Time to Reap

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
[Matthew 9:37-38]

Have you prayed about this? Have you noticed what Jesus is saying; that the harvest is plentiful? Have you asked Jesus to send people into the field to reap the harvest? Well, have you? Now, have you included yourself in that prayer? No? Well, why not? I bet you’ve said something along the lines of, “I’m not qualified“, “I’m too old“, “I’m too young”, “I’m retired”, or any number of other lame excuses. Yes, I just said that, “lame excuses‘, because that’s what they are. If Jesus sends you into the mission field then Jesus will qualify you. And Jesus has sent you because your mission field are the people in your immediate social network.

What social network? I’m not on Facebook or Twitter?

I’m not talking about social media but your social NETWORK; those people you interact with on a regular basis. They are your family, friends, neighbors, restaurant servers, child’s teacher, UPS delivery person, coworkers, etc, etc, etc. You get the point, right? You are already smack dab in the middle of the plentiful harvest. And the workers that are needed?

YOU!!!

Pray not only that God would send workers into the harvest but pray that God would use you. Don’t just pray for revival in the church but pray that revival begins with you. I guarantee you that if you pray boldly like this; for God to send you into the harvest, God will do something amazing through you for His glory. Besides, those people closest to you, why wouldn’t you want them to know about Jesus?

So go ahead, pray the prayer and then hold on. The harvest is ready. Will you go for Jesus?

The Pastor -|—

Begin…

Hebrews 12:1–2 (ESV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Holy God,
as I begin this day,
I am feeling the weight of demands and expectations.
I am feeling the prodding of Satan’s attacks.
I am feeling the weariness of the battle.
All of which work against that which You call me to do;
to shine the light of Your love.
Oh God,
May my eyes be fixed on the founder and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ.
May his strength alleviate the weight of demands and expectations.
May Your armor shield me from Satan’s prodding jabs.
May Your promises revive my weary soul.
May I continue to “run the race”;
following the example of the witnesses before me
and with my eyes firmly fixed on my Lord and Savior.
And so,
I begin may day,
ready to run.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Light in the World

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
[Philippians 2:14–15 (ESV)]

It seems to me that many in the Church need to take these words of Paul to heart. Too Christians spend way too much time fighting and complaining about the stupidest things or whining and complaining about this and that politician. They do this all the while as this “crooked and twisted” generation is watching and thinking, “why do I need to listen to them?“. Or worse yet, this “crooked and twisted” generation doesn’t even notice the Church because it looks like everything/one else. What would it look like, though, if the Church kept the main thing the main thing and actually were “lights in the world“; proclaiming the Gospel and working out their faith with fear and trembling. What if the Church was actually holy; set apart, different from the world? What if the Church actually sought transformation through the Gospel instead of conforming to the world around them.

Hey there, Church, if you are trying to advance the Kingdom of God, stop trying to look and act like the world. Stop trying to please the world by conforming to them. Be a light in the world; lights among a crooked and twisted generation. Remember whose you are and live a life worthy of the Gospel. It’s time to grow up, Church, and be who you are suppose to be.

Rant done…now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

The Pastor -|—

Shine

Holy God,
Your mercy is great,
Your grace is abundant,
Your might is awesome,
Your love is precious,
I begin this day waking in Your arms,
and basking in Your glory.
I want to leave this house clinging to You
and embracing Your commandments.
Grant me, I pray,
Your Spirit that I may shine.
As the face of Moses shined; reflecting Your glory,
may my life shine bright.
But may I not veil Your glory but boldly live for You.
Oh God, I want to shine for You.
In Jesus name I pray.
Amen.

The Pastor-|—

Stay in the Race

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” [Hebrews 12:1 ESV]

Let us run with ENDURANCE. It doesn’t say run fast. It doesn’t say run with flare. It doesn’t say win the race. It just says to stay in the race, knowing you don’t run alone. I can’t imagine I would have finished three marathons running alone; with no one cheering me on or setting a pace for me. My encouragement, strength and motivation came from other runners and those cheering me on; knowing I was simply running to finish, not to win.

Oh Christian, you are not alone; for Jesus has set the course, finished the race and won the crown for you. Let the author and perfector of your faith be your encouragement, strength and motivation along with the many witnesses around you; who have raced before and currently racing with you. Lay aside your self-righteousness and simply run the race; enduring to the end. The crown is waiting for you, oh Christian, the crown is waiting.

The Pastor -|—

Small Church, Big Spirit

On Sunday, I got to lead worship and preach at this little church in Elbe, WA; Historic Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church. What a neat place and what an incredible privilege and honor to be invited.
~ This is not a mega-church
~ There are no projection screens inside
~ There was no fancy multi-colored bulletin
~ There was no loud worship band
Just people, from different congregations, worshiping our awesome God; people who traveled a distance to get to this beautiful part of our beautiful state.

This worship service brought me back to my roots; back to SW MN. I grew up in a small town but in a large church. I eventually moved to a larger town but served in two small churches; one being a small county congregation. Even though I love serving where I do; at Living Word Lutheran Church, is was nice to reminisce with myself and be reminded of an important aspect of the local church.

You see, the size of a church does not equate ministry success. Too many people think that if you have a small church then there’s something wrong. Hogwash. It’s not quantity but rather quality, and I humbly believe quality is what we had on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t because of me but rather the Spirit working through me and the many volunteers that are responsible for this little church in the mountains. There is a reason that this church in Elbe is still operating. There is a reason that people come here on Sunday afternoons to worship. The Spirit is alive here.

