Journey to Jerusalem: A Hard Truth

A Hard Truth

Luke 10-19

 

            Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem has now begun.  He and his disciples are making their way to Jerusalem where Jesus will enter, on what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday.  Jesus’ entering into Jerusalem begins the most impactful event of Jesus’ life; His death and resurrection.  The vast majority of our focus as a church and society revolve around what happens during this week.  The cross represents both a call to repentance and an extension of unbelievable grace.  As our culture’s typical response, we usually focus on only one aspect at the expense of the other. 

There are those individuals, churches and denominations who tend to focus on the cross’s call to repentance.  They typically see the lack of remorse and minimization of sin within our culture and respond by emphasizing the evil of sin and the desperate need for everyone to seek forgiveness.  This is not a popular stance to take, so there is naturally push back from both people of faith as well as those who have no concern for God.  This push back comes in the form of accusations of judgementalism and bigotry.  The grace and love Jesus represented will be thrown back in the face of those who make a call to repentance.  This response only causes those focused more on repentance to double down and move even further away from the cross’s extension of grace.

On the other hand, there are those individuals, churches and denominations who have moved away from talking about sin and judgement.  Their focus becomes the love, forgiveness and grace Jesus expressed throughout his life and ultimately exemplified on the cross.  This message of a loving God who spreads his grace throughout the world is a wonderful message to share.  Most people will not push back against this message.  The danger of this extreme is that making people feel good and liking our message can become the goal, rather than sharing the truth of the Gospel message. 

The truth of the Gospel message and the message of the cross is both the need for repentance and the acceptance of unmerited grace.  As Jesus makes his journey to Jerusalem his teaching obviously reflects the true Gospel message. His teachings are not easy and at times are very confrontational.  If you read the Gospel of Luke from chapter 10 thru 19 honestly, you will surely be made uncomfortable.  Jesus’ teachings do not fit into our preferred nice cookie cutter message.

I challenge you to read through these chapters in Luke.  Let’s be honest, you have plenty of time on your hands.  Listen to what Jesus teaches.  His message is not easy and will not make everyone happy or feel good.  Jesus’ message acknowledges sin and evil in the world and at the same time offers love and forgiveness.  Jesus’ teaching show how he pursues us and desires for all to come to know him.  These teachings also address choosing our own way and not accepting the need for repentance.

As we Journey to Jerusalem together let’s not fall into the trap of believing or sharing the easy Gospel message.  The easy message takes only one aspect of the cross at the expense of the other.  This is very common in our culture today.  We are a society moving to the extremes and we are becoming more and more uncomfortable living in the middle.  The true Gospel message will leave you in tension.  Embrace the tension and beauty of a Gospel message teaching both unmerited grace and the importance of repentance.


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Blog Post: Journey to Jerusalem

Beginning a Journey
 
Matthew 16:21-28 and Luke 9:21-27
 
 

            We are quickly approaching the biggest and most attended Sunday of the year.  Of course, this year our attendance takers can have the week off and google analytics will provide an official count.  No matter where you worship or even if you worship, the events of surrounding Easter have changed the world.  The impact of that first Easter morning is felt by everyone.  World history would be forever changed in light of this amazing event.  Over the next few days let’s take some time to look at Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem.  What does he talk about? What’s his demeanor? What does he do? 

            This Journey to Jerusalem begins to get very real and focused when Jesus begins talking to his disciples about death.  I know, I know, Jesus’ journey began in a manger surrounded by shepherds, but our focus begins when Jesus fully turns his eye toward Jerusalem and the events that will unfold.  This journey begins in Matthew 16 and Luke 9 when Jesus predicts his death for the first time. 

This seems like an odd way to begin a journey to the most significant event in human history.  Most of us would begin such an important journey by rallying support and building up anticipation.  Perhaps we would slowly unveil a great marketing campaign designed to draw people in and create excitement.  I am not a great marketer, but I do know that starting your campaign with ‘I am going to suffer many things and then die, so grab your suffering cross and join me!,’ does not tend to get good results.  Jesus may be the worst marketer and event planner ever!  What was he thinking?

Why didn’t Jesus start off with saying something like this: ‘Do you want to find purpose and meaning? Follow me to Jerusalem! Do you want to find hope and peace? Follow Me! Do you want new life and victory? Follow my lead!’

This is the marketing pattern we prefer; a promise we can get what we want without mentioning the reality of how this is achieved.  Even Peter reflects this in his response to Jesus.  He assures Jesus that this suffering will not happen.  Jesus responds in a fairly direct and extreme way by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” Clearly Peter did not understand Jesus’ methods or way of thinking.  We easily fall into this trap as well.

