Palm Sunday – "He Came To Die" – John 12:12-19

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He was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea, grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, baptized by John at the Jordan River. He recruited disciples and traveled throughout the land of Israel. Some thought He was John the Baptist, some through He was a prophet, some called Him Rabbi, teacher. Some called Him, ‘Lord.’ Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

• He taught people about God and the Kingdom of God and the people were amazed because ‘He taught with authority’, unlike all the other teachers, even the demons obeyed Him.
• He performed miracles, demonstrating a power over nature and over the human body. He even raised the dead. And those who witnessed it were ‘greatly afraid.’
• He pronounced absolution on sinners, forgiving their sins before God, and the forgiven worshipped Him.

All of this would have been enough to solidify His reputation in history forever.
• No person has ever done what Jesus did.
• There has never been anyone like Him, nor will there ever be.
• Jesus Christ is without a doubt, the most famous man in history.

And yet, this is not what He came into the world for. For none of this accomplishes what He came to accomplish. His purpose could only be fulfilled in one way – HE MUST DIE.
• Only by His death is the world that He created, ‘redeemed’ from sin and death and destruction.
• Only by His death is God the Father reconciled to rebellious men and women whom He created in His own image.
• Only by His death are the unjust justified and the wrong made right before God.
• And only by His death is God glorified. Continue reading

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Lent 3 – "The 10 Commandments Are Good" – Exodus 20:1-17 – 3/8/15

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After the events of this past week and all that has taken place, I wanted to preach a ‘simple sermon’ this morning. And so this morning, we will consider the 10 Commandments. A very small subject. My first thought was that in the 20 minutes that we usually devote to a sermon, I would give each Commandment a simple, 2 minute explanation. But even that seemed like it would probably get too complicated.

So, this morning I want to make just one, simple point about the 10 Commandments. And the simple point is this: “The 10 Commandments are good.” To which the proper liturgical response would be: “well daahh.”

So, let’s give it a try and see how it goes.

“You shall have no other gods besides Me.” So, right off the bat, we’ve got a problem. We’re already not so sure that this commandment is good. It’s a little too restrictive. Everyone knows that the problem with Christianity is that it’s too darn exclusive and needs to be more inclusive of other religions and other gods. This commandment is not good.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord, your God.” This is a good commandment. The name of God is precious and sacred, to be treated with honor and dignity – not to be misused. In fact, we think this commandment is so good that we hesitate to use God’s name at all for fear of misusing it. It’s better to just let the pastor use God’s name. He’s been properly trained. Continue reading

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Funeral – Herb Schartner – "To Die Is Gain" – Philippians 1:21-23 – 3/7/15

St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Philippians 1:21-23).

It didn’t used to be that way.

It used to be that death was the dreaded end of life. And the very thought of death sent chills down the spine something like being pushed over the edge of a cliff into a deep dark unknown below.
It used to be that the death of a loved one caused great sorrow and weeping for the deceased.

All that changed however one early morning when several women went to the tomb where their beloved friend had been buried just three days before. They went with tears in their eyes and spices in their hands to mourn and anoint His body. But when they arrived they found the had been stone rolled aside and two angels, grinning from ear to ear, saying, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

And ever since that day, people of faith in Jesus Christ have never looked at death the way they used to. St. Paul says, “to die is GAIN…” “to depart and be with Christ is BETTER BY FAR.” Continue reading

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Funeral – Danny Morren – "Do Not Weep" – Luke 17:11-17 – 3/6/15 (Church)

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For his confirmation, I asked Danny to write an essay under the title “What does it mean to be a Christian.” The first paragraph of his essay reads as follows:

“On June 13th, 1999, I became a Christian when I was baptized by pastor Nielsen. It wasn’t because it was pastor Nielsen who baptized me that I became a Christian, but because of what Holy Baptism is… Holy Baptism is God’s word combined with water. Baptism gives us eternal life and deliverance from death and the devil. In Baptism, God sees us as sinless. Even though Christ has given forgiveness of sins to all, a very long time ago, this is when the forgiveness of sins was given to me. In Baptism we are adopted as children of God and united with Christ who received the punishment for our sin and we received the benefits of His salvation and life.”

The service began with these words: “In Holy Baptism, Daniel was clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness that covered all his sin. St. Paul says, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” (Romans 6:3-5)

If you listen carefully to what Danny wrote in his essay, what you realize is that he was simply making St. Paul’s precious words to the Romans, his own. That is the best that any of us can do. We simply make the Word and Promises of God our very own. Continue reading

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Funeral – Danny Morren – "No One Can Snatch Them Out Of My Hand" – John 6:39 (Funeral Home) – 3/5/15

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? St. Paul makes it sound like once Jesus gets his hands on a person He ain’t going to let go. You can wiggle and squirm all you’d like but He’s not going to let go of you. He’s given you His Word on it. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And there’s nothing, I say, NOTHING more certain than HIS PROMISE TO YOU.

It’s scary to count all weapons that the devil has in his arsenal to try to break the Lord’s grip on you. “Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger. And then if all else fails, the sword.

And Satan unleashed every weapon in his arsenal against Jesus to try to break His promise and open his hand and let you go. He kept turning up the heat and raising the pressure.

At first it was just a few questions in the wilderness. “Did God really say…?” And then, outright accusations about His reputation and character. And then, the threats. And then, the full-blown, mass bombing of ‘TRIBUATION’ and ‘DISTRESS.’ Enough to turn the heart of any of us to say, “Okay, okay. I’ll give you what you want. Just don’t hurt me.” But His grip on you remained firm.

