Prayers of a child-like faith

I have been reading a Charles Spurgeon selection titled, The Pastor in Prayer. It is a beautiful selection of prayers that this great 19 century pastor prayed during worship. Some of them long and deep; some of them short and poetic; but all of them straight from the heart of a pastor. Many of them I have had to read and re-read because of his depth of language but also because of the beauty of the soul that is being revealed.

And as I read these prayers, part of me felt guilty about my own prayer life. Mine in comparison seems so shallow and I wonder if I am doing something wrong or holding back in some way. Maybe I need to be more deliberate and write something more fancy and articulate for worship.

But then 22 children convicted me…

These past two weeks, we have been talking about prayer in release time (3rd, 4th and 5th graders). We discussed what prayer is and why we get to do such a wondering thing. I then asked the kids to work on some prayers that I would use in worship on Feb 8. They all seemed really excited that I would use their prayers and they joyfully got to work.

But part of me was nervous about what I would get. Would I have to re-word some prayers for worship?

Not even close.

I read these prayers this morning and compiled them into a series of petitions. I found that the kids had similar concerns on their minds and hearts. But I also found that their child-like faith was anything but childish. They spoke with a depth that came from their heart. And through these prayers I realized that it is not about the structure of sentences employed in a prayer but where the prayers come from.

I pray for those who do not believe in God.

Dear God, please help people who have deadly sicknesses like cancer and Ebola.

Please give us strength, purity and faith.

Thank you for our family and friends and let them know that you love them.

There is nothing wrong with those prayers and it will be my joy and honor to lift these prayers, on behalf of these kids and the rest of the congregation, to God.

So I will continue to read Charles Spurgeon’s prayers in order to challenge me to probe deeper into my faith. I will also seek to nourish a child-like faith that is open and honest with God and doesn’t hold anything back.

What a joy it is to come before the Creator and speak to him as a child does with their Father.

Thank you, dear Lord, for hearing my prayers. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Prayer of revival

We ask Thee, O God, at this time to revive religion in our land. Oh that Thou wouldst be pleased to speak by the Holy Ghost that the gospel’s power may be known: there be many that run away from the truth; Lord, hold us fast to it, bind us to it. May there be a people found in this place, and throughout this land, that will abide by the doctrines of the gospel, come what may.
[The Pastor in Prayer by Charles Spurgeon]

Would you please pray this prayer (or some version of it) for, there be many that run away from the truth. Then as you pray this prayer, be the answer. Don’t just pray and wait for someone else to answer this (as many are so tempted to do),  but be the instrument that God uses to bring the Gospel to those who run away.

I see way too many people comfortably sitting in church pews:
waiting for the answer
waiting for God to do something
waiting for God to bring people through the doors
waiting for God to change lives.
Oh Christian, that is not the way God works. God works through you to bring revival.

And so I pray that there may be people found who will stand up and go. May there be people found who care about the lost. May there be people found who see this land running away from the truth. May there be people found who are grieved by this state of affairs. And may there be people found who are going.

Hold fast to the Gospel of truth, Oh Christian, and be a bold witness of the hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ our Lord. And God willing, may there be a revival in this land to the glory of God.

The Pastor -|—

Book reports

Ever since I bought myself a Kindle this past November I have been reading more than ever before.  And from what I have heard from others I am not the only one experiencing this “phenomenon”.  The ease of searching and downloading books has contributed to my increase in reading.  Being able to take my library with me to the coffee shop or while traveling is very appealing.  I was hoping that this Kindle would not be just a passing phase that I would get tired of.  So far I have a hard time putting it down.

So with that introduction (Amazon did not pay me to write this) I want to share with you a couple books.  One I have just finished and one I have just begun.  First…the one I just finished.  It is called 24 Hours That Changed the World by Adam Hamilton.  I would recommend this book right now to help you prepare for Holy Week.  This book takes a look at the last 24 hours of Jesus life.  Through reading this book I saw these hours in a fresh and new way.  One of the most powerful things I experienced in reading this is seeing myself in the various characters in the story.  It is easy for us to say that “I wouldn’t have crucified Jesus“, “I wouldn’t have mocked him“, “I wouldn’t have denied or deserted Jesus“…but not so fast.  It is amazing what we are capable of…and it is even more amazing that despite this God has shown us forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  I encourage you to check this book out.  I started using this book as a morning devotion but I later found that I had a hard time putting it down.


The book I am currently reading is called The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene H. Peterson.  Many of you know Eugene Peterson as the author of The Message.  I have always found Peterson to be a very thoughtful author and pastor.  I have looked up to him for a long time.  I am only a couple chapters in but so far he is taking us through his initial journey to the vocation of pastor.  Whether you are a pastor or not I think you will enjoy this book.  His use of words and imagery is amazing and it keeps me turning those electronic pages.