Jesus tells his disciples true life is found in taking up a cross.  This is not an easy way to finding fulfillment and purpose, but it is the only way.  Jesus knows life will be full of challenges for each of us. Yes, this will include suffering.  There is nothing you can do to avoid this in your life.  Aren’t you glad we have a God who acknowledges this truth from the beginning?  The reality of life being challenging is not in the fine print. Jesus is up front about the difficult road we all will walk. 

This journey to Jerusalem begins with Jesus being brutally honest with us.  Life will have times of pain and suffering.  Jesus himself will experience suffering in unimaginable detail.  Jesus doesn’t want us to have the misconception everything will be easy if we just follow him.  He wants us to know new life is found through the suffering.  Choosing to follow Jesus each and every day leads to experiencing victory in the midst of a challenging world.   

Are we willing to choose to live the life Jesus has called us to live?  This is a life that will not be easy, but will lead to fulfillment, purpose and meaning in spite of life’s challenges. Guess what, no other way of life is easy either; they just eventually lead to frustration, anger and a desire for more.  Take up the way of Jesus by taking your cross and walking toward victory.


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Blog: Thoughts on Thankfulness-Everyone has a Story, November 16, 2019

Everyone Has a Story

 

Psalm 107:4-9

 

We all have a story to tell.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a pastor is getting to hear people’s stories.  Sometimes they are stories of heartbreak and suffering.  Other times the stories are of victory and redemption.  The more stories I hear, the more I realize how much humanity has in common.  Yes, all the stories are unique, but there are common threads running through all of our stories.  We have all experienced highs and lows, justice and injustice, fairness and unfairness, suffering and joy.  How these events and emotions manifest in each of our lives is unique, but we all experience them one way or the other. 

            No circumstance you may face is outside the reach of God’s presence.  At times you will feel like you are all alone and no one could have possibly had to endure what you are going through.  This is a real feeling, but an untrue reality.  God continually offers His presence to those going through the most difficult times of life.  Psalm 107 begins by giving thanks for the Lord’s goodness and His love enduring forever.  Then the psalmist begins to tell stories of redemption and hope.

            At what point in your life have you felt like you were walking in a desert wasteland.  Walking in circles with no purpose or direction, knowing that eventually you would not be able to walk any further.  You fear the desert will overwhelm you and suck you beneath the sand.  We live in a time where culture has defined our destination, but that destination is only a mirage.  Our culture says that our purpose, meaning and happiness will be found by following our heart’s desire.  We are encouraged to pursue wealth, popularity, and comfort.  These things in and of themselves are not bad, but when they define our meaning and purpose, they become devious and deceptive.  Even if we are able to achieve these things, we find they are only a mirage giving the image of happiness, but quickly fading into the horizon.

            God created us in His image, and He is the source of our meaning and purpose.  If we want to experience the destination of joy, peace, love, and fulfillment we must follow the path of the Creator.  There will be times in your life you are wandering in the desert in search of meaning and purpose.  Make sure you look to the God who loves you to find your way and not cultural expectations.  We can all be thankful for God’s presence in the desert. 


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Sunday Snippets: November 17, 2019

Sunday Songs:
 
 
 
Scripture Reading
 
 
Announcements:
Home Church signups are open! Sign up at the table under the stairs.
Bring your Operation Christmas Child box by this Sunday.  Donations for shipping costs can be put in the Operation Christmas Child box on the entry table.
November 24-Christmas Decoration party
December 8-Church at the Christmas Tree Farm
December 14- Salvation Army Kettle Bell Ringing
December 22- Christmas Candlelight Service
Journey has a Spotify playlist of Sunday worship songs. You can find the list here.

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Blog: Thoughts on Thankfulness in Psalm 107-Part 1

Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

Psalm 107:1-3

 

Well, Fall certainly took the scenic view to arrive this year, but Fall has officially arrived.  In early October, I was still watching football games on Friday night in what felt like a convection oven.  The last few Friday nights I have tossed away all shame and huddled under a blanket and worn a hoodie.  I love Fall.  So many things begin to change. The landscape changes and the cool mornings and evenings are tremendously rejuvenating.  In addition to the changing weather, I also love the fact Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  I love Thanksgiving.  I don’t particularly love turkey, but when eaten with family at Thanksgiving the turkey always tastes better. 

I could easily get on my soap box and talk about how culturally we have skipped over Thanksgiving and gone straight for the consumeristic celebration of secularized Christmas. I could easily make the case that we should boycott all stores who put out Christmas stuff in October (of course we would not be able to go anywhere).  I could easily bemoan the reality of hearing Christmas music in November, and I could whine about all of the Christmas movies already flooding Netflix and my DVR que at home.  Thankfully, I will not bore you with my soap box; anyway, where was I?

Thanksgiving is awesome!  We have so much to be thankful for and yet we have perfected the art of being ungrateful.  This month let’s start a habit of being grateful that will permeate our lives from here on out.  To help us in this process we are going to look at Psalm 107.  Each week we will work through more of the Psalm.

 

Take a few moments and read Psalm 107:1-3.

