Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April 1 devotion

You can watch today's devotion here.


Love your enemy
Luke 6:27
4/1/20
Pastor John C. Berg

27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.

This is your daily devotion for April 1st.   This week we are exploring the times Jesus used the word “love.  On Monday we saw how the Biblical idea of love is that it’s an action.  Doing what’s best for someone else.  Yesterday we heard Jesus’ command to love other people.  Today we’re going to get more specific about who is included in “other people.”
I have a vivid memory of a Saturday in fourth or fifth grade.  A classmate had a birthday party at his house and invited everyone in the class except me.  I’m 43 now so I’m over it, but I will admit that if I think about that memory for while I really can still feel the pain.  It w devastating.   I didn’t have the confidence to weather something like that.  The boy who did that to me might have been the first person in my life that I thought of as an enemy. 
You probably have a similar story.  Your enemy was a bully at school or a former friend who spread a terrible rumor about you.  Is there someone at work who undermines you, someone who talks behind your back?  It seems we live in a time when we are took quick to view those who have different political beliefs as enemies.  Maybe you wouldn’t use the word “enemy” but you most likely know someone who treats you with something very different than love. 
This is what Jesus says in Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.”  So are you listening?  Jesus tells you to love your enemy.  If you really take that in, really chew on it you might want to spit it out.  You love your spouse, your kids, your friends.  How in the world are you supposed to love someone who doesn’t love you, someone who actively sins against you?
It goes back to what we talked about on Monday.  Love is not an emotion.  It’s often accompanied by emotion, but love itself is an action.  Jesus is not telling you to have warm and fuzzy feelings about your enemy.  We can’t make ourselves feel an emotion, can we?  He says “do good to those who hate you.”
That’s at least possible, although certainly not easy. In fact, doing good to our enemies is still very difficult.  A few verses later Jesus gives us the key: “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  My enemy does not deserve my love just as I don’t deserve God’s love.  Yet, I receive God’s love as does my enemy.  Who am I to withhold love from anyone?

Let’s pray:   Heavenly Father, you are merciful to me every day.  Help me to love those who don’t love me. Amen.



Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 31 devotion

You can watch today's devotion here.



Love Is An Action
John 3:16
3/30/20
Pastor John C. Berg

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.


This is your daily devotion for March 30th.   Today we begin a new series.  We will look at the times Jesus used the word love in the Bible.  Of course, the Bible talks about love extensively and often does so without using the actual word love.  We’re focusing on those occasions when Jesus himself spoke the word “love.”  It may be the most important word in the Bible.   It defines our relationship with God and with each other.  It is the purpose of the church and the motivation for our actions.

Let’s begin with the most famous time when Jesus spoke the word “love.”  In John 3 he said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  One of the reasons I want to spend a few days talking about love is because I think our culture has so obscured or misused the word that it’s almost lost its meaning.   Love is equated with sex.  Love is spoken of as if it’s just a feeling or something you fall in and out of.  Perhaps the most recent reinterpretation of love is this idea that love is being accepting of all behavior of all people.

In just one verse Jesus efficiently redirects us and defines what love really is.   What Jesus is talking about is the most important love there is-God’s love for us.  Lest we misunderstand or misapply Jesus defines who the “us” is.  God so loved the world.   None of us can remove ourselves from that word.  The world includes you.  It is a fact that God loves you.

This means so much more than God having warm and fuzzy feelings for you.  It doesn’t mean that God accepts all our behavior or at least ignores it.  It means that he sent his only-begotten Son because our behavior required it.  The Biblical definition of love is doing what is best for someone else, no matter the personal cost.  What was best for you and me was for God to sacrifice his only-begotten Son so that we could escape the eternal consequences of our behavior.  Love is an action.  God loves you no less than he did on the day his Son died for you.  So be prepared!  Be ready to observe the loving acts of God in your life. 

Let’s pray:   God Almighty, help us to see your love in our lives as clearly as we see it on the cross. Amen.



Monday, March 30, 2020

Daily devotion

You can watch today's devotion here.




Love Is An Action
John 3:16
3/30/20
Pastor John C. Berg

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.


This is your daily devotion for March 30th.   Today we begin a new series.  We will look at the times Jesus used the word love in the Bible.  Of course, the Bible talks about love extensively and often does so without using the actual word love.  We’re focusing on those occasions when Jesus himself spoke the word “love.”  It may be the most important word in the Bible.   It defines our relationship with God and with each other.  It is the purpose of the church and the motivation for our actions.

Let’s begin with the most famous time when Jesus spoke the word “love.”  In John 3 he said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  One of the reasons I want to spend a few days talking about love is because I think our culture has so obscured or misused the word that it’s almost lost its meaning.   Love is equated with sex.  Love is spoken of as if it’s just a feeling or something you fall in and out of.  Perhaps the most recent reinterpretation of love is this idea that love is being accepting of all behavior of all people.

In just one verse Jesus efficiently redirects us and defines what love really is.   What Jesus is talking about is the most important love there is-God’s love for us.  Lest we misunderstand or misapply Jesus defines who the “us” is.  God so loved the world.   None of us can remove ourselves from that word.  The world includes you.  It is a fact that God loves you.

This means so much more than God having warm and fuzzy feelings for you.  It doesn’t mean that God accepts all our behavior or at least ignores it.  It means that he sent his only-begotten Son because our behavior required it.  The Biblical definition of love is doing what is best for someone else, no matter the personal cost.  What was best for you and me was for God to sacrifice his only-begotten Son so that we could escape the eternal consequences of our behavior.  Love is an action.  God loves you no less than he did on the day his Son died for you.  So be prepared!  Be ready to observe the loving acts of God in your life. 

