Archive for the 'Faith' Category



Prayer Practicum: Formation Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Formation Prayer Sermon Audio Here

Phil. 2:12-13

“The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son. This process of transformation is the sole focus of Formation Prayer.1

God’s Sculpting Of Our Lives Includes

Pursuing and Being Pursued ~ Phil. 2:12-13

  • v12 “work out your salvation” {work to finish}
    carry arm full of wood – “you got it? Yeah, I got it from here”
  • v13 “God works IN you” 1) to WILL {emotionally desire} 2) to ACT {energize; same as “works”}

Picking out Our Part ~ 1 Tim. 4:7-10

  • v7 train yourself – this takes work
  • v8 it’s worth it, both short term and long term
  • v9/10 Hope is important ingredient; reason to keep going

Peering Into The Abyss ~ Gal. 2:19-21

  • v20 live our lives by faith in Jesus
  • v21 depend upon God’s grace

God started the process; we’re supposed to be an ACTIVE part of it too! Faith that Jesus can live our lives WITH us, and make them BETTER (John 10:10b) is what happens when we decided to live by God’s grace instead of only our ability.

“Dear Lord Jesus, in my better moments I want nothing more than to be like you. But there are other moments…. Help me to see how good conformity to your way really is. In my seeking for you may I be found by you. I love you, Lord. Amen.2

1. Richard Foster, Prayer, the Heart’s True Home, pg. 57
2. Ibid., pg. 66

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Ruth: The Rest of the Story

Ruth: The Rest of the Story Sermon Audio Here

Ruth 4:9-12

Ever wonder what the point is of the “Biblical Begats”? What do all those lists of ancestors teach us? The main lesson I see in them is that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things… and there’s always a story behind what God is doing in those lives.

Scriptural Story Shapes Us

As We Share With Our Community ~ Ruth 4:1-12

  • 1-8 Boaz negotiates on Ruth’s behalf; he is granted right of redemption for Ruth
  • 9-10 Boaz shares his commitment with the community
  • 11-12 Community blesses Boaz for his commitment
    • SO WHAT? Untold Stories don’t change anyone; there is power in shared story to change lives

As We Carry Out Our Commitment ~ Ruth 4:13-22

  • 13-16 God blesses the family; Naomi is provided for
  • 17-22 commitment has long term consequences: Boaz becomes great-grandfather of King David
    • SO WHAT? Undone Commitment is merely intention; intention alone doesn’t change anything; we must choose (again and again) to put our commitments into action

Luke 1:67-75: reference that Jesus was the answer to the promise for the House of David – which came through Ruth. Jesus is the Point of the Story of God, the reason which gives meaning to our lives. God committed Jesus for our sake; we respond to His call for God’s glory.

Ruth: Sudden Redemption

Ruth: Sudden Redemption Sermon Audio Here

Ruth 3:7-13

Have you ever found yourself In over your head, with no idea how you’re going to get help? Ruth did, and shows us a great example of what we can do…

How Can God’s People Navigate Their Need?

Ruth Takes a Risk ~ Ruth 3:1-8

  • v1-6 summary: Naomi knows Boaz is extended family; he might be persuaded to care for Ruth
  • v7 teaching: uncovered his feet (legs);
  • Ruth puts herself in a situation to demonstrate her need
  • v8 he wakes up; legs are cold? Boaz responds to situation

Ruth Dares to Request ~ Ruth 3:9-11

  • v9 “your servant” (‘AMAH’, Jewish, instead of ‘foreigner’ 2:10);
  • ~ “spread your garment” (in 2:12 for God’s refuge);
  • ~ “kinsman-redeemer” (re: transfer of LAND, to keep in family)
  • Ruth boldly asks to be protected and cared for
  • v10/11 Boaz sees her request to be “covered” as a kindness;
  • she’s asking on behalf of Naomi as well as herself;
    Ruth’s request reflects her unselfish motives

Boaz Bargains for Ruth’s Benefit ~ Ruth 3:12-13

  • v12 Boaz knows there’s someone with a closer claim on Naomi’s husband’s land; Boaz doesn’t take advantage
  • v13 I’ll make sure you’re covered, one way or another; Boaz promises Ruth she’ll be cared for

SO WHAT? When we find ourselves in difficulty, what can we do? Like Ruth, we can take a risk by showing we’re in need. Like Ruth, we can dare to ask for help instead of trying to go it alone. And when faced with a needy situation, like Boaz, we can step up and work to find solutions… and sometimes, we ARE the solution ourselves.