 

Have you taken some time lately to reflect on the ways God is good?  Have you become so consumed with the problems of the world and the false reality portrayed in social media you skip over the good surrounding us?  I encourage you to start being thankful for the small things that may seem insignificant; ice cream, left over Halloween candy, a cool breeze, a warm ray of sunshine, the smile of a friend, hearing a good song at just the right time, etc.

After getting warmed up in being thankful, start to think more broadly across your life.  How has God been good to you?  How has His love endured throughout the ups and downs of your life?  This can be painful, because we naturally remember the difficult times of life and we typically don’t want to relive the pain and suffering associated with those points in our life.  Sometimes the most amazing examples of God’s goodness are found when we look back openly and honestly at the storms of our life. 

Being thankful and looking for how God was good through the storms of our life is a helpful way to find healing from the results of the storm.  I have tried to be very intentional about doing this when I think about the storms of my life.  I find being thankful helps to push out the bitterness, anger and hurt the storms of life typically bring.  Now, rather than negative feelings overwhelming me when I think about past struggles, I am able to rejoice in God’s presence through the storms. 

Psalm 107 begins by encouraging the people of God to tell their story of redemption, hope, and victory.  As we enter into this season of Thanksgiving let us all remember our stories of God’s goodness and love.


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Sunday Snippets: October 10, 2019

 
Songs for this Sunday:
 
 
Scripture:
 
 
Announcements:
Home Churches are up and meeting.  The Christiansen and Bryant group meet on the 1st and 3rd Sunday each month and the Bornowski group meets on 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month.  Childcare is provided for the Bornowski group.  Sign up at any time to get involved. 
Bring your Operation Christmas Child box this Sunday if possible, Nov 17 is the last chance.  Donations for shipping costs can be put in the Operation Christmas Child box on the entry table.
 
November 24-Christmas Decoration party
 
December 8-Church at the Christmas Tree Farm
 
December 14- Salvation Army Kettle Bell Ringing
Journey has a Spotify playlist of Sunday worship songs. You can find the list here.

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Sunday Snippets: November 3, 2019

Sunday Songs:
 
 
Scripture Reading
 
 
Announcements:
Home Church signups are open! Sign up at the table under the stairs.
Bring your Operation Christmas Child box by November 10.  Donations for shipping costs can be put in the Operation Christmas Child box on the entry table.
November 24-Christmas Decoration party
December 8-Church at the Christmas Tree Farm
December 14- Salvation Army Kettle Bell Ringing
Journey has a Spotify playlist of Sunday worship songs. You can find the list here.

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Sunday Snippets: October 27, 2019

Sunday Songs:
 
Only King Forever
Stand in Your Love
Nobody Loves Me Like You
Great I Am
Freedom
 
Scripture Reading
 
Genesis 1:25-31
 
Announcements:
Home Church signups are open! Sign up at the table under the stairs.
Bring your Operation Christmas Child box by November 10.  Donations for shipping costs can be put in the Operation Christmas Child box on the entry table.
November 24-Christmas Decoration party
December 8-Church at the Christmas Tree Farm
Journey has a Spotify playlist of Sunday worship songs. You can find the list here.

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Sunday Snippets: October 20, 2019

Sunday’s Songs:
 
Open Up the Heavens
I Am 
At the Cross
O Come to the Altar
How Great Is Our God
 
Sunday Scripture:
 
Genesis 1:1-25
 
 
Announcements:
Baptism and Child Dedication- Today.  Congratulations to the O’Mahoney  and Bornowski family as their children are dedicated today.  Also, We celebrate with the Pina family as Jayden is baptized.
Hogeye Festival is Saturday, October 26. We will have a children’s booth and ask that members sign up to help at the booth.
Home Church signups are open! Sign up at the table under the stairs.
We will start collecting for Operation Christmas Child. Bring small items that will fit in shoe boxes or bring donations to cover shipping costs. Donations can be put in the Operation Christmas Child box on the entry table.
Journey has a Spotify playlist of Sunday worship songs. You can find the list here.

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Sunday Snippets: October 13, 2019

Sunday’s Songs:
 
The Lion and The Lamb
Come To The Table
Glorious Day
Jesus
This is Amazing Grace
 
Sunday Scripture:
 
Genesis 1:1-5
 
 
Announcements:
Baptism and Child Dedication- Sunday October 20.  If you would like to be baptized or dedicate your child please talk with Phillip
Hogeye Festival is Saturday, October 26. We will have a children’s booth and ask that members sign up to help at the booth.
Home Church signups are open! Sign up at the table under the stairs.
We will start collecting for Operation Christmas Child. Bring small items that will fit in shoe boxes or bring donations to cover shipping costs. Donations can be put in the Operation Christmas Child box on the entry table.
Journey has a Spotify playlist of Sunday worship songs. You can find the list here.

Read more...