of the family walked through the “valley of the shadow of death”, but God’s promise that “the Lord is my shepherd” was daily fulfilled giving unto Stan and Marilyn the opportunity to live and love one another and their family and continue to demonstrate their love not only for each other, their kids, grandkids and even great grandkids as the couple that continued to be fiercely independent and the clear desire to live life on their terms being independent and creatively staying in their own home.

But, things had changed.  The image of Marilyn who was creative, meticulous and imaginative like the image reflected in the mirror recently was not easily seen because of the fog, like on the mirror from a hot shower.  Marilyn the woman we knew and loved was still there, but as a result of her fall and other factors, was not as clearly seen nor experienced the same every day.  But through these times, God’s Word still rang true, God as David wrote, insured that He would “prepare a table before” Marilyn, God “anointest [my] Marilyn’s head with oil” and God insured that Marilyn’s “cup runneth over”.  For this is what Marilyn learned growing up in Texas, shared with her family every time they would take the long night time ride in the cool of the night before air conditioning.  And when they would arrive at “The Hill” as you can see on the front of your bulletin, Marilyn’s Mom would be standing underneath the arch at the gate with open arms, ready to welcome, love and embrace in true Texas fashion and style her Kansas family.

This picture is exactly what God wants us to firmly and faithfully hold onto and remember this morning.  You see, last week, we experienced the Marilyn we all knew and loved so much.  God gave us one last gift of grace, mercy and especially His love when Marilyn woke up and was laughing, sharing stories and enjoying her grand and great-grandkids.  One last time, our Yellow Rose of Texas shined through.  But on Saturday evening, Marilyn entered the gates of heaven and was welcomed with open arms by her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  God clearly welcomed Marilyn and now has given her an eternal rest from the labors of not only her hands, but this world.  David completes his picture for us and we can take great comfort in this truth, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Today we gather here as the family of God celebrating the truth that this woman who loved sweet deserts at every meal, who had a strong sense of right and wrong and a lover of games and a loving mother to everyone.  Our “Yellow Rose of Texas”, Marilyn, now rests from the labors of her hands, not because of her work, but because of the grace and love of Jesus Christ for her demonstrated on the Cross of Calvary by Jesus Christ and which she was baptized into.  For clearly today, the path that has led us to this place has not been without tragedy, turmoil or tumult.  But God has fulfilled His promise and now fulfills in our sight and with our celebration the entrance of Marilyn into eternity.  She is not alone, she was welcomed by her parents, Alvin and Katie, embraced by her grandson Jarett, but is now reunited with her Saturday night dance partner Stan, ready to cut the rug, in a place better than the Crystal Chandelier. 

May this image given to us by David, and fulfilled by God, not only dance in our mind, but firmly cement the truth that God, Marilyn’s Good Shepherd, now holds her dearly and today, no longer encumbered by the inability to dance can with her beloved Stan, Jarett and all of the rest look down upon us.  And may this image be the reminder, not of loss, but of love found in what her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ fulfilled on the Cross of Calvary that finds its fulfillment as she now dances in heaven not only to the music of Lawrence Welk, but the angels singing the praise of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  For now and for all eternity she will be surrounded by the choir of angels and embraced by Jarett, reunited with Stan and gathered together for the greatest feast and party put on by her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding comfort us today as we celebrate Marilyn’s entrance into the party that knows no end with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  AMEN.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

06112017 - Trinity Sunday - “God's ways are unfathomable, but to Him be the Glory forever. AMEN (Rom. 11:33, 36)”