Ruth: Rewarded in Refuge

Ruth: Rewarded in Refuge ~ no Sermon Audio available

Ruth 2:8-16

How is Ruth rewarded in the midst of dire circumstances? Through the actions of a kinsman-redeemer, she is supported and sustained. Learning how Ruth receives these rewards can help us be better receivers ourselves.

To Receive from a Redeemer,

Recognize His Right To Support – Ruth 2:8-11

  • summary of 1-7: introduction of Boaz, relative of Naomi’s husband – “a man of standing”
  • v8 Boaz offers protection
  • v9 Boaz offers provision
  • v10/11 When Ruth asks why, Boaz offers understanding

Believe in His Ability To Bless – Ruth 2:12-16

  • v12 Boaz offers blessing (“May the Lord…” )
  • v13 Boaz offers comfort
  • v14 Boaz offers sustenance
  • v15/16 Boaz offers a covering (for her inexperience)

The challenge when reading narrative is to assume that God is bound to do the same things for us that He has done for others in the text. Our goal: not to focus on our circumstances, which always change; rather,to focus on God’s faithfulness, which does not change.

Think of what Jesus, our Redeemer has done for us: He protects us from a lost eternity; He provides everything we need for spiritual growth; He understands our weakness and doesn’t hold it against us; He blesses us with His Word; He comforts us with the Holy Spirit; He sustains us by His loving will; and He covers us with His own blood to mark us as His own.

The JV Team: Dr. Details – Luke

The JV Team: Dr. Details – Luke Sermon Audio Here

Luke 1:1-4

We spent 30 weeks going through the Gospel of Luke, looking at details that were noticed. But did we notice Luke himself? What example does Luke the person set for us today?

By Looking at Luke, We Learn

A Different Perspective about God
A Gentile view of a Gentle Savior

  • 1) Gentile who came to faith by Paul’s preaching (not raised in faith)
  • 2) Doesn’t mention himself by name; does use WE to indicate his own experiences
  • 3) writes from a Gentile standpoint; the only writer in the New Testament to do so – and specifically wrote them to persuade people of Jesus’ identity as the Son of Man, the chosen one of God.
  • Luke describes Jesus as the ultimate human: warm, compassionate, able to meet people’s needs through both miraculous works and mundane presence.

Indicators About God’s Work
Luke 1:1-4 why focus on details?

  • v1 they point to God’s promises as FULFILLED
  • v2 God’s promises are HANDED DOWN (intentionally passed on)
  • v3a God’s work should be RELIABLY INVESTIGATED
  • v3b God’s work should be CLEARLY SHARED
  • v4 God’s work can be CAREFULLY VERIFIED

Luke’s perspective noticed details to God’s glory; how does your view of God shape your role in God’s Kingdom?

The JV Team: Apostles on the Outskirts

The JV Team: Apostles on the Outskirts Sermon Audio Here

Luke 6:13-16

Someone on a JV team (or a character actor) is generally lesser known, sometimes to learn a skill (JV) or to fill a role (cast member); all are important to make a program work.

Luke 6:13-16 ~ what happened to the rest of the list? Peter, James, and John are considered Jesus’ Inner Circle. But what happened to those disciples who weren’t on the “inside”? We know Judas’ story? But what about Philip and Bartholomew? What happened to Doubting Thomas?

Once they leave the pages of Scripture, tracking the movements of the lesser known Apostles becomes more challenging. But no matter the historical sources that are used, three things are true of each of them that are helpful for us to remember today.

Remember THIS about the Apostles on the Outskirts:

They were SENT
1) that’s what Apostle means: one who is sent away; like a messenger or ambassador. Even though the lesser known Apostles didn’t have kind of impact on the church that Paul did, for example, they still carried out the charge that was given to them by Jesus: Follow Me.

They were MARTYRED
2) They gave all they had for a very good reason – All of Jesus’ band of followers ended up being killed for their faith. Their faith wasn’t a generic faith that God would be good to humanity; the issue at hand was very specific: Did Jesus rise from the dead? They all were violently killed because they would not deny the Resurrection of Christ.

They MATTERED
3) They MATTERED as they scattered – as the Apostles dispersed, they did not all go the same direction: Andrew went to Russia; Thomas went to India. Matthew went to Ethiopia, while Philip went to North Africa. James son of Alpheus went to Syria, and Simon the Zealot went to Persia. Bartholomew went all over the place: India, Armenia, Ethiopia, and Southern Arabia.

