Archive for April, 2017

Ask a Pastor; Prayer

Ask-a-Pastor-Sermon-SlideThis past Sunday during our worship service, we held a special sermon time. It was our first ever “ask a pastor” worship. All members had the opportunity to submit questions for me to answer. These ranged from personal to theological and church future planning. All who attended enjoyed this as they were able to ask questions that they may not have wanted to ask in public. So, I would like to tackle one of those questions here.

“How do you think prayers work? Can we have any real effect with our prayers or should they be ‘Thy will be done?’”

This is a very good question as it brings to mind a few scripture passages as well as some traditional views. I don’t know about you, but I have heard in the past, when things did not go well for someone or it seems as if their prayers were not answered, people would equate that to the person not having enough faith and that was why their prayer wasn’t answered. In these instances, it is easy to say that it must not have been God will. That we should always pray that God’s will be done and since the prayer was not answered in the way this person wanted, that it must not have been God’s plan. Then some begin to feel that prayer doesn’t work. I mean, why would I pray if it doesn’t make a difference anyway?

But you must see, this is not the way I see prayer. John 14:13-14 tells us that whatever we ask for in His name, he will give it to us. But notice that it will be given so that the Son will be glorified in the Father. Then Matthew 7:7 says; “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

We do need to petition God with whatever is weighing on our hearts. We need to bring our burdens to him and ask him for help. Will God give us all that we ask for? Maybe, but I don’t think that is the goal. God wants our hearts to ask for that which will glorify Jesus Christ, whatever that might be.

But there is so much more to prayer. Prayer is a conversation. Prayer is a means of communication, and this communication must be a two-way street as many conversations need to be. This is a time to not only ask God for what we desire, but it also a time for us to thank God for what has already been given. God has blessed us with so much, and if we slow down long enough to reflect on our lives, we will see it. So, we should offer thanks to God, followed by our petitions and requests.

But here’s where I want you to really slow down. Too often, our prayers are like this; “Dear God, I’m in trouble. I need help. Please give me _________. Amen.” I really think what God wants is for us to pause, give thanks, ask for whatever is our perceived need at that time, and then pause. We need to listen for God’s voice. Just as any other conversation we have throughout the day, we need to hear what the other person is saying. This is how we know what the other person is feeling or thinking.

God wants to tell you what he is feeling and thinking, but we must slow down and listen to him. The answers to our prayers may not come in grand and miraculous ways. They may come in a gentle nudge or feeling that we get during our time of prayer.

When was the last time you spent a good amount of time in prayer, not only asking God for what your heart desires, but listening for what God wants from you. I encourage you, during your 15 minutes alone with God, to listen. Listen to your heart, to that still small voice, or just to the silence. God speaks in all things, and he is calling out to you today.

Your Defining Story

The-Way-Sermon-Slide-wk7“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. This theme of sacrifice is played out in story after story and Hollywood has gotten really good at telling these stories. Think about it for a minute, I’m sure you can all come up with a few movies or shows that feature this theme.

Lilly Potter sacrifices herself for her son Harry, who in turn, sacrifices himself for his friends. Katness substitutes herself within the Hunger Games in place of her 12 year-old sister. Moana sacrifices everything in her pursuit to save her family and friends.

In the recent movie and story of “The Shack,” we find a story of the Multnomah princess who jumps to her own death in order to save the rest of her tribe. And then later in the story, we find Mack, who has already lost one daughter, given the choice of sending one of his remaining children to spend eternity in Hell. His eventual response was found is his question; “can I go in their place?” He was willing to sacrifice himself for his kids.

It is at this moment that he realizes how God loves all of us. His love is unconditional, limitless, steadfast. His love reaches the furthest depths of our souls. His love reaches those places we don’t like to talk about, those place we like to keep hidden. He loves us so much, that he didn’t want to see any of us separated from him. He couldn’t bear to lose the relationship that we once had with him. He loves us so much that he chose instead of letting us die, to die in our place. He said let me go for them.

