Get to the Heart of It: Faith - The Heart of You

No one likes to have their time wasted. Unfortunately, that's often what happens when it comes to the Christian faith. The things that get all the attention are nothing but distractions from what matters most. Thankfully, Jesus and his Word are always helping us navigate the noise to get to the heart of the good news. After seeing that grace is at the heart of God, this week we examine what is in the heart of us. There really are just two options. Either we assume that by our own efforts we can be the people God created us to be and prove ourselves worth of his blessings. Or we can admit defeat, acknowledge our sinfulness, and give up. Though this sounds like a path full of despair, it just the opposite. As we admit what is impossible for us, we also confidently cling to what not just possible but accomplished fact in Christ. We are saved through faith in him alone.

Get to the Heart of It: Grace - The Heart of God

No one likes to have their time wasted. Unfortunately, that's often what happens when it comes to the Christian faith. The things that get all the attention are nothing but distractions from what matters most. Thankfully, Jesus and his Word are always helping us navigate the noise to get to the heart of the good news. This week we see that the heart of God is his attitude of grace toward us. God’s grace means that he does not wait for us to find him. Rather, he sent his Son to seek and to save us. A God who seeks out the very sinners who rebel against him is one we would never imagine on our own. However, rather than our self-invented attempts to make our way back to God, God reminds us that we are saved by grace alone.

Get to the Heart of It: Glory - The Heart of the Matter

No one likes to have their time wasted. Unfortunately, that's often what happens when it comes to the Christian faith. The things that get all the attention are nothing but distractions from what matters most. Thankfully, Jesus and his Word are always helping us navigate the noise to get to the heart of the good news. This week we see that the heart of the matter is to whom or to what we give glory. Wherever we turn for the good things we need in life (both physical and spiritual) is in effect what we worship. If we turn to false gods, whatever they may be, we will always be disappointed. If we turn to the true God, we will be eternally and unimaginably satisfied. As a result, the goal of all Christian teaching is to get us to do that very thing, to give glory to God alone.

Missions Sunday

Our Savior is the Savior of the world! We will hear that theme echoed again and again in our readings this morning. And it is that Good News of a Savior from sin that God calls us to proclaim to the world! We do that individually as we live a godly life and talk with those near to us. We do that as a group as we support the world-wide mission efforts of our national church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Our guest preacher today is a former missionary to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia and the new pastor at our sister church in Mobile, AL—Saving Grace Lutheran Church.

The Narrow Door to a Wide-Open Heaven

The way to heaven is narrow. Mere outward attachment to the family of God is not sufficient—only through faith in Christ can we enter heaven. The door is narrow and Christ commands us to make every effort to enter it, so the Church prays, “that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command.” Although the door is narrow, it is open to all, and the saints will come from all nations to behold the glory of the Lord.

Christians Love the Lost Like Christ

The believer loves the lost like Christ. The righteous live by faith; yet how easy it is for the righteous to slip into self-righteous judgment of other sinners, forgetting the grace that has been shown them. Today Christ calls us to love the lost like he does and rejoice over every sinner that “once was lost, but now is found.”

Due to technical difficulties, there is no recording of this morning’s sermon.

Counting the Cost

The emphasis of the Scripture readings for this Sunday is upon careful preparation. We are called to be wise, to evaluate our life as a Christian carefully, to know where our strength lies, so that we can fight successfully and attain our objective, which is eternal life with God. The narrow path to heaven is marked by division and humility. So we become aware that the life of faith may come at great personal expense. Counting the cost of discipleship leads to true wisdom.

10 for 10 - Sacrificial Giving

This weekend is the third of a three-week stewardship emphasis titled Ten for Ten. In this worship series, we are looking at the daily struggle we all face when two paths are set before us, one by God and the other by this world. Shall we live for this life or the life that is to come? One very obvious way that struggle manifests itself is when we plan our finances.

Sometimes Christians will object, “The pastor talks too much about money!” Their quarrel isn’t really with the pastor, but with their Creator. The Lord speaks to us about worldly wealth and possessions over 2,300 times in his Word. Two weeks ago, we heard that the Lord asks, without apology, to be first in our hearts. The Lord’s position in our heart is to be reflected in our firstfruits giving. Last week, we considered the matter of proportional giving. What percentage of the Lord’s blessings do we really need to live on? This week, our series concludes by examining what God has to say about sacrificial giving.