Let’s pray:   God Almighty, help us to see your love in our lives as clearly as we see it on the cross. Amen.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

March 29 worship

You can watch today's video here.

Remember to let me know if you desire communion.  I'm happy to bring it to you.

~Pastor Berg

Friday, March 27, 2020

March 27 devotion

You can watch today's devotion here.



A Place for You
John 14:1-2
3/27/20
Pastor John C. Berg

1“Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you.

This is your daily devotion for March 27th.   Behind me is an apartment building being constructed a couple blocks from house.   It’s good to see that construction hasn’t halted as so many other activities have.  People still need homes.  They still need places to live.  In John 14 Jesus said to his disciples, “1“Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you.” 

I have a vivid memory from childhood that when I heard this I pictured Jesus up in heaven sweeping and decorating a room for me.  That’s not a terrible interpretation.  It reflects the main point that heaven is prepared for us because of Jesus.  But a little context to these verses helps us see with more detail how Jesus prepared a mansion for us.  John 14 is part of a five chapter section that is really one long extended quote of Jesus.  It’s wonderful.  Jesus and his disciples are in the upper room celebrating the Last Supper.  It’s the day before his crucifixion. 

Do you understand?  When Jesus said “I am going to prepare a place for you” he was referring to what would happen the next day.  He would prepare heaven for us by offering himself as the perfect lamb of sacrifice. 

And Jesus tells us that this is a reason for us to not let our hearts be troubled, not to be afraid.  There are horrific stories coming out of England right now in which families are only able to say goodbye to dying loved ones through video chats.  That’s heartbreaking.  I pray that none of you have to experience such a thing in the coming weeks.  But friends, we have such amazing comfort when a fellow Christian dies.  Their entrance into a heavenly mansion is guaranteed because it depends on the work of Christ.  Perhaps you won’t see them in their moment of death.  But you will see them in an eternal moment of life.


Let’s pray:   Dear Jesus, your work on the cross has opened heaven to us.  Use this difficult time to spread that good news to those who don’t yet believe. Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Devotion and NEWS

Because of Minnesota's Stay at Home order we've had to change some plans.  Here are important updates:

1.  The plan for you to schedule a time to receive communion at church has been cancelled.  I can visit you, however.  If you'd like to receive communion​ contact me and we will arrange a time.
2.  Worship has been cancelled for the foreseeable future.  This will most likely include Holy Week.  If there is any way we can worship for Easter we will, but it seems unlikely.
3.  Video devotions and worship will continue.


4.  A new secure mailbox has been installed at church so you may feel confident mailing your offerings.

 
You can view today's devotion here.

Why did you doubt?
Matthew 14:27-33
3/26/20
Pastor John C. Berg

Matthew 14:27-33  (EHV)

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once, saying, “Take heart! It is I! Do not be afraid.” 28 Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 Jesus said, “Come!” Peter stepped down from the boat, walked on the water, and went toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid. As he began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

This is your daily devotion for March 26th.  It all kind of hit me today.  I’m having one of those down days during the pandemic.  Up to this point, I’ll be honest, I’ve kind of been energized by it.  I’ve felt more useful to people.  It’s been interesting making plans and figuring out what it means to be a church and a pastor during a time like this. 

But today, really starting yesterday, has not been a good day.  Governor Walz, understandably, has issued a stay-at-home order.  And so all sorts of plans that I had been working on fell apart.  Just hours earlier I emailed you explaining how you could schedule a time to come to church and receive communion.  Well, we’ve had to cancel that.  And we’ve had to cancel worship for the foreseeable future.  You may have been expecting that but we had some hope that this would only be for a couple weeks. As of right now we will not meet for worship for the foreseeable future which includes Holy Week.  We’re probably not going to get together for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter Sunday.  That’s really hitting me hard.

I feel like Peter in Matthew 14.  28 Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 Jesus said, “Come!” Peter stepped down from the boat, walked on the water, and went toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid. As he began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Peter was going along just fine, kind of like how I felt.  He was going along just fine, walking on water, and then just like that he started to sink when fear grabbed him.

31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” That’s a good question isn’t it?  Me of little faith, why did I doubt?  Yes, these are trying times.  Yes I’ve made about a dozen different plans that have been completely torpedoed in the last couple weeks as some news breaks a few hours later.  Big deal!  The Lord has blessed me tremendously.  The Lord has blessed you abundantly.  I’m not drowning.  Maybe it feels like we are.  Maybe if feels like we are sinking into the abyss like Peter was.  Maybe this pandemic is going to take me down.  But that’s OK because there’s another drowning that happened and that drowning fills me with confidence.

In the water of Holy Baptism my sinful nature was drowned.  I was given new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  As were you.  And no pandemic, recession or plans foiled can take that away.  Be comforted by your baptism.  Comfort your children by their baptism.  The Holy Spirit made you a child of God and nothing can take that away. 


Let’s pray:   Dear Jesus, thank you for the many blessings you have given us, especially the blessing of faith.  We know that we will come through this trying time and on the other end, like the disciples in Matthew 14 , we will worship you by saying “truly you are the Son of God.” Amen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Stay at home update

The church council is discussing tonight what the Stay at Home order means for our congregation.  It is likely that we will not be able to distribute communion as I had recently announced we would.  Stay tuned.