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Walk in New (ness of) Life

Posted by James Keller on 01/15/17 @ 8:36 PM

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. Romans 6:4 (ESV)

Our church is called New Life for a reason.  We emphasize baptism as entrance into the New Life we have in Christ for a reason.  Our memory verse for this last week helps us to see the connection.  We are baptized into the death of Christ.  Our baptism connects us with the death and burial of Jesus.  Jesus came to take our place as the object of God’s anger over our sin.  Sin is disobedience to God.  Sin is death.  Isn’t it interesting that in order for us to overcome the death of sin we must be connected to the death and burial of Christ?  Sin brings death, yet Christ’s death brings life.  Our connection to that life is through baptism.  Even though baptism happens once in our lifetime, it is daily benefit for us.  Martin Luther puts it this way:

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.[1]

Typically, we think of the New Year as a chance to do things differently.  We make many New Year resolutions.  But really, once you are baptized, every day is a chance to not only do things differently but to live differently – thanks to our baptism.  Paul says that we should walk in this newness of life.  Walking has a different idea to it than running.  I don’t know about you, but I rarely run anymore.  It hurts my knees, I get winded easily, it just isn’t enjoyable.  But walking is different.  I walk every day.  Sometimes I walk slowly.  Sometime I walk fast.  Walking is a daily occurrence for me.  Thinking about my new life in Christ through baptism as a walk is much easier for me than as a run.  You can walk at your own pace.  But you are still moving towards the goal.  Our new lives in Christ are like that.  We are all moving towards the goal – becoming more and more like Jesus.  As a church, we are on this walk together.  Sometimes we slow down to encourage each other.  Sometimes we speed up to ‘catch up” to those who are ahead.  But always we are moving forward.  Our lives are not stopped.  God the Holy Spirit is working in each of us, moving us along as individuals and as a church in this New Life of Faith in Christ. 

If you are not a member of New Life but are reading this, why don’t you join us for a walk on Sundays?  If you can’t physically join us, you can join us by listening to the sermon here http://nl4u.org/media/sermons

If you are not a follower of Jesus, what is keeping you from experiencing the walk in the newness of life?  How can we walk with you to help you?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

[1] IV. What Baptism Indicates. Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House.

God’s Extravagant Love

Posted by James Keller on 01/01/17 @ 10:46 PM

Galatians 4:4 (GW)
4  But when the right time came, God sent his Son {into the world}. A woman gave birth to him, and he came under the control of God's laws.

Here is an amazing truth: God the creator became part of his creation!  God the law giver placed himself under his own laws!  This never ceases to amaze me.  I can’t fully understand how an omnipotent, omnipresent God could be limited to a specific time and place.  I can’t understand it, but I can be grateful.  This shows God’s extravagant love for us, his creation.  He limited himself to a certain time and place so that we can spend time with God here and now but also for all eternity!

Christ's slave,

Pastor jim

Five Types of Living Sacrifices

Posted by James Keller on 12/19/16 @ 11:52 AM

Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God's compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you (Romans 12:1 GW).

What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?

 “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” 

― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

 Whoever doesn't take up his cross and follow me doesn't deserve to be my disciple (Matthew 10:38 GW).

 It seems that the life of a follower of Jesus is one of sacrifice.  Jesus tells us to pick up the very thing that will kill us and follow Him.  Just how does this look in our lives today?

 1)      For some this literally means persecution and possible death just for following Jesus.  Many in the Burmese community are afraid to follow Jesus because of this reality.  When a Burmese converts to Christianity, he or she may be shunned by family and friends.  Some face persecution.  Burmese believers are accused of abandoning their people.  They are declared no longer Burmese.  But the good news is that Jesus brings them into new families.  He places these new believers into loving churches who stand with them.  If they are able to remain in their families, Jesus uses them to demonstrate His love.  They become living sacrifices of love to their households.  Through these living sacrifices, family and friends are drawn to Christ.