He loved us so much, that he sent his only son to die for us. Amazing love, how can it be. It doesn’t matter who we are, how we have been living, what we’ve done in the past, or even who we think we are right now. God loves us, even as we are, and he died on a cross to prove that love. This should be our defining story! This should be the story that we tell, every day of our lives.

What’s your defining story. What past life experiences have made you who you are today? How has your relationship with Jesus Christ affected your story? What defines you?

As you look at your past, present, and future, what is it about you that defines who you are? Does your job define you? Does your spouse define you? Your car? Your possessions? Do you pin your image of yourself on these things? What about your social status, how many people like you or follow you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Maybe it’s who you know, how well connected in the community you are? Or is it how other view you?

There is a problem with all of this. There is a problem with pinning who you are on any of these things that I have mentioned. They are all temporary. They will all fade in time.

Now let me tell you some good news on this Easter season. God knows what defines you. God knows who you are, and more than that, he knows whose you are. You are a child of God. You are a beloved daughter or son of the most high God! That is what defines you. Not how many friends you have, not how high on the employment ladder you have climbed, not what kind of car you drive, what degree you have, or how many people “liked” your latest post.

Your image is wrapped up in your relationship with God. Your life has meaning in the new life which Jesus Christ has offered through his resurrection. But here’s the most wonderful news.

Romans 5:8 tells us this; “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Can you imagine, can you fathom; the height and depth, how wide and how long the love of God is, that he would die for us, even while we were still sinners.

I like to think of it this way. Jesus, dying on the cross of grace, looks down upon those gathered around the cross. Now, since God is outside of our concept of time and space, I can see Jesus looking down from the cross and peering through over 2000 years to look at you, to look at me, and to tell you that he is doing this for you. As he forgives the roman soldiers for crucifying him on that cross by telling God that they don’t know what they are doing, he is also doing the same for all of us. He is forgiving us, even though we don’t know what we are doing.

What is your defining story? What do you want others to know about your life, about why you do the things you do, about how you live you life, and about how you are able to love all people? I know what I want my story to be…

I am a beloved child of the most high God! I am bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. I am loved. I am chosen. And through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, I have been given power in the name of Jesus to do all things, to his glory!

The Way: The Final Week

The-Way-Sermon-Slide-wk6This week is one of great importance to many of us in the church as we celebrate Holy Week. Passover has begun, and preparations are being made for this next weekend as Easter arrives. But we should not be too quick to jump right into Easter without journeying through this holiest of weeks on the calendar.

Too often it seems like the Christmas holiday, when we put up decorations in celebration of the special day months ahead of time. Easter comes and we plan around all the egg hunts, meals, and celebrations without spending time in reflection of what this truly means.

This week is such a roller coaster of emotions as we celebrate with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, waving our palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” But how quickly the shouts of hosanna are replaced with shouts of a different kind. Crucify him!

But if we are not careful we will miss all that this week has to offer. Jesus makes his last stand as he teaches and heals many. He is pursued by the religious leaders who want to trap him in some teaching so they can get rid of him. Jesus is becoming a threat to their way of life. His teachings include the destruction of the temple and even Jerusalem.

Then we have this scene in the garden of Gethsemane. Here we see Jesus making all things new as he prays for God’s will. Adam was in the garden of Eden when he was offered a perfect relationship with God, a life of being in God’s presence, and he turned it down by desiring the fruit of that one tree. And now Jesus is offered just the opposite. He is offered separation from God through his divine wrath for our sins, and he took it.

God’s salvation plan for the world hung in the balance as Jesus prayed. He could have walked out of the garden, abandoning the great plan for all of us, but he didn’t. I am so thankful that Jesus, after requesting the cup pass from him, asked for God’s will to be done. Jesus submitted to God’s will even though it would cost him everything. There would be pain, suffering, humiliation, and finally death. But he willingly gave his life for you and me. All glory to God for this wonderful salvation plan!

Jesus had a perfect trust in God’s plan and he calls us to do the same. If we are to live a Christ-like life, we need to submit to God’s plan for our life. We need to submit, not out of exhaustion, frustration, or a loss of hope, but out of perfect trust and faith. God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plan is greater than anything we could ever think of.