June 11, 2017
“God's ways are unfathomable, but to Him be the Glory forever. AMEN (Rom. 11:33, 36)”
Humankind has been looking to the skies and viewing the heavenly bodies of the sun, moon and stars since man was created.  From solar eclipses like the one that will come on August 21, 2017, to the biblical account of the sun standing still in the sky for Joshua.  Only in the last 200 years has our understanding of the micro and macro universe grown and allowed us to understand that the universe that surrounds us is greater than what we can see with the naked eye.    Even today scientists continue delving into the mysteries of the micro and macro universe, here on earth, in the Space Station and even via telescopes whether ground based or even in the heavens like the Hubble or other probes that visit planets inside and now outside our known universe.  What we tend to forget is not only is our universe unfathomable, but also a clear biblical truth revealed to us about God and our understanding Him.
In 1st John 4, John the ‘elder’ and evangelist wrote, “If anyone says, “I love God.” And hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”.  Truly even John with foresight given by God understood the challenges of our technological world that we face not only of being able to believe in something we cannot see, but also how we can love one another, and trust not only each another, but even of God.  Yet for us today, we still struggle with the simple age old question of the existence of God and having a tangible truth and proof of His existence.
There is the story told of a philosophy teacher who while teaching his students questions God’s existence.  Ultimately it fell to a Marine to not only stand and defend the teacher’s right to question if God existed, but also for the Marine to respond that God is to busy and God sent him to prove that God existed.
Yet, Paul from our reading this morning, not only answers our age old dilemma of God’s existence, but tells us exactly what we Christians are to do in both the worst and best of times.  Paul says, “God’s ways are unfathomable, but to Him be the Glory forever.  AMEN!”  Paul the father of most of the New Testament gives us what should be our response and points us in a direction that humanity is at times not comfortable to go or even believe.  Simply God is infinite and even beyond our understanding.
We as humans are created finite in our existence.  We are born on a certain date and we will die on a certain date.  God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier is different from us.  God will never die, but God the Father willingly out of His love for us as we heard in the Gospel this morning that we all know and can probably quote, sent His Son to take on our humanity in order that we will no longer be limited by our finite.  For God demonstrating His love for us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ and is graciously giving us the infinite when we in faith believe in the unfathomable vastness of God and the gift of eternal life given to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  With our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection, we no longer are limited by our earthly vessels, but we are set free.  As Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear would say, we are set free “To infinity and beyond” and we will not be limited in our death when we enter the veil of heaven.  And this is the gift we receive from God through His Son, Jesus Christ out of God’s great love for us.
And today on this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate this gift of grace, mercy and love, as we do every year with our use of the Athanasian Creed.  As the third Creed of Christendom, we not only Confess and connect together in our Confession, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but we truly claim and acclaim that “God’s ways are unfathomable, but [continue to declare] to Him be the Glory forever.  AMEN!”  Though we only use this Creed once a year, our remembering it as one of our Confessions of Faith, our use of it today is the exclamation point that this Creed makes.  With our Confessing our Faith in God, we make it very clear that God clearly receives from us not only our adoration, but we give “to Him” “the Glory forever”!  This is why we seek to give God Glory in how we live our lives, how we love one another and even how we are called by God’s Word to ‘put the best construction’ on all things in our daily lives no matter what people may do, even those who claim they are Christian, but clearly don’t show their love for their brothers or sisters in Christ.

For in our as Christians loving God and one another we show our adoration of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but also clearly express our belief that God has our best interests in mind no matter our own personal circumstances or the headlines in our world.  We clearly not only invoke today, but lay claim to the blessings of God of eternal life from Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Athanasian Creed.  And today with our confession we firmly, faithfully and fully confess and believe the following.  That “God’s ways are unfathomable, but [we can lovingly give] to Him [our adoration as His baptized children so we can firmly believe and give to Him] the Glory forever.  AMEN!

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

06042017 - Pentecost Sunday - "They were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4)"

June 4, 2017
“They were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4)”

Today we gather like the disciples did after Jesus had been crucified, like they did after His Resurrection that we celebrate with Easter, but today, only 10 days ago the Church celebrated Jesus Ascension into heaven.  Notice the Christ Candle, no longer resides on the floor representing Jesus Christ birth.  It no longer resides beside the font where we bring our children to receive the Grace, Mercy and Love of God in the Rite of Holy Baptism.  Now the Christ Candle is at from our perspective the ‘Right Hand’ of God.
The journey has been clear, well documented, well remembered, Jesus destination is now fulfilled, His destination and job is complete and Jesus Christ is secure in Heaven, but Jesus promise for the disciples in the year of His crucifixion and resurrection, is incomplete.  The next step for the disciples is recorded, not in the Gospel, but in Acts, the book that relays to us the development of the New Testament Church.
What happens to the disciples?  Simply, “They were filled with the Holy Spirit”.  The promise Jesus made to them long before that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to them.  This Spirit, the Spirit of Truth would inhabit them, infuse into their very heart and souls and involve them in the mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is the same Gospel we know and hear about when we gather here for worship.  It is the Gospel the disciples had witnessed of the salvation offered to them, by Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.
Today we celebrate the Festival of Pentecost.  Pentecost is the Celebration of the Giving of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, not only to the disciples to inspire them to action, but it is the same Holy Spirit given unto each and every one of us in our Holy Baptism.  When “They were filled with the Holy Spirit” the disciples lives were forever changed, not only had they left everything to follow Jesus Christ, they now understood with the gift of the Holy Spirit given unto each of them, they would be willing to die in order that the message of the Gospel of Salvation would be given to all of mankind through them and ultimately to each and every one of us gathered here this morning.
Since “They were filled with the Holy Spirit” the disciples understood their role as followers of Jesus now changed from one’s who received directly from Jesus Christ, to now not only active participants, but devoted leaders in the New Testament Church.  And their following would come at a cost.  The cost would not be simply of time, travel or training.  The training was over, the Gift of the Holy Spirit given unto them on the first Pentecost would change their desire from staying their comfort zone to travelling to distant lands and the gift of the Holy Spirit would change their perspective of time.  Ultimately the gift “They were filled with [of] the Holy Spirit” would and did cost them their lives.
You see we remember on Pentecost what the cost is not only by reading the lessons, but especially with the color of the paraments that adorn the pulpit, lectern, the altar and even the stole I wear.  The red paraments signify the willingness of followers of Jesus Christ to die in order for the message of salvation to be proclaimed.  The best current example we have is the willingness of Christians to die at the hands of ISIS as martyrs for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those who lose their lives and die a martyrs death truly it could be said, “They were filled with the Holy Spirit”!  Their willingness to die in order to spread the message of the Gospel, not only connect their baptism with their lives, but are intimately connected to and channel clearly how the disciples and “They were filled with the Holy Spirit”!