 2)      Others discover that they must give up something, something they love, in order to follow Jesus.  As we read God’s word we discover God's word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God's word judges a person's thoughts and intentions (Hebrews 4:12 GW).  How painful it is to discover that one of the things we love to do is really sin in the eyes of God!  We are then faced with a choice.  We can either try to ignore the passage of Scripture and keep right on living the sin.  Or we can ask God to help us to give up enjoying and doing this sin.  The first choice leads to sacrificing our faith.  The second choice leads to making a painful sacrifice for Christ.  Unfortunately, many in the church today have chosen the first choice.  This is why so many churches are powerless to be instruments of God’s life changing love in the communities where they live.  Those who have made the second choice find that whatever they have given up for Christ, Christ has replaced with something better.  They feel free.  They live free.  And they lead others to the same freedom.

 3)      Sometimes Christ asks us to give up something we love only in order to give it back to us.  He did that with Abraham.  God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.  When Abraham obeyed, he got his son back (Genesis 22:1-14)!  Sometimes God asks us to sacrifice something important to us so that we will learn how to use that for God’s glory.  What brings God more glory than bringing others into His kingdom?  What is God calling you to sacrifice?  What is He asking you to use for bringing others to Christ?

 4)      Sometimes we are called to give up something for a short time so that we can focus more on God and His kingdom.  We might call that fasting.  Fasting often is thought of as not eating.  Certainly, that is one type of fast.  But God can call us to fast from certain types of activities as well.  During these times of fasting we should focus on God and His word.  We should spend the time we would have been eating (or playing video games) reading the Bible, praying and listening for the voice of God.  This is a time to draw closer to God.  The church year has some times set aside for fasting.  During the 40 days of Lent (the time leading up to Easter) is often a time of fasting.  The Advent season (the weeks leading up to Christmas) is also a time of fasting.  But you can fast other times as well.  I am not an expert in fasting.  But I am trying to learn more about this spiritual discipline.  It is one that often is forgotten. 

 5)      Finally, God often asks us to make a long-term sacrifice in order to follow Him.  This can mean a change in plans.  It can mean giving up what seems like a great opportunity for us personally in order to follow where Jesus is leading.  It can mean not living out our dreams in order to live for Christ. 

 Whatever kind of sacrifice we are called to make (short-term or long-term), we should never draw attention to ourselves for making this sacrifice.  This is a lot harder than it would seem.  Our sinful nature wants others to know what we are “giving up for Jesus.” We want recognition.  We want people to look at us and say, “Wow, what a super spiritual person!” 

 “When you fast, stop looking sad like hypocrites. They put on sad faces to make it obvious that they're fasting. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. 17  When you fast, wash your face and comb your hair. 18  Then your fasting won't be obvious. Instead, it will be obvious to your Father who is with you in private. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18 GW). 

It seems that there is a last way that we are to be living sacrifices.  We are not to draw attention to ourselves.  Instead, we should be about pointing others to Jesus.  We should sacrifice our egos, our wants, our desires.  I don’t remember who said it, but it is true, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.”

 Don’t give up!  Crawl back on the altar! 

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

 P.S.  Have you thought of another way to be a living sacrifice?  Let me know by commenting on this post.

One in Christ

Posted by James Keller on 12/11/16 @ 12:09 AM

Galatians 3:28 (GW)
28  There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.

For whom did Christ come to die?  All people.  All people are the same to Jesus.  We all start out as enemies of God because of our sin.  Through the gift of faith, we are all now members of His family.  Yet Sunday is still the most segregated time in America.  Why?  Because of our sin.  We choose to look at skin color.  We choose to look at ethnic origins.  We choose to look at education.  We choose to look at finances. But God chooses us.  He chooses the worst of the lot.  He cleans us up and makes us His.  If we are truly determined to live and love like Jesus, we need to stop looking at externals and start looking at eternals.  Yes, there may still be some things that keep us apart (not speaking the same language, as is the case with many in our second service), but we should all be working toward living and loving regardless of our differences.  I have seen children of God come together even when they can’t talk with each other.  I have seen Christ’s body of believers worship together even though some were uncomfortable.  But those who were uncomfortable, were willing to make the sacrifice so that we could all worship together.  Let’s make 2017 the year of united praise and worship.  Let’s make it the year that we welcome all, not just those like us.  Let us live and love like Jesus!

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

P.S.  What do you think is the key to looking beyond skin color, race, and other differences?

Pastor jim said...

Posted on 01/01/17 @ 10:49 PM -
You are right! it is not our job to judge others. We often are wrong in our judgments because we don't know the whole story. Getting to know people, listening to their story, is important for us to understand better where they are coming from and also for us to see how much they really are like us.

