Pastor’s Blog: The Cost of Following Jesus

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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.

RALLY DAY 2016

rally-dayRally 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.

A New Life: Be Encouraged. Be Inspired.

 William175wWilliam Wilson • Christian Speaker and Consultant
When: 9-17-2016, 9am to noon
Where: 8225 Peebles Road, Pittsburgh 15237
Info: 724.444.8721 or info@ascensionpgh.comAscension Lutheran Church is hosting Father William Wilson, a former Trappist monk and current leader of the Southern Fellowship, a non-denominational Christian ministry, for a speaking engagement addressing a living relationship with Christ.

“God loves us personally with all His Love unconditionally and independently of our moral behavior. God’s grace gives us a new way of being and a new way of living. This new life is not about observing a moral code. It is about receiving Jesus in faith and love. Grace begins when we begin to trust in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the World who loves us personally.” – excerpted from Grace and Life, William Wilson.

William works in tandem with local congregations through the United States by offering teaching, pastoral counseling, and spiritual direction to members of the congregation, under the authority of the local pastor.

William grew up amidst alcoholism, poverty, and street gangs in the inner-city of Philadelphia. Seeking union with God, nineteen year old William became a silent Trappist monk for the next 25 years. In 1981 William went to live and serve among the poorest people in the world in the Bolivian Andes. As a Trappist monk William had learned the ancient ways of union with God in solitude. As a missionary among the poor, he learned to seek and find union with God while loving people.

Pastor’s Blog: Your Words, Your Witness

tongues-of-fire-by-johannes-stafuffer-free-photo-5906If 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.

Pastor’s Blog: Repent! (Do you even know what that means?)

fig treeThe 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.

Pastor’s Blog: We Are Citizens of Heaven

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,citizens-20of-20heaven_t_nv-1040x780 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

Pastor’s Blog: Transformational Prayer

transfigurationLast 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.

 

Christian Seder Meal

March 23, 2016 at 5:30 PM

SederMealAscension 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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Pastor’s Blog: Jesus Came for the Poor. Did He Come for You?

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”. paupers-2You 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?