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The Joyful Christian – Our Source of Joy

lamb

Psalm 51:7–12 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Did you know that God gives the gift of joy to Christians? The Bible uses the word joy 1179 times, and describes God as the source of joy. David said in Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Our faith relationship with the Lord is designed to give us joy.

  • Joy is a natural byproduct of worshiping God.
  • It comes when we hear the good news that Christ has befriended sinners…Like us.
  • We come to know joy in serving him.
  • We even rejoice in our sufferings.

As much as the idea of true joy appeals to us, we need to spend some time talking about what it isn’t before defining what it is. True joy does not depend on circumstances or our experiences. Our culture has come to define joy as an experience that blows your mind:

  • It could be a dream vacation, dream house or dream date.
  • It could be an awesome shopping trip. [ A friend of mine calls this retail therapy]
  • It could be riding a roller coaster upside down at 75 miles per hour.

But when we unbuckle our seatbelts and step off of the ride – when we come back to daily life, the joy we thought we had fades in a hurry. And so our world invites us to become experience junkies: spending our time and energy chasing down the next high. True joy is not a roller coaster. It remains constant because it comes from our God who never changes.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.  WHEN THE WEIGHT OF SIN AND REGRET ARE REMOVED, WE ENTER INTO JOY. That weight was laid on Jesus as he was nailed to the cross. We pray a four word prayer: purify me…wash me. The result? I shall be clean; I shall be whiter than snow.

The hyssop plant was used as a brush to apply blood for purification – as when blood from a sacrificed lamb was painted on the doorposts of homes on Passover night. To pray purify me with hyssop, is to ask God to purify us with the blood of the Lamb of God.  BUT IT COMES WITH A WARNING: anything untouched by the blood remained unpurified, and instead will receive the touch of the Angel of Death. The joy comes when we come to believe that God has rescued us from the touch of death by purifying us with his Son’s blood.

The joy of our salvation has no expiration date. It remains constant. It is God’s gift to all who trust in Christ as their Savior.

Enjoy joy today.

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in devotional

 

Where’s God when it hurts?

joy-st-and-pride-way-signs

The answer is of course…right next to you.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38–39

However, there are times in life when we have trouble seeing this. Let me reassure you on the basis of God’s word that he loves you and has promised to be with you in all seasons and circumstances [see Psalm 46.7, Isaiah 41.10 and John 14.18].

Let me also tell you on the basis of God’s word that we sometimes fall into unbelief and accuse God of being distant [see Romans 1.21-22]. The result is that we wallow in self-inflicted pain and bitterness. We continue to act as if we’re in charge while our world crumbles around us. That’s hard to hear. But that is why Jesus overcomes our self protectiveness with the gift of faith and the love of a God who is WITH US

There are several high-profile TV preachers that proclaim that it’s possible to escape pain this side of heaven – but it’s simply not true. Jesus has told us that in the world you will have tribulation [John 16.33]. As much as we wish it were not so, it’s a fact we cannot escape. But that doesn’t mean there’s no help on this side of heaven!

During the next few weeks I will be preaching a sermon series entitled WHERE IS GOD WHEN IT HURTS? I know this is a critical question that many people face. I also know that there are many who don’t realize that God generously gives hope, help and healing to those who trust in him. I want to encourage you to come and hear what the bible says about this, and receive God’s gift of help. This is also a great time to invite a friend.

Each week I’ll be posting sermon points and bible references for further study.

With my love to you in Jesus,

Pastor Greg

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in devotional

 

The Surprise of Christmas

 Dear friends in Christ,

Without a doubt we are entering a season of surprises.

During the Christmas season we will be surprised by loving gestures – both expected and unexpected. We might also be surprised by what we find beneath the wrapping paper. And then, there’s the surprise of all surprises.

 Are you ready?

 God became a baby lying in a makeshift crib. From a stable a tiny hand reached out to touch our lives. What in the world was God thinking of? Actually, the right question is WHO IN THE WORLD WAS GOD THINKING OF?

 When we think about Jesus we picture the Prince of peace or the King of kings. What we see instead is something that would fit better in a World Vision hunger appeal. There’s no palace in this story – only a stable surrounded by livestock. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are temporarily homeless. Human logic screams that this is ALL WRONG. God’s logic says that this is exactly how it should be.

Immanuel means God with us. To be with us is to become part of our world – fully present in the nice parts and also in the ugly parts. Such is the miracle and surprise of Christmas. Who in the world was God thinking of? The answer is me and you. There’s really nothing quite as stunning as this in all the world.

This isn’t a fable. It’s not a story about somebody else who lived a long time ago. It’s a story that’s happening right now to each one of us while we listen to it. Jesus and his family became homeless people that slept in a stable. All of this so that we would know beyond doubt that the Son of God would go to any length to be with us. There is a savior born this day who is Christ the Lord. 

May the majesty and simplicity of the Christ child fill you!

With my love to you in Jesus,

Pastor Greg

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in devotional

 

Faith and the Rear View Mirror

We don’t see the end of the story until the end of the story.

Abraham didn’t know the location of the promised land, and he never saw the big nation God promised to him. God told him, “Pack your bags and head to a land I’m going to show you…”

Moses was told to lead God’s people out of Egypt. When he looked at the situation all he could see was plenty of reasons NOT to upset a very powerful king of Egypt.