Oh wait…one more book.  The Bible.  I have subscribed to a couple reading plans through my DroidX smartphone Bible app (now I can say that I never leave home without my cell phone or my Bible).  Every morning I log in and read what’s waiting for me.  It is always a joy to spend time in scripture.  Something I am doing different, though, is that each morning I am posting a Bible text from my phone straight to my Facebook wall.  I have been amazed at how many people comment or simply hit “like” on those posts.  Just another little way I can share the love of Jesus with people.

There…a couple book reports for you.  I normally don’t do this but this is what has been on my heart recently.  Are there any other books that you are reading this Lenten season that you would care to give me a report on?

O.K…I guess that is it for now.  I am off to read what else Eugene Peterson has to say.  May God bless your day 🙂


Where 20 or 30 are gathered

I just received a copy of this book.  Last summer I attended a summer collegium at Virginia Theological Seminary on leadership in small congregations.  I saw this book on the website and thought it looked interesting.

The country congregation I serve (Belmont Lutheran Church) has a membership of 58 with about 15 to 20 in worship per Sunday.  There are certain things we can not do out there because of our size but there are certain things we can do because of our size.   For starters…worship is more intimate.  When I am preaching it feels like I am leading a small group. If someone is not able to be at worship to perform an assigned task, someone else quickly fills in.  It’s like a family that compensates for any void that happens to exist.  Coffee fellowship after worship feels like a family meal.  When there is a funeral everyone shows up to help minister to the grieving family.

The continuing challenge is to encourage Belmont that they have an important mission in the Body of Christ.  The other challenge is keeping worship fresh and engaging.  These past couple years I have seen plenty of evidence that Belmont also wants to keep things fresh; not wanting to get stuck in a rut.  As a pastor that is very encouraging.

I am looking forward to reading what these authors have to say about worship in small congregations.


Making Sense of Scripture

I am tackling a new book.

I usually don’t read much this time of the year but this book looks interesting.  It’s called Making Sense of Scripture by David J. Lose (my preaching professor from Luther Seminary)…and of course it’s from Augsburg Fortress.  I received this FREE copy from the Book of Faith Initiative because I responded to one of their tweets (on Twitter) about the challenges of encouraging people to engage scripture.  I didn’t respond to the tweet to get this book but it just so happened that I came across the tweet during a frustrating time.  Maybe this is God’s response to me.

But as I muddle through this challenge of encouraging people to engage scripture I hear words of hope…

…This past Sunday, as kids were coming up front for the Children’s message, one of my 5 year olds saw me holding the Spark Story Bible (I read the Christmas story out of it for them), which she has at home.  As she came up to sit by me she said “We are almost done reading that”.  I know her parents read that to her every night and she loves it.  Hopefully this becomes a long-term “habit” for her.

Stories like that are encouraging, but they seem few and far between.  Maybe this Making Sense of Scripture book will prove to be a good resource.

I don’t have much to say about the book yet since I just finished reading the Introduction, but hopefully I will have more to report as I read, discover and learn.  My struggle to get people to engage this book of faith is going to be an ongoing one but hopefully I can start to make some in roads very soon (at least it looks like I have with one 5 year old).


What I have been up to

Wow…it has been a while…August 4…What in the world have I been up to?  Where has the time gone?  Am I O.K. (as one person has asked)?  Well…to answer the last question…Yes, I am fine.  Now on to the first two.

The last couple weeks have been pretty busy…much busier than I anticipated.  Aug. 3 – 9 was the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference.  I mentioned this before and said I would write more about this.  Well…with running down to Spirit Lake twice a day (50 miles round trip each time), it took a toll on me.  I found that I had very little free time.  The conference was great though…probably the best one I have been too, but I am sorry that I did not write more about it.

August 10 through today has been one of reading and fall planning.  One of my big accomplishments was that I totally revamped my confirmation program (this WILL be something I will share with you once I polish off some details).  I am really excited about this and looking forward to classes starting on Sept. 23.

I also read another book.  This one is called “God and Cancer” by Tim Chaffey.  GREAT BOOK.  Tim is a college friend of my wife and a cancer survivor.  The first part of his book he talks about his struggle with leukemia…how it hit so fast and so hard.  In the second part of the book Tim talks about the problem of evil.  He talks about how various other religions deal with evil and that Christianity is the only religion that has an answer for evil.  I highly recommend this book.  We have invited Tim to come to Jackson to speak about his book in November.  I can hardly wait.

And tonight I am doing something that will be incredibly fun.  I won’t say much now but what I will say is that it involves me and a race car (mom…I know you probably remember what I am talking about so don’t worry).  Be watching my blog on Monday for highlights about tonight.

So that is where my last two weeks have gone.  Thank you for being patient.  Thank you for stopping by.  Thank you for your individual ministries…all in the name of God our Father through Jesus Christ who is ALWAYS faithful.  Thank you and God bless.


Lutherans and immigration

I am reading a fascinating book right now titled They Are Us: Lutherans and Immigration by Stephen Bouman and Ralston Deffenbaugh…

…I have yet to finish the book but I will be done shortly.  It’s a short book and a quick read.  It is also an eye opening book.  I hope to have more insights for you soon but in the mean time, here are some thoughts and highlights that have jumped out to me.

