Touching the Word

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That is my bookshelf in my tiny church office. This used to be a badge of honor; all those books up there (many of which I haven’t read), but today I hardly notice them. It’s a rare moment that I even look at this with the intention of looking for particular book. Nowadays, I either consult my Kindle library or search Google. Part of me wonders why I even keep these books anymore.

When I attend conferences I will still browse the bookstore but rarely will I buy anything. If I find a book I like I search for the Kindle version on Amazon and then add it to my wishlist to buy later. If there is no Kindle version then I am force to discern how bad I really want/need the book. I remember not so long ago going to these conferences and coming home with tons of books, but no more.

And then there’s my Bible.

For the most part, I am reading my Bible through my YouVersion Bible app on my phone or my tablet. I do use my paper Bible in worship and in Bible study, but generally I go to the electronic version for my Bible reading, but sometimes I just need to hold a paper Bible and read. It’s not that it’s more holy or anything but in a weird sort of way I feel closer to the Word when I can actually touch the paper.

Is that strange?

And so I keep a paper Bible always close at hand. I am actually trying to recondition myself to use it more often and only use my Bible app if I absolutely need to or if I want to quickly share something on social media.

And so…

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…I’m off I go to read;

touching the Word of God;
listening to the pages
and feeling a little “old fashioned” (but that’s OK).

Technology can greatly improve many things but it can never replace the paper Bible. I’m OK with ebooks and downsizing my former badge of honor in my tiny church office but I hope our world never gets to the point where paper Bibles are obsolete; found only in museums under glass.

The Pastor -|—

Techno-worship

The Pastor is going paperless tomorrow (except for my Bible and hymnal).

This will be a first for me; chucking the rock solid stability of paper for technology (but I draw the line at chucking my paper Bible). Sure, I have preached paperless for 1 1/2 years (except for that Sunday, recently, that I was thrust into the stone age through my tablet dying) but I’ve always had a paper bulletin and announcements (except for those few many Sundays I lost misplaced my bulletin).

But tomorrow everything goes on the tablet.

Call it a big boy playing with his toy (this is what my wife calls it).
Call it an environmentally conscious person saving paper (I like that).
Or even call it a pastor trying to be more efficient (that works too).

Whatever you call it I am going all in. But I am going to be keenly aware, though, of the possibility that God may humble me through some technology mishap; calling out any technology god I may have. But if that happens I will submit to God’s will and go with the flow.

And if everything does go well, don’t worry, I’m not going to be one of those that invites his parishioners to Tweet comments and questions during the sermon (yes, I have heard of someone doing that). So I am drawing the line (in the sand) there ~ but you never know, I guess. A few years ago I never imagined I would be going paperless during worship. Kind of makes me wonder what I will be doing in five years (or next year, for that matter).

OK, enough babbling, time to get my techno-worship ready for tomorrow.

So wish me luck and may God be glorified, not my technology.

The Pastor -|—

God Can Use Someone Like Me (and You)

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Yeah!

I am out of the stone age finally. A Star Trek wormhole appeared on Friday afternoon and I was instantly brought to the 21st century with the arrival of my Nexus 9. But unlike the fictional, but hope-to-be-true-soon TV show/movies, this wormhole looked a lot like a UPS truck.

And what a beautiful sight that was.

Now I know that God can use anything at my disposal for preaching His holy word. God can use paper manuscripts, tablets, smoke signals, sign language, interpretive dance (which I would never attempt unless the Holy Spirit took control of my body). God can communicate His holy word despite my sinfulness and shortcomings. And God will be glorified even when I do whine and complain about situations being “tough” (i.e. technology crashing).

The Holy Spirit can take my messed up words and attitude and use them to bring glory to God. The Holy Spirit can take a disastrous situation and use it for good (just ask Joseph as his brothers sold him into slavery but God used that to save millions and millions of people). God, through the Holy Spirit, can use any and all situations and people.

And God can use this whiny pastor as he complains about a piece of technology failing. God can even use this (near idolatrous) pastor as he gets googly…

(pun intended, get it? Google Nexus)…

…eyed over his new toy (I mean work tool). And praise be to God that the success of God’s kingdom advance is not dependent on me and me alone.

This world and everything it contains is fragile and thus are passing away; but not God and not His holy word. God’s word and promises are forever and will never fail or crash. And thank God for that.

Holy God, knock me down a peg or two (or more) when I get too whiny about situations. Humble me and help me see that it is Your Holy Spirit that gives power to Your words that proceed from my mouth. Knock me up across the head so I may not get too full of myself and depend on my so-called abilities. May You be glorified. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

God vs technology…and God won

Merry Christmas everyone!

I have to tell you about a God moment that I had yesterday right before I started preaching.

The text I was preaching on was John 1:19-28 (but I “warmed up” the congregation with John 1:1-18).  On Thursday I found what I thought to be a good opening illustration and copied it into the manuscript.  It wasn’t the best but it still worked.  I then wrote the opening part of the sermon before getting into the “meat”.  The main part was a biblical exposition of John which I did not write out word for word (that was the part I knew very well).  I saved the sermon on my computer and then transferred it to my Kindle (as I sometimes do).