David was told by God he’d be king – except there already was a king named Saul who was none too happy about this.

The bible reads like a who’s who of frightened, anxious and reluctant people. Abraham, Moses and David were only three of many people who learned the all important truth: we don’t see the end of the story until the end of the story. Let me say it a different way. We don’t how God is going to do what he’s promised until we see it in the rear view mirror – until after he does it. That’s why the most powerful times of worship and spiritual renewal in the Old Testament involved remembering. Take a look into the rear view mirror and remember what God did a few miles back, and be encouraged for the upcoming journey.

We look at Abraham, Moses and David and we see ourselves. We see people doubting, sometimes struggling to follow the Lord. We also see how God led them through what appeared to be impossible circumstances. We have the benefit of seeing the big picture and what happened after the fact as we read our bibles. We see that God calls it faith because he asks us to follow him when we don’t know the whole story – HE ASKS US TO TRUST that he he will lead us in the right direction and take care of us along the way.

God is asking our congregation to step out in faith in a fundraising campaign called FORWARD in faith, prayer and promise. We can’t see exactly where he’ll lead us, and so we get a little nervous and reluctant. Being out of our comfort zone isn’t easy. But the good news is God has always been faithful, and he’s not going to stop now!

By the way, Abraham and the whole family who received the promise was rescued from famine and certain death by the Lord. Moses watched God humble the king of Egypt to the point that he gave God’s people permission to leave…with a large sum of Egyptian gold. David was crowned king and would be forever known as a man after God’s own heart. God had it all under control.

God has everything under control at First Lutheran, too.

Grace & Courage dear friends!

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in devotional, outreach and missions

 

A Grace-full Spirit

It’s been a while since I’ve written! Sitting over a cup of coffee on a rainy day seemed the best time to get caught up.

Easter is now giving way to Pentecost. All of us who trust in Jesus have been pulled from our tombs…and the breath of God has entered us. Picture God cradling a lifeless clay Adam, and then exhaling sweet, life-giving breath into that clay. Adam’s eyes open: and he looks into the face of God.

Pentecost is our celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church: the Breath of God. Jesus told the Apostles that they would make disciples of all nations [Matt 28.19-20]. Then he told them to sit tight in Jerusalem until they received the power of the Spirit from on high [Acts 1.8]. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to revive hearts and minds with faith and for building the Kingdom of God.

When reflecting on Pentecost and the miraculous gift of tongues, CFW Walther noted that the object of the outpouring of praise was what God had done…not what people had accomplished. He goes on to say that those who’ve received the Holy Spirit experience the “gift of forgetfulness”. In other words, we forget about ourselves and become engaged disciples of Jesus in his grace-ful kingdom. Though we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, what we seek is not a religious experience, or holy entertainment. What we seek as the Spirit moves in us is to serve Jesus through serving others.

Several years ago I was leading a retreat. On the first night I shared with the group, “We’re not here just for ourselves, but to encourage one another” After a moment of quiet, one of the group members blurted, THAT’S NOT WHAT I’M HERE FOR! Though I’m happy to say that this person grew into a beautiful follower of Jesus, it underscores the me-ness of our world.

The Spirit urges us to set aside our interests in the security that God is already looking out for us. The Spirit calls each Christian into the joy and fellowship of Christ’s Body the Church, and to take up a uniquely blessed life of Kingdom-building.

Which is to say, Happy Pentecost!

Grace & Courage, dear friends…pastor greg

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in devotional

 

The 3 Nails that Hold a Family Together

The 3 Nails That Hold Families Together is the final installment in our series “40 Days of Reconcilliation”. I hope you have been challenged and blessed! Pastor Greg

Each family has been given the responsibility to both teach and celebrate faith in Christ. Walking with the Lord is not just something we do on Sunday!

TRUTH SPEAKING: helping each other to think about our lives through God’s word—and act consistent with it

 John 8:32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free

 THINKING BIBLICALLY SIMPLIFIES DECISIONS AND PRIORITIES

PRAYING TOGETHER: helping one another to take our needs and burdens to God

 Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God

 PRAYER BRINGS US INTO GOD’S PRESENCE WHERE HELP CAN ALWAYS BE FOUND

 CELEBRATION: a lifestyle of worship centered in gratitude for what God has done

 Psalm 33:1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

 WORSHIP AND CELEBRATION LIFT OUR EYES TO HIGHER THINGS

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in devotional

 

The 3 Nails that Hold a Marriage Together

Below are this weeks sermon notes. Many blessings…pastor greg

FORGIVENESS: the path to peace

I choose to forgive in the manner that I have been forgiven

THE PAST CANNOT BE UNDONE, BUT IT CAN BE RECONCILED

Colossians 3:12–13 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

SERVICE: loving one another in actions

I choose to serve in the manner that I have been served

WE LOVE OUR SPOUSES IN THE WAYS THEY NEED TO BE LOVED

Philippians 2:3–4 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

CHRIST: the one who holds all things together

I choose to look to Jesus for the strength that holds us together

IF I EXPECT MY SPOUSE TO BE EVERYTHING, THEN I EXPECT HIM OR HER TO BE GOD

Colossians 1:16–17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth…He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in devotional