So thank you to those volunteers and for the opportunity to worship with you. I hope to be able to come back again sometime. May God continue to bless the ministry of the Historic Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Pastor -|—

Sermon Brainstorming

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
[Matthew 28:18-20]

This coming Sunday (June 11), I am preaching on the above stated passage; a passage that many of you know well. The following are my top ten thoughts thus far:

(1) Jesus has ALL authority, not just some or a lot. (See Daniel 7:13-14)
(2) Our obedience to the command to “Go” is based on the authority of the one giving the command. If I were to command you to show me your driver’s license, you might laugh at me, but if a police officer made that command after a traffic stop, you would comply.
(3) Jesus said “Go“, not “Stay and wait for people“.
(4) Make disciples, not members.
(5) We are to be about Kingdom building not kingdom building.
(6) Jesus said, “all nations“; all people, not just the ones you like and/or comfortable with.
(7) Discipleship making comes through proclaiming the Gospel not threats from the Law.
(8) Follow up from #7: People follow Jesus out of thankfulness and love, not fear of punishment.
(9) Once a follower, teach people what Jesus has commanded. No one and done; bang-them-over-the-head-and-leave evangelism.
(10) Does this sound overwhelming? No worries, Jesus will be with you always, to the end of the age.

As I said, these are the thoughts running around in my head and heart. A lot of sermons here so don’t worry, Living Word, I won’t dump this whole load on you at once 🙂

O.K., back to sermon prep…

The Pastor -|—

Avoid One and Done

I have discovered a proliferation of door to door sales people here in Washington as compared to rural Minnesota where I lived for 44 years. I’ve had people come by trying to sell me home security services, pest control and lawn services. I listen to their sales pitch but I tell them that I am not going to buy anything now but rather I want to do my own research. I want to get to know their company and what they are selling. I want to trust them before I make an investment. They usually don’t like this response as they want the sale now.

The same mentality is often seen among Christians. One presents the Gospel to someone and then wants to see the fruits of their efforts now. They want to make an instant “sale” and then move on; feeling good that their numbers are going up. This tactic, though, is rarely effective in the long term, especially for the one “buying the product”. One and done evangelism is often more damaging to the one being evangelized. It’s like selling someone a whatchamacallit without an owners manual.

Instead, we need to spend time with people and develop relationships with them.  We can’t have a “one and done” mentality. We need to invest in people, provide for any needs, be a guide and help them along the way as they grow in Christ. When you look at the early church in Acts, the apostles spent time in the towns in which they planted churches. They didn’t just preach and go. They weren’t one and done evangelists. They invested in people.

Door to door ministry can be effective, but only if a relationship eventually ensues. Leading people to Christ can be a time consuming thing but it is important work as we are called and commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples…”. Spend time with people and live out your faith. Show them Christ’s love through your words and deeds. Be a “little Jesus” to them. Walk with them and when the opportunity presents itself, tell them about Jesus. Basically, earn the right to be heard.

So all you door to door sales people, don’t expect me to buy what you’re selling until I get to know you. Make an investment in me and earn my trust. Not practical for you, I know, but for you, Christian, it is. It’s what Jesus and the apostles did. Follow him and walk AS Jesus did and don’t be a one and done evangelist.

The Pastor -|—

Making Disciples

As a church, what are you about?

A church strategy that focuses on getting people to come to you through flashy programs, big events, creative gimmicks or high energy worship technology misses the point of being the church. Jesus never said, “Go therefore and make members of all nations…“. Jesus commanded us to “Go therefore and make DISCIPLES of all nations…“.  The work of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus create Jesus-followers or better yet, those to walk/live/talk/act AS Jesus would. It is a command to live out loud in such a way that people see Jesus in you and thus give glory to God. The work of the church is “out there”, not in the safety of your four walls.

If, as a church, though, you are only focused on bringing in more people so you can cover your budget, you are nothing more than community-minded club. Following Jesus is not a club but a way of life. Following Jesus is messy. Following Jesus is joy in the midst of a messed up, sin-filled world.

As a church, ask yourself this question:
If we evangelize someone; sharing the Good News of Jesus with them, and they come to believe, will we still rejoice if they choose to worship elsewhere?

Think about that. If your answer is no then some soul searching needs to be done.
Why do you exist?
Who are you trying to glorify, yourself or God?
What’s more important, building your kingdom (building) or God’s Kingdom?

Sure, more than likely, if you help lead someone to Jesus, they will come and worship where you worship, but they may not. If they choose someplace else, then still praise God. Praise God they are part of the flock. Praise God they are worshiping him. Praise God that there is another disciple out there ready to do battle with the forces of evil. Praise God.

As I said, following Jesus is messy work but if you are unwilling to get messy, then you will miss the joy that is discipleship. Get out of your neat, safe and comfortable buildings. Hit the messy, dirt road; kicking up some dust along the way and getting dirty; knowing that you are already washed clean through the Holy Spirit.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
[Matthew 28:19-20]

Let’s get messy.

The Pastor -|—

Walking

Lord Jesus,
you have not called me to walk with you
but,
to walk as you would walk,
to live as you would live,
to love as you would love,
to forgive as you would forgive.

You have called me
to shine a light in this world,
to speak THE truth into darkness,
to live with abandon,
to trust with my whole life.
Lord Jesus,
you have given me an example,
you have shown me the Way,
you have promised me the Helper,
you have prepared a place for me.

Lord Jesus,
after all you have done,
after all you have said,
how is it that I could possibly be afraid?
How is it that I could possibly hold back?
How is it that I could possibly let a opportunity drift by?
How?

Lord Jesus,
increase my faith.
Draw me closer.
Show me more of you.
Make me more holy.

Lord Jesus,
you have called me.
May I walk by faith.
May I walk with boldness.

The Pastor -|—