The point is that many Christians in these areas of the world consider these Apostles as THEIR Apostle, responsible for bring them into God’s Kingdom, bringing light to darkness.

These JV’ers weren’t talked about much in the pages of Scripture, but they sure set a great example for us to imitate: Follow Jesus, Give it Everything You’ve Got, and Bring Light to a Dark world: THAT will make all the difference.

Where The Roses Never Fade – Marion Laib funeral sermon

For those of you who don’t live in Warden, our church’s choir director and organist, Marion Laib, passed away last week, and today was her funeral.

Writing her funeral sermon was one of the more challenging tasks I’ve done in pastoral ministry; Jami reminded me that from here on out, it will only get tougher because I love these people so much.

I’m posting this sermon/meditation because some might have missed being able to attend… or some might want to read it… or some musicians might appreciate the merger of hymn and remembrance. At any rate, here’s Marion’s funeral meditation: Where The Roses Never Fade.

One of the greatest honors I have as a pastor is to remind people just how close Jesus is at times of crisis. As we move through this life, we experience heartaches and struggle, frustrations and pain; this is a part of the human condition. And in the midst of it all, God is present. We may not always see Him at work, focused as we often become on our own matters and concerns. Yet, God is right there, right beside us, as close as our own heartbeat, steadily calling for us to hear His whispered voice. This is the promise of faith – that we are never left alone; that we can always hear the call of God.

Many of us hear that call from the Lord through the means of music. It has been shown that music lights up our minds, causes us to be more alive, more aware of the nature of reality than when we ignore melody and harmony. Marion was one of these souls for whom music spoke in a powerful way; and she shared what she learned with others. She had a special fondness for the hymn “Where The Roses Never Fade”. Marion’s life reflected the values in this song; it’s no wonder it was so powerful to her.

Marion Laib merged her life and her faith. She had set her heart on receiving the promise of God, that she would be “going to a city Where the streets with gold are laid; Where the tree of life is blooming And the roses never fade.” She lived her life in such a way that her eventual destination shaped how she lived day to day. The music with which she filled her life also impacted the lives of many others; she played the organ and directed the choir in this congregation for many years. She poured music into the lives of children (and adults who sometimes acted like children) and they were made better for it.

Let us face an unpleasant truth: this world, and the things in it, wind down. Nothing on this physical realm lasts forever; we understand that there is a season to every activity under heaven. The Bible reminds us that there is a time to live, and a time to die; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. All we need do is look around and we can see the truth of this: the flowers that bloomed so beautifully last week are already fading, and yet farmers are out in their fields, planting and preparing for the harvest. Marion’s hymn reminds us that what we value so much in this life “blooms but for a season, and Soon their beauty is decayed; I am going to a city Where the roses never fade.”

What a stunning promise of faith: that we will leave behind the old, and inherit the new. We will leave behind the decay, and enter into the realm where Death itself is no more. We will be free: from the difficulties of sin, from the injustices that are often experienced, from the fear of the unknown. For those who have trusted God, as Marion had, will move from death to life, from woe to wonder. We understand now that “In this world we have our troubles, and Satan’s snares we must evade” as the hymn says. That requires a recognition that we aren’t guaranteed a perfect life down here; we all just do the best we can with what we experience. But as we lean on Jesus, and step into His wonderful embrace, “We’ll be free from all temptations Where the roses never fade.”

If Marion could speak to you right now, I’m sure she’d tell you how wonderful Heaven is. She might describe what it looks like to her; the Bible uses terms like “streets of gold” or “jeweled foundations” or “gates of pearl”. But the point of Heaven isn’t eternal fancy accommodations, or how amazing everything looks. The point of Heaven, indeed the point of all of existence… is Jesus. The reason we rejoice when one of our loved ones steps into eternity is because they get to finally see Jesus face to face. They receive the promise that they’ve hoped for all their life long. This is true for Marion: she no longer has faith; she no longer has doubts or concerns. The Bible says that she no longer peers through a dim glass, but instead sees the Lord face to face; now she knows, even as she is fully known.

And this promise is extended to all who will trust Christ for their salvation. The last line of the hymn reminds us that “Loved ones gone to be with Jesus, In their robes of white arrayed, Now are waiting for my coming Where the roses never fade.”

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [like Marion, and Royal and Elsa, and Pastor Lindsay, and so many others], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”


Pastor Ed Backell

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