Adding these three themes together, we see that people will invariably give beneath their ability when they fail to put the Bible’s teaching on firstfruits and proportionate giving into practice. Others give at their ability. This happens when people, confident in God’s blessing, prayerfully and thoughtfully practice firstfruits and proportional giving. Finally, one can even give beyond their ability. That’s the case when God’s people step out in faith and give in a way that, humanly speaking, doesn’t add up. Scripture tells us of people who, even in their poverty, opened up their hands and gave beyond their ability. They gave sacrificially, not superficially. How could they do this? They simply trusted in God’s unlimited ability to care for them.

These biblical accounts of sacrificial giving are another one of God’s blessings to us. May we hear them, be inspired by them, and—as God gives us opportunity—make them our own story!

Our worship over the  three weeks have followed this path.

Week One:   OPEN HEARTS (Firstfruits Giving)

Week Two:   OPEN MINDS (Proportionate Giving)

Week Three:   OPEN HANDS (Sacrificial Giving)

10 for 10 - Proportionate Giving

This weekend is the second of a three-week stewardship emphasis titled Ten for Ten. In this worship series, we are looking at the daily struggle we all face when two paths are set before us, one by God and the other by this world. Shall we live for this life or the life that is to come? One very obvious way that struggle manifests itself is when we plan our finances.

Americans are generally shy when it comes to talking about money. The Lord isn’t. He speaks to us about worldly wealth and possessions over 2,300 times in his Word. Last week we heard that the Lord asks, without apology, to be first in our hearts. The Lord’s position in our hearts is to be reflected in our firstfruits giving. Firstfruits giving calls for us to open up our hearts and offer up to God our first and our very best.

This weekend, the Lord will open our minds to consider the magnitude of his blessings. Each of us has been blessed in different ways and at various levels. What should our thoughtful, prayerful response be to these blessings? That’s where the Bible’s teaching about proportionate giving is such a help. For some families with fewer resources, the practice of giving 10% of their income might be a significant leap of faith. For other families with more resources, the practice of giving 10% may be a starting point for faith-filled giving.

St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Christians are blessed as they put God’s principles of proportional giving into practice!

Our worship the next three weeks will follow this path.

Week One:   OPEN HEARTS (Firstfruits Giving)

Week Two:   OPEN MINDS (Proportionate Giving)

Week Three:   OPEN HANDS (Sacrificial Giving)

10 for 10 - Firstfuits Giving

Today we begin a three-week stewardship emphasis. The word stewardship is often seen as a dirty word—a gimmick to get people to dig deeper and “give ’til it hurts.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Instead, stewardship is a precious word that sums up the Christian life. It encourages us to be who we truly are in Christ: Precious people who have been richly blessed by a Father who knows how to give good gifts to his children!

Christians face a daily struggle. We have two paths set before us. The New Man, created within us at baptism, wants to live for Christ and the life that is to come. But our sinful nature focuses us on this life. That struggle pulls us in two directions when it comes to how we set our priorities or use our time. The struggle is especially noticeable when we wrestle with how to use the financial resources God has given us.

The Lord speaks about worldly wealth and possessions in over 2,300+ passages of Scripture. In other words, God speaks to us about worldly wealth roughly three times more often than he does about faith! Why? So that God can get to the “heart of the matter.” Money and possessions are God’s gifts to us. Sadly, human hearts often lust after these gifts and forget about the Giver. What heartache comes from a love affair with money and possessions! What good can result for us, for the Church, and for the world as we put the Giver first—offering back to him the FIRSTFRUITS of all that he has entrusted to us. God is many places. Second place in our hearts dare never be one of them!

Christ’s willing sacrifice for us is our motivation and inspiration to give back to God. May he open the hearts of his people to offer him our first and our best!

Our worship the next three weeks will follow this path.

Week One:   OPEN HEARTS (Firstfruits Giving)

Week Two:   OPEN MINDS (Proportionate Giving)

Week Three:   OPEN HANDS (Sacrificial Giving)

 

Elemental - Priorities

Elemental—a word that Merriam Webster defines as being the basic or essential constituent of something, the fundamental or key components that make up something. For example, without hydrogen molecules, H20 isn’t water.

What are the key components, the elemental pieces that make up the believers life? What are those things that affect how we as children of God view life and live as followers of Christ? Our worship series the next several weeks is going to look at those key components of the Christian’s walk with Jesus: things like the Word, prayer, service, and love—those elemental items that change how we approach life, that adjust how we see our priorities, and how we as believers live life.

Today, we look at the last of the  elemental pieces that make up a believers life: the priorities we have in life.