So, Satan unleashed his wolves from hell to ‘PERSECUTE’ Jesus. He was arrested without cause, tried by a crooked judge, condemned to death by cowardly king. He was ‘persecuted for righteousness sake.’ And His hold on you remained secure. Continue reading

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Lent 2 – "John's Question For Jesus"- Matthew 11:2-6 – 3/1/15

Free Text after the suicide death of Danny Morren
Matthew 11:2-6

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I. The Question
John’s question is our question. “Are you the one or shall we look for another?”

This is not the question of a faithless man but a faithful man who wants some assurance that everything is going to be okay – appearances to the contrary.

John is the great preacher of Christ, of whom Jesus tells the crowds, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Mat.11:11)

But John’s in prison. And why is he in prison? Not because he was unfaithful. Not because he ran away from his calling like Jonah did. No. John’s in prison simply because he was faithful. Not exactly the way he expected things to go, I’m sure.

And that’s why I say that John’s question is our question. Because things have not gone the way that we expect them to go for the faithful either.

If a righteous and holy God were ruling the universe, things ought to go a lot differently than they do. And we’re not even talking about the ‘world’ here. This is not really about global unrest or the collapse of civilization.

We’re really only talking about one man, one family, one congregation, just doing our best to be faithful to our calling and vocation in life. Only to find ourselves in a dungeon of grief and despair and confusion and doubt.

“He sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Continue reading

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Mid-Week Lent 2 – "Blessed Are The Meek…" – Matthew 5:5 – 2/25/15

Last Wednesday on Ash Wednesday, we considered Beatitudes #1 and #2. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” And “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Now today we add #3, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

ALL FLOW FROM 1ST BEATITUDE
One of the things that becomes more and more clear as we continue down this list of blessings, is that it is the first Beatitude that sets the stage for the others. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Everything that follows is simply what life in the Kingdom of Heaven is all about.

It’s like, the 1st beatitude is the tree and the others are the branches that grow from it. Continue reading

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Lent 1 – "The Test Of Faith" – Genesis 22:1-18 – 2/22/15

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We’ve said it before but its worth repeating again, the life of faith is a hard life. Anyone who says that all their problems went away when they became a Christian is either lying or hasn’t got a clue what it means to live by faith in Jesus Christ.

Some people come to church with their great problems and troubles, but are often disappointed and don’t last long. They thought that Christianity was supposed to make everything better. But once they learn what it means to “take up your cross and follow Me,” they conclude that this is not at all what they thought it was and not something that they’re interested in.

So don’t ever tell someone that their troubles will all go away if they come to church and hear the gospel. No. FAITH comes by hearing the gospel, not SUCCESS or PROSPERITY or EASY STREET.

Just look at those whom the Epistle to the Hebrews holds up as the HEROES OF THE FAITH. “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, there were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:36-38) I wonder why I’ve never seen this verse in an evangelism brochure before?

And today we can add, “they were taken captive and beheaded, their homes were burned, their women raped, their daughters stolen – of whom this world IS NOT worthy.” Continue reading

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Ash Wednesday – "Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit / Those Who Mourn…" – Matthew 5:2-4 – 2/18/15

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“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them saying, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

It is our intent during this season of Lent to consider the words of our Lord which He taught to His disciples in what we have come to call, ‘The Beatitudes.’ Nine statements that each begin with the word, ‘Blessed.’

What does it mean to be ‘blessed?’ When someone has a special gift or talent, we sometimes say that he is ‘blessed with musical talent,’ or ‘she is blessed with a great voice.’ When we say that someone is ‘blessed,’ we mean that there is something about their life that we admire because we count it as something ‘good.’

We would never think to say that someone is ‘blessed with cancer,’ or ‘blessed with blindness.’ The word ‘blessed’ doesn’t fit with either of these. Anyone who says that someone is ‘blessed with cancer’ or ‘blessed with blindness’ either doesn’t understand what it means to be ‘blessed’ or doesn’t understand what it means to have cancer or to be blind. Are they trying to say that these things are somehow really ‘good?’

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Transfiguration – "Literal or Figurative?" – Mark 9:2-9 – 2/15/15

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Properly distinguishing between what is ‘literal’ and what is ‘figurative’ is important if you’re going to understand the Scriptures correctly, as they are intended. Some people read what is mean to be taken ‘figuratively’ as though it were meant to be taken ‘literally’ and even though they say that they ‘believe in the Bible,’ they get it all wrong.

In the book of Revelation, John sees a “144,000” who have the name of the Son and the Father written on their foreheads. That’s mean to be understood ‘figuratively,’ but the Jehovah’s Witnesses take it ‘literally’ and figure that there’s only going to be 144,000 souls in heaven.

In the Gospels, Jesus breaks the bread and gives it to His disciples saying, ‘this is my body.’ And He passes the cup saying, ‘this is my blood,’ and many think that that’s ‘figurative,’ when it’s really meant to be taken ‘literally.’

If ever there was an episode in the gospels that was susceptible to a figurative interpretation it’s the Transfiguration of Jesus. Bright light emanating out from within a body and illuminating those in his presence; two men, long dead having a conversation with a third as if they’ve known each other for a long time. It’s too bizarre to be real. It’s got to be ‘fiction’ that has a lesson to teach us.

But it’s not. It really happened. Just the way it says, literally. It’s ‘non-fiction.’ Continue reading

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