At first blush, it’s almost hard to believe that Jesus said to “let go” (and in some translations “hate”) our parents, spouses, kids and friends in order to follow Him. Don’t be confused — Jesus wasn’t telling you to cut these people out of your life in order to be a follower of Christ. Rather, this message was about rightly ordering relationships in your life. Make no mistake, the most important relationship must be with Christ. He tells the gathered crowd, not just his disciples, to put him first and warned them that they must be “all in” and following Him won’t be easy.
If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a “come to Jesus” moment — well this fits. Jesus is telling everyone that they can’t just fit Him in to their current lives wherever they have room. On Sundays when the kids don’t have soccer practice? No thanks. Christmas and Easter? Not gonna do it. Whenever you’re feeling down? He doesn’t want that kind of transnational relationship. He wants to be the center; the rock upon which your life is built and ordered.
You have a different kind of love for all of the people in your life. Love for your parents is different than the love you have for your kids. Same thing holds true for love for friends and spouse. These are all great but they cannot compare to the unique love that Jesus has for us. That love, agape love, is a giving love. It is a sacrificing and selfless love. It is love without a net. If you can accept that love into your life, it will enhance your ability to love everyone else in your life. It will also help to free you from the aspects of those relationships that tend to take your focus away from Christ.
Home Study — Galatians: The Cost of Freedom Sandy Malarkey hosts a study of Galatians at her home on the 2nd and 4th Mondays, beginning September 12 at 7pm. All are welcome. The study is facilitated by Buzz and Susan Wagner. For details, contact us at email@example.com or 412.364.4463.
Rally Day 2016 is Sunday September 11 at 9:30AM! Following worship we will have our annual picnic at the Ranch House in North Park. Invite family and friends to join us. Side dishes, desserts or drinks would be appreciated. No cost. Directions: Take McKnight Road to the North Park exit (Yellow Belt) and continue on Ingomar Road. Turn left onto Kummer Road. The Ranch House will be on the left.
If I asked you to describe a word picture of a famous “epic battle”, who would it depict? There are many. David and Goliath? The duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton? Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader ? Maybe Harry Potter and Voldemort. One common thread to all of these battles is that they involved weapons. A slingshot, pistols, lightsabers and wands. None of these involved the most powerful weapon known to mankind: words. In perhaps the most epic battle of all time, words were the featured weapon between the combatants. That battle was between Jesus and the Devil during Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. Luke 4:1-13. Time and again, the devil used words to tempt Jesus and our savior fought back with the Word. Words are powerful — they were for Jesus and they are for you as well.
Read these words from St. James: “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. James 3:4-6.
We are called to be witnesses in our community to the glory of Christ. 1 Peter 2:9-10 Our words are very important. What words have you spoken recently and what would they reflect about your relationship with Christ? James’ message to early Christians is equally relevant to Christians today — what you say reflects not only upon you but also upon Christ. This is not to say that you should hold your tongue under all circumstances. However it does mean that what you say — and when and how you say it — are very important in carrying out your call as a witness to Christ.
The very first of Luther’s 95 theses was “our Lord and Master Jesus Christ . . . willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Not exactly a line that’s going to attract lots of customers! He seems to be saying that Christians aren’t doing so well in living a Godly life. But that wasn’t his point at all. Rather, he was saying that repentance is the way we make progress in the Christian life. Indeed repentance is the gateway to everything that the Christian life is all about. It’s the best sign that we are growing deeply and rapidly into the character of Jesus.
Jesus alluded to the two different types of repentance in Luke 13:1-9. One kind is that which is necessary to keep God happy so he will keep us away from calamity and answer our prayers. This type of repentance is selfish, self-righteous and eventually leads to bitterness. It is as barren as the fig tree that bore no fruit. True repentance, Jesus tells us, is that which is intended to tap into the joy of our union with Christ in order to weaken our need to do anything contrary to God’s heart. We repent when bad things happen and we repent when we’re a little too full of ourselves when times are good too. Take all things with repentance — and feel your relationship with Christ blossom.
It is so easy to become discouraged by the world around us. So much sin, deceit, corruption and ugly hatred. This is the way of this world — even in the days when the Apostle Paul walked the earth. His message to fellow believers, to you, is this: do not be discouraged! Keep your eyes fixed on the world to come but while in this world, do not abandon it. Rather, bear witness to the world to come — to the day that Christ will come again and transform us into glorious beings like Him. We have a role — to point others to the truth and away from the discouragement that abounds in this world. Don’t waver. Stay on track, steady in God. Philippians 3:17-4:1
Last week my meditation was on the Transfiguration of Jesus from the account in Luke 9:28-36. Three of the gospels have accounts of the scene but it is only Luke who informs us that Jesus’ purpose was to engage in prayer (9:28), and again only in Luke (9:29) are we told that it was while Jesus was praying to his Father that he experienced the Transfiguration, that ‘the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white’ (9:29). The importance of prayer in our savior’s life readily emerges from Luke’s account. He went to the mountain to pray. Jesus was praying for a long time — so long that Peter, James and John all fell asleep and were awoken by the dazzling light. While he was in prayer, he was transformed. It’s this last point to which I want to draw your attention.
Prayer, in its broadest definition, is a conversation with God. Jesus was talking to God. God has given us the gift of prayer so that we may know and have the way to call upon Him for help to do the things He has commanded us to do, and so that, in turn, He Himself may bless us and others in our doing of them. Through prayer, God calls us into a relationship with Him. From that relationship we can gain unbelievable strength to deal with the struggles in our everyday lives. Problems in our relationships. Problems at work. Problems with sin. Whatever it is — big or small — prayer is a way to gain strength. Through a regular prayer life we too can be “transformed” — changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2. God will help to bring out the best in you — that’s a promise you can count on.
March 23, 2016 at 5:30 PM
Ascension Lutheran Church is hosting a Passover meal similar to the one Jesus and His disciples shared the night before He became our Paschal Sacrifice. Pastor Nathan Puro from the Shoresh David Messianic Congregation will facilitate our celebration of this traditional meal. Invite your friends, family, and neighbors to experience what Jesus and His disciples shared at their last meal together. We will see how the rituals and traditions God commanded His people to follow in the Old Testament lead us to a deeper love and understanding of Yeshua the Son of God sent by the Father to be our Savior. In addition to that, we will have an excellent meal, delicious desserts, and a great social time!
We will begin promptly at 5:30 on March 23rd. There is no charge but a freewill offering will be accepted.
You can use the contact form below to register or call Vicki at 724-816-0413. Space is limited so please register early to be sure you don’t miss out on this special event.
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Jesus, during his sermon at the temple in Nazareth, made clear who He came for — the poor, the blind and the prisoners. (Luke 4:16-30). Does that describe you? Many readers’ first answer is likely “no”. You may be financially comfortable and have more than enough to eat and keep warm. You may be in good heatlh. Most are not in jail of any kind. But apart from the salvation that Christ brings, you are poor, you are a prisoner, you are blind and oppressed. Do you realize there are no personal resources to which you can turn, no amount of good deeds or rule following that can solve your imminent deadly dilemma. You must come to see the truth of these things in order to turn to the One who can deliver you. Those listening to Jesus’ sermon that day did not see themselves that way and they drove Jesus from the temple and threatened his life. Will you drive him out too?