Suzie said...

Posted on 12/23/16 @ 1:47 PM -
It's something that I deal with every day at work. We can't look at skin color or tattoos and automatically think this person is "bad" and they deserved to be shot or stabbed. We have to treat each patient unconditionally. What if we judged people by the way they looked? We could be totally wrong and a lot of the times we only hear part of the story. It's not our job to judge others.

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Set Free

Posted by James Keller on 12/05/16 @ 12:04 AM

Ephesians 1:7 (GW)
7  Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of his overflowing kindness.

Being trapped in sin is no fun.  Of course, it doesn’t start out that way.  There is a strange excitement about doing sin for the first time.  The allure of doing something forbidden.  The excitement of “getting away with it.”  But then over time, the excitement wears off.  But the “need” to continue in the sin doesn’t.  That is when we realize we are trapped.  Being trapped is no fun.  We want to get out but can’t see the way out.  We feel helpless.  We feel powerless.  The sin has all the power over us.  It still promises us fun but the reality is far from it.  Our self-esteem goes down.  Our joy is lacking.  We are without hope.

That is where our verse for this last week comes in.  The blood of Jesus sets us free from our sin.  How?  By paying the price for our freedom.  Why?  Simply because God loves us.  His love for us is extravagant.  His love for us is inexhaustible.  That is what we need to remember when we are trapped in sin.  God loves us. 

The next time you are trapped in sin, call for the blood of Jesus.  Ask God to wash you clean in the blood of Jesus.  Ask God to free you from the sin.  Not because you deserve it, but because God loves you.  On your own, you can’t free yourself form the trap of sin.  But the good news is that God never leaves us alone.  Jesus, Immanuel, is God with us.  He will come and release you from the trap.  Better yet, he will walk with you to help you stay out the next trap of sin!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Connected

Posted by James Keller on 11/27/16 @ 12:02 AM

I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV)

I don’t know much about gardening.  The picture above is an actual pepper plant I am trying to grow.  It doesn’t look too good, does it?  I know that there are some essential things that plants need.  1) Good Soil. 2) Sunshine.  3) Water.  But by looking at my pepper plant, I must be missing something.

Jesus tells us in this last week’s memory verse that we need to stay connected to Him.  If we are to bear much fruit (grow in likeness of Him and grow His kingdom by telling others about Him), then there are some essentials we will need.  What are those essentials in order to stay connected to Jesus?  1) God’s Word. 2) Prayer.  3) Worship (alone and in community) 4) The Sacraments.  Hey wouldn’t that make a great sermon series?  I think it did.  We called it: The Basics.  Watch our media tab for the Basics to be loaded up, then listen to it again (or for the first time).  We are in process of retooling how we list sermons so please be patient.  In the meantime, can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong for my poor pepper plant?

Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

Standing with Confidence

Posted by James Keller on 11/21/16 @ 12:36 AM

Luke 21:28 (GW)
28  “When these things begin to happen, stand with confidence! The time when you will be set free is near.”

Have you ever faced a tragedy and felt calm?  Have you ever been in a life or death situation and yet wasn’t afraid?  In a way, that is what this verse is talking about.  When it seems that your life may be over, yet you are calm or even joyful when you should be scared.  How can this be?  Because of Jesus.  His death on the cross takes the sting out of death.  His extreme suffering on our behalf lessons our suffering.  We look to Jesus and suddenly we are not afraid.  We look to Jesus and a strange peace comes over us.  We look to Jesus and we can have joy in the midst of sorrow.  I don’t understand it.  But then again, I don’t have to understand it.  I just welcome it and stand in awe when it happens.  Has this ever happened to you?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Wearing Jesus

Posted by James Keller on 11/14/16 @ 12:53 AM

Galatians 3:27 (GW)
27  Clearly, all of you who were baptized in Christ's name have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is a saying that “Clothes make the man.”  Our Bible verse for this last week says that clothes make us free.  When we put on Christ we are free from sin.  Free from death.  Free from fear.  How does that work?

Baptism connects us to Jesus.  It connects us to his death on the cross.  It connects us to his burial.  It connects us to his resurrection.  When we are baptized, we are covered with Jesus.  Have you ever put on a religious t-shirt and went to the store?  Maybe while you were at the store you were tempted to be impatient, rude or unkind.  But then you remember you are wearing a religious t-shirt.  How would it look to others to see you in that religious t-shirt pitching a fit over something?  That thought stops you from acting out on our thoughts and feelings. 