What can we take away from this?  We hopefully will not have the same opportunity like the disciples or Paul or even the martyrs of today in Egypt or any of the Islamic states to have to choose death rather than disown our faith.  What we can do though is pray for Christians throughout our world, those persecuted in distant lands, but also locally even in our own country and community.  For this can be our prayer that God not only would ‘come again’, but that until that time, we can ask to be just like the disciples and for the same gift they were given, since “They were filled with the Holy Spirit”!  AMEN.

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05212017 - Fifth Sunday After Easter - “We are to be effectual doers of the Word so we can be blessed by God (James 1:25)”

May 21, 2017
“We are to be effectual doers of the Word so we can be blessed by God (James 1:25)”
In the last two weeks I have been doing extensive personal study of the Book of Concord, which we affirm not only in our Constitution of Emmanuel, but also which I pledged myself to uphold in my ordination vows.  Clearly, Martin Luther and all of the Reformers of his time were clearly encountering a culture that wanted to ‘thwart’ the true intent of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he stood his ground against those who wanted to hide their true intent of making the Gospel and its mandates disappear.
What has been very clear from my study is that Martin Luther emphatically would have endorsed what we hear from James this morning.  Last week we heard that we have received the Word of God implanted in each and every one of us and the Word of God will save our souls.  Today’s reading builds upon this.  As James says, “We are to be effectual doers of the Word so we can be blessed by God”!
Just as a child looks up to their parents and wants and desires to hear words of affirmation, praise and blessing with everything they do, we as God’s children desire this as well.  God wants to bless us and give us gifts that are beyond our wildest imaginations.  God’s love for us and necessarily His blessing is meant to give us not always what we want, but what we need.
Consider the circumstance and weather we have received here in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma in the last three months.  From the fires that destroyed many farms and entire cattle herds and included the loss of life here in Kansas.  The snows that brought moisture that was much needed, but also has caused for some the winter wheat crop to be destroyed and many cows to be lost due to the extreme of the weather during the most delicate time of calving season.  To the extremes of the seasons both of snow and rain in the last few days and we are only a little more than half way through the month of May.  We want and need the moisture, but if we only look at the loss, we lose sight of what the true blessing is from God, His walking with us through these times even when we face loss.
You see, God’s love of us does not change.  God’s desire to bless us does not change.  God does not cause calamity, destruction or doubt to fall upon us.  This is the wheel house of the devil and this is why we need to understand and believe that God does want to bless us each and every day of our lives.  God’s greatest desire out of His love for us isn’t for the earthly things of this world, for they will pass away.  God’s desire is for a greater purpose, an eternal purpose that James points to when he says, “We are to be effectual doers of the Word so we can be blessed by God”.
How can this come to fruition?  Simply to work in God’s Kingdom and willingly work in order that God’s Glory and love can be revealed for each and every one of us.  A stellar example of this is the Apostle Paul.  It is clear, Saul as he was originally named, was clearly against Christians as a good Jew, but after his personal revelation and experience with Jesus Christ on the road to Emmaus, Paul became the most prolific, tireless and effectual doer of the Word of God that has been recorded, remembered and revered in all of Holy Scripture.
Some would say, how can we claim Paul was blessed by God, since he was imprisoned, beaten and ultimately killed.  But what we do not realize is Paul, looked past his own current circumstance, his own thorn in the flesh that he carried with him daily and looked with eternal eyes to how God had blessed him and would bless him in eternity.  This is why Paul was willing to take up the Cross of Christ and die in order to be a ‘doer of the Word’ and ultimately be ‘Blessed by God’!

This is our opportunity daily as well.  Paul and James inspire us to look with eternal eyes.  Look how we can work here on earth not only learning about the Word of God, but also and especially how we can be doers of the Word and fulfill our mission as Christians to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, fed by not only the Word of God, strengthened by the Sacrament of Holy Communion which we receive today, but also called by God to as James implores us with these words.  “We are to be effectual doers of the Word so we can be blessed by God”!  AMEN!

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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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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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