–We are all descendants of immigrants.  How often do you actually think about that?

–Scriptures command us to welcome the widow, orphan and the stranger.  How often do we do THAT?

–Our immigration system is indeed broken.  I do not have the answer, but something needs to be done.  Families are being torn apart.

–Since 9/11 it has become “okay” to discriminate against immigrants all in the name of national security.

–I need to readjust some of my attitudes and pray for my brothers and sisters who are simply here to make a better life for them and their families.

Like I said I do not have the answer to the problem of our broken immigration system, but as Christians how are we called to respond to these brothers and sisters in Christ?  Maybe our first order of business is to pray for our national leaders that they may actually figure something out so all people are treated with respect and dignity.

More to come later…

God bless!


More reading — Missional Congregations

I started reading a new book today (I often have a couple I am working on at the same time).  This book is called, “A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation” by Rick Rouse and Craig Van Gelder.  It is an Augsburg Fortress selection that was recommended to me.

I am just getting into this book but I wanted to share something with you that has already struck me and got me thinking.  Here’s a short excerpt:

The premise of this book is that becoming an effective witness to the gospel in today’s world — becoming a missional congregation — requires us to revision the way we ARE the church in order to more faithful DO church.  Consider the following shifts in an understanding of what the church is and does.

FROM:                               TO:
Maintenance                  Mission
Membership                   Discipleship
Pastor-centered           Lay-empowered
Chaplaincy (Self)         Hospitality (Others)
Focus on ourselves     Focus on the world
Settled                              Sent

That above list got me thinking about my own setting and context.  Are we a missional congregation or are we satisfied with the status quo?  Are we inward focused or outward focused?  Or consider this question:  If this congregation ceased to exist, would the community miss us?

More from this book later.


Good reads

I have been doing a fair amount of reading this summer (as I mentioned in a post a while back).  Here’s a list of books I have read and ones that I am working on (and will be working on).

(1) Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer by Art Simon.
This book gave me a new and exciting way to look at the Lord’s Prayer.  So often we pray this great prayer that our Savior taught us, and don’t truly think about what we are praying for.  We are asking for a lot in this prayer.  It’s a short book (128 pgs.) and a quick read.

(2) Christless Christianity by Michael Horton.
This was a scary book but a true commentary on the Church and our culture.  It talked about a shift that is talking place in the world (including the Church) where Christ is being preached less and less.  Instead of talking about what God has done for us in Jesus, what is being preached is what we need to do in order to have our best life now.  It’s 259 pgs and it will require you to slow down and think about what is being written.  Even though it may not be a quick read it is well worth the time.

(3) Baptism: A Users Guide by Martin E. Marty.
This book is written for people who are desiring baptism, those who perform baptisms, those who are baptized, etc.  Basically, it’s for anyone.  It is a well written book talking about the ins and outs of baptism.  This is a quick read (161 pgs) with discussion questions at the end.

(1) Various sermons by Martin Luther
Basically you can’t go wrong reading a little Luther.

(1) Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias.
I haven’t read anything by Zacharias before but have heard great things about him.  Having just read the introduction I can’t say a whole lot about this book now but I might have more to say later.

I am still working on this list but one book that was recommended to me was a book by John Piper called Finally Alive. If you have any other good reads for me please feel free to let me know.  I am compiling a list and I will see what I get through this summer.

It has been such a treat to slow down and read, read and then read some more.  I am trying to open myself to different things and explore topics that I haven’t spent a lot of time in.  My hope is that once I get into the busyness of the school year I can continue the discipline of reading.  Continuing education is extremely important for personal and professional growth.

So…what are you reading? And…what have you read?

God bless!


A decision

I have made a decision today.  Part of me thinks it is an impulsive decision without a lot of thought of what I am getting myself into.  Another part of me wonders if I can actually do it, but when I think about that I am reminded of my bold goal last year of running a marathon (which I completed).  But another part of me wonders if I am smart enough to comprehend what I am going to read.  And another part of me wonders if this will be worth my time.

So…with all my parts at odds with one another…I am going to do it…

Do what you may ask?  I have decided that it is time to tackle some more challenging reading; something I regrettably haven’t done since seminary (5 years ago).  Some may not think this will be challenging but what I am going to start reading is “Christian Dogmatics, vol. 2” edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson.  Some of the topics covered in this volume are intriguing to me: The Work of Christ; The Holy Spirit; The Church; The Means of Grace; Christian Life; and Eschatology.  Basically it is nearly 600 pages of theology…WHEW!  My brain is starting to hurt already.

I am telling you this because I am hoping that people will help me and hold me accountable.  I don’t expect to finish this book next week or next month (or next year for the matter) but I do expect to finish the book…in a somewhat timely fashion.  Hopefully along the way I can post some thoughts from my reading for all of you to enjoy.

So with that being said I am diving in…first up…The Work of Christ.