It may not be easy. Jesus’ road was certainly not an easy one. It may not be what you think you want, or even what you desire right now. But God is calling you. So the questions to reflect on would be; what is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to go? How is he calling you to live?

Maybe you’re in a place where you are struggling with his call on your life. Maybe you’re fighting the call. Travel to the garden and lay it down before the Lord. Talk to him about it, but be sure to respond the way Jesus did; “not my will, but thy will be done.”

The-Way-Sermon-Slide-wk5If you have been reading over the past few weeks, you will know that we are making this journey through Lent. And with this journey, we have been looking at what it means to live a life more like Christ. Today we turn our attention to those considered ‘sinners, outcasts, and the poor,’ and how Jesus viewed them.

Jesus’ ministry was an inclusive ministry. If we are to live a Christ-like life, we need to be inclusive. What does that mean? How does Jesus show us this life? We find it in the way he treated others around him. Jesus, in all his actions, demonstrates the love of the Father. Every word he spoke, every healing he performed, every act of kindness, every advocating, every time he looked into the eyes of a stranger, he was exuding this love that he had for them.

We find this in the story of the woman at the well. We find Jesus talking with a woman, asking her to get him some water because he didn’t have anything to get it. But who is this woman? What do we know about her? Why is she at the well at this time of day?

First of all, we must notice that she is a Samaritan woman. And Samaritans did not associate with Jewish people. This was unacceptable. In fact, most times, those who were Jewish in need of travel from Jerusalem to Galilee, would go out of their way by crossing the Jordan river and journeying twice as long, just so they did not travel through Samaria.

But Jesus carried a different message, a different view of people. Jesus takes his disciples and heads north to Galilee, but instead of going over the Jordan and taking the longer journey, he travels right through Samaria. He stops at this well because he was tired and sent his disciples on ahead of him into the village. Notice, the well is not in the village, it is outside. That is important as we find out who this woman is.

So, this woman comes to the well in the middle of the day. This is the time when it was the warmest. She is not getting water during the customary time, in the coolness of the morning. She is getting her necessary water in the heat of the day and at this well which is outside of the village. Why? Because no one else is around, or at least she thought. Jesus met her at this well and through this conversation of getting water from the well, Jesus offers her “living water.”

During this conversation, we find that she has been married 5 times before and that she is currently living with someone who is not her spouse. Here is the reason that she is behaving in such a strange way. She is an outcast. She is viewed as a sinner. She is not welcome in certain circles. People from the village looked down on her, ridiculed her, maybe even ignored her.

But Jesus is different. Jesus wants to welcome her. He wants to give her this living water so that she doesn’t have to return to this well anymore. This is the inclusiveness of Jesus’ teachings. All are welcome, all are included, all are loved.

Throughout scripture, we find Jesus surrounding himself with sinners, outcasts, and the poor. That is where he lived his life. He didn’t live among the wealthy, the upper class, the leaders of the day. He wanted to meet people where they were. Jesus loved those who the world looked down upon. If we are to live a Christ-like life, that is what we are called to as well.

We need to show the rest of the world that all lives matter. Every single human being has inherent worth. Regardless of who we think they are, they are still a child of God, and they are all given the same grace of God that we are. All of our lives have worth. We are all loved by God. Therefore, we need to treat each other the way Jesus has shown us. Jesus’ ministry was an inclusive ministry. All were welcomed, including those whom the rest of the religious leaders and world thought should have been discarded and thrown away. But not is his ministry.

The world discriminates, we should not. The world sees differences in gender, we should not. The world sees racial lines drawn, we should not. The world sees sexual orientation, we should not. The world sees social and economic class differences, we should not.

We should be open, welcoming, fully accepting, and supporting of all people in the life and ministry of Christ’s church. This is Jesus’ view as he looked at the sinners, outcasts, and the poor. He looked at them as those who have value, and he loves them. Jesus loves you and me.

In Christ’s Love,

Jarrod Severing