Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay was home to a maximum security federal penitentiary for 29 years. Its location and security measures made escape virtually impossible. Such facilities are usually reserved for the most notorious and dangerous criminals. Imagine being imprisoned under maximum security for telling others about Jesus. That's what happened to the apostle Peter. We learn how he and his fellow believers handled this test of their faith and find strength and confidence in the face of obstacles to our faith and our mission.
Confused, disappointed, afraid, uncertain, worried, unsettled... These are just a few of the words to describe how those two men on the road were feeling on that first Easter evening. But then they met a stranger who helped them understand what had happened. And all of those troubled thoughts turned to overflowing joy and praise to God! Join us for truth to shatter whatever darkness you are dealing with, truth that turns our hearts to praise!
He didn't expect it, and neither did anyone else. His unexpected encounter with Jesus on the road is a remarkable story of power and grace that changed his life and the world forever. In this sermon, his story becomes our story.
How easily we compare our lives to the lives of those around us. Who has more money? Who works harder? Who endures more hardships? And, when life gets tough, it is tempting to respond with sinful attitudes--questioning God's love, accusing him of injustice, doubting his promises, even growing angry at him. God wants to give hope and meaning to our lives by shifting our perspective.
When a couple celebrates a milestone wedding anniversary (25, 40, 50, 60 years), people might ask, "What's your secret? How has your marriage lasted so long?" If someone were to ask us similar questions, as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of our congregation's founding, how would we answer? What is our secret? How has it lasted this long? God's Word gives the only real answers to those questions.
Do you ever feel alone in this world? Like the whole world (or at least the majority of it) is against you? As Christians, it is discouraging to see our society (and even fellow Christians) become increasing apathetic or hostile toward our Christian faith. God's Word calms and encourages our troubled hearts.
It can be a lot of fun giving gifts to those we love...choosing the gifts, carefully wrapping them, watching their reaction as they open them. If you watch some children give church offerings, they are just as excited. They can't wait for the offering plate to come by so that they can put their quarter in! God wants us to find the same joy that believers of every age have found in responding to our generous God.
Many of us may not be very familiar with sheep, but, when Jesus calls himself our Good Shepherd, we have an idea of what that means. Sheep need a shepherd to protect them from danger and provide for their needs. We are the sheep. Jesus laid down his life to save ours. Jesus leads and feeds, guards and guides us through his Word. And, in love, he provides shepherds (“pastor” means “shepherd”) in his Church to use that Word to care for his sheep.
For centuries, the Lord had fallen silent. No prophets appeared in Israel for about 400 years. Meanwhile, Israel had lost all prominence on the world scene, becoming a conquered prize of one empire after another. Had the Lord turned his back on his chosen nation? Had the Lord forgotten or taken back his promise made to Abraham and his descendant? But then, everything changed.
If you followed someone around for a few days, listened to everything they said, watched how they spend their money, and saw how they used their time, you would probably have a pretty good idea of what mattered to them. If someone followed you, what would your life show about your heart? If we followed God, what would we learn about his heart?
Overwhelming Gratitude Leads to Overwhelming Generosity
1/22/2017Pastor Wagner Luke 19:1-10
He was hated and despised by his peers, and perhaps he deserved it. He had betrayed his own people to serve the enemy. And he got rich by cheating others out of their money. But then one day, everything changed. Instead of hatred, he encountered love--pure love. And instead of shame, he received forgiveness. And he did the last thing anyone would have expected. Come and hear his story and see how it is your story too.
A family member doesn't go to church. A once-faithful Christian drifts away. A classmate or neighbor is a follower of a non-Christian religion. How does it make you feel? What, if anything, do you do or say about it? Paul's words to the Romans this week reveal his reaction to the same situations we see every day. Through his words, God challenges us to examine our own hearts, as we think about the importance of knowing, following, and sharing Jesus.
How do you feel when meeting someone important? Maybe it was a job interview with your potential future boss. Did you feel peaceful walking into that meeting? Or perhaps you were summoned, for a reason unknown to you, to come to the principal’s office at school? As you walked the hallway towards his door, were you at peace? When we come face-to-face with someone who can influence the direction of our lives, that tends to be nerve-wracking, not peaceful. How nervous will you be, then, when you stand face-to-face with your God, who will determine where you spend eternity?
God is much more than a boss or a principal. He is your Creator, the one who gave you life. And when he did, he intended you to use that life in a very specific way, one which would bring glory to him and beauty to this broken world. So, are you ready to meet him?
God wants you to be at perfect peace when you stand before him. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…” the angels sang that first Christmas Eve. Through the work of Christ, sinners are at peace with a holy God. Even more, throughout history God’s messengers like John the Baptist proclaimed the gospel, so that God’s people could live in peace. God raises up a messenger to preach that gospel to you today.
Showered with blessings (in good times and in bad), we have so many reasons to praise the LORD. The psalm writer helps us find even more reasons and shows us the kind of praise that is pleasing to our generous God.
Do you consider yourself to be wealthy? That question is a matter of perspective, isn't it? It depends upon what kind of wealth we are talking about and to whom we compare ourselves. God's Word teaches how to measure real wealth and assures us that we are part of the wealthiest nation in the history of the world--the kingdom of God. For such great blessings, the LORD is worthy of our praise.
The things that are most important in our lives tend to be the things that we spend the most time and energy preparing for. Because God knows how important it is for his people to be ready for Christ's coming, he sends messengers to help them prepare.
It's the stuff that marriages are made of. It's the glue that holds families together. It's the one thing people who know nothing about Christianity expect Christians to do. We're talking about love. But real love is so much more than passion, emotion, preference, or measure of morality.
The gifts of God are so rich and varied that the devil uses that very generosity in God to stir up jealousy and envy. We see it in others. More importantly, we see its ugliness in our own hearts. The devil wants to use God's blessings to divide us and distract us from God's mission. The message that is at the heart of that mission - the message of Christ crucified - is the very message we most need to hear for all of the times we have let the devil win. Through the cross of Christ, we have hope and peace in the face of our own weaknesses and failures. In the cross of Christ, we receive the strength to come together to carry out God's mission.
The readers of Paul's letter to the Romans were primarily Gentiles. Yet, Paul had not forgotten about the Jews, and neither had God. Despite generations of disobedience and unbelief, God wasn't giving up on them. The reason for his persistence is great news not only for the Jews but for all people. Indeed, it is news we all need to hear.