Galatians 3:27 reminds us that wherever we are, if we have been baptized we are wearing something better than a religious t-shirt.  We are wearing Jesus.  This thought should stop us in our tracks.  “Do I really want people to see me doing this while I am wearing Jesus?”  It is when we forget that we wear Jesus that our sinful nature reigns.  But our baptism is good for all eternity.  When we forget that we are wearing Jesus, we need to ask for forgiveness, confident in the fact that our sins have been washed away in the waters of Baptism.  Not because we deserve to have them washed away.  Not because we can do something to earn our forgiveness.  But because Baptism ties us to Jesus’ death on the cross, the one place where are sins are paid for.

Remember your baptism!  Remember, you are wearing Jesus!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Can’t be Shaken

Posted by James Keller on 11/07/16 @ 12:42 AM

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe Hebrews 12:28 (ESV)

Many people are worried about the upcoming elections.  People are prophesying doom and destruction if their candidate is not elected.  But the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  What is that kingdom?  God’s kingdom.  No matter who wins or loses in any of the elections that take place this Tuesday or in the future, God’s kingdom will last and cannot be shaken.  WE who are followers of Jesus are members of that kingdom.  Our place is assured.  Our inheritance is secured.  Not matter what happens on Tuesday, God is still on the throne.  That is reason enough for us to worship Him with reverence and awe!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

3 Responses When God Rescues Us.

Posted by James Keller on 10/31/16 @ 12:32 AM

Psalm 50:15 (GW)
15  Call on me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honor me.

This verse seems simple enough.  But really, there are three responses that we can make when God rescues us.

1)       We ignore the fact that God has rescued us.  We think that it was blind luck that got us out of trouble.  Or we think that our ingenuity paid off.  This response is the one that simply refuses to acknowledge that God was involved in our rescue, even if we did call upon Him and ask him for help.  What happens when we do this?  The next time we call on God for help, he may refuse to answer or help us.  Why should he?  We were ungrateful at best and denying his ability at worst.  If we don’t really trust God to help us (or give Him the credit when he does), why do we get so angry with Him when he doesn’t help?   The good news is that God is merciful and will often help us even when we don’t deserve it (which really is all the time).    God’s grace, His undeserved love for us, is just that undeserved.  But the danger is when we take that grace for granted.  When we turn grace into law, “God you have to help me because if you don’t then you really don’t love me.”  We demand His help while denying him the credit for helping.  That is pretty messed up!

2)      We acknowledge that God has helped us but we turn around and start complaining or worrying about the next big trouble that may come our way.  “Thanks God for taking care of this today, but don’t forget I may be in trouble next week.  That is what I am really concerned about.”  If you think about it, that is really a back handed thank you.  We should be rejoicing that we were rescued today.  In fact, the trouble we are worried about for next week (or even tomorrow) may never happen.  Why should we cry to God for help over a problem we don’t have yet?  That almost sounds like the little boy who cried wolf.  Instead of worrying about what might happened, let us rejoice over how God did rescue us today.  Let God worry about tomorrow.  This is really the devil’s way of trying to rob God of honor and us of the joy of being rescued. 

3)      The final response is the simple meaning of the verse.  Thank God for what He has done.  Yes, we can say thank you.  But Jesus often told those whom he had helped, “Go and tell your friends and family what God has done for you.”  That is really bringing honor to God.  Telling others how God rescued you, how awesome He is, is the best way to honor him.  Go brag to your friends about God and his rescue of you!

I suppose there is a fourth response.  That is not asking God for help to begin with.  Trying to do it on your own.  To be honest, most of the trouble I find myself in is of my doing.  So, to rely on myself to get myself out of the trouble that I caused is like a drowning man trying to rescue himself.  It just doesn’t work!  Sure, there are times when the trouble I find myself in is caused by others, but again I don’t want to be the one left alone to face it and overcome it.  Isn’t it great that we have God who doesn’t leave us alone?  Isn’t that what this verse is all about?  God wants us to call on him in our troubles.  He actually wants to get involved in our mess, not to point fingers but rescue us! 

Need a hero?  Call on God!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

 

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