Sunday morning ~ Everything went well at Belmont (8:30am worship), but when I got to the pulpit at Salem (10:15am worship) God decided to show me that he has a sense of humor ~ and more importantly that God is in control.

As the lector was reading the lessons I turned on my Kindle and pulled up the sermon.  I then placed my Kindle in “sleep mode” until I would “wake it up” in the pulpit.  So far so good.  Nothing unusual.

Then…well…God happened 🙂

I got into the pulpit and read the Gospel text and then proceeded to open the cover of my Kindle.

It was locked up.

Nothing worked.  It just stared at me as if to say “Hey buddy…you’re on your own.”  A moment of panic set in as I tried to determine what I was going to do without letting the congregation know there was a problem.  I knew I couldn’t go on with my opening part of the sermon since I didn’t know it well enough but I did know the main part of the sermon (“the meat”) like the back of my hand.

And then I got it…God didn’t like my sermon opening.

So…on the fly (and by the power of the Holy Spirit)…I began preaching…and the words just came out.  As I got going more, I got into the sermon and before long my Kindle problems were a distance memory.  After worship I got more good comments about that sermon than I have received in a long time…and from people who normally don’t comment.  Praise be to God!!!

I told this story to someone and they suggested I have a backup copy of the sermon on hand next time.  Sounds like a logical suggestion but part of me is not too sure I want to do that…

You see…on Sunday, God was in control…and I like that.  Isn’t that the way it should be?

edh -|—

P.S. Following worship my Kindle started working perfectly 🙂

Pack rat hunting

I did something yesterday in worship that I had never attempted before…

…I preached the sermon from my Kindle.

I knew I was able to send Word documents to my Kindle for reading later but it never occurred to me to send my sermons to this piece of technology.  I have always been fairly low tech in worship but now I am finding myself moving into the realm of high tech (if you want to call preaching from a Kindle “high tech”).  I do have friends that preach off iPads and laptops (laptop seems too cumbersome to me and I haven’t justified the plunge to an iPad yet).  I know that there are pros and cons to preaching from technology, but I am liking the pro side of this so far.

One of the reasons I made this move to try preaching from my Kindle was a realization.  Behind my desk and to my left sits a file cabinet.   The top drawer is filled with old sermon manuscripts.  I have 5 years worth of sermons sitting in there waiting…but waiting for what?  In my nearly seven years here at Salem (I haven’t put 2010 or 2011 sermons in that file) I have never once opened that drawer to look for an old sermon.    If I have been curious about a previous sermon I have always looked it up on my computer (but even that doesn’t happen that often.  Every sermon I preach is a fresh sermon…never recycled).

So I started asking my self…why am I keeping all these printed sermons?
Why am I wasting all this paper; printing sermons off every week?
What is preventing me from throwing all those old sermons in the recycling box?
Maybe I am keeping them for some selfish reason.
Maybe I am keeping them because they really aren’t my sermons; they belong to God so what right do I have to throw them out.
Or…maybe it’s simply the pack rat in me coming out in force.

I am thinking it is the “pack rat” reason 🙂

But still…it almost seems sacrilegious to throw a sermon in the recycling bin.  I guess I could reason that they are being reused in God’s creation; doing some good by saving some trees.  That works…I like that.

In any case…whether I fully make the plunge and preach each week from my piece of technology (whatever that turns out to be) or use a combination of high tech and low tech I am thinking I am going to start recycling in my office sermon drawer at some point, but not quite yet.  I still need to go pack rat hunting.

-edh-

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.

Second.

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 🙂

-edh-

A day off

Wow…I get a day off today, but it is not what you think.

I have this Bible app (YouVersion) for my Droid X smart phone.  It’s a great little app.  It has a few different versions of the Bible.  I can bookmark favorite passages.  I can share favorite passages with Facebook and Twitter.  I can make notes on my favorite passages.  I like this app…but there is a glaring flaw.

Another feature of this app is that it contains a number of different Bible reading plans (devotional, partial Bible, topical, whole Bible and youth).  One of the plans I have subscribed to is a Lenten plan.  It has a short thought to consider and then a couple texts to read each day…almost.

Well…today I signed in to read my text and this is what I found: Sundays are days off in this reading plan, as they are traditionally not considered a part of Lent.  Every Sunday is a “mini-Easter”, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and his victory over sin and death…

I have no problem with that part as it is true but this is what came next:  “There is no reading for today, enjoy your day off

Did they really tell me to enjoy my day off from reading the Bible?  So I read it again and sure enough, “enjoy your day off…”  I have a problem with that.  True…Sundays are technically not counted in Lent but a “day off” from reading scripture?  But not just a day off but “enjoy it”?  That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  It almost sounds like they believe reading scripture is a chore and that they we need a break from time to time.  Maybe they are concerned that people will think that reading the Bible everyday is too much work and will be turned off from their app.

Seriously people…if you want to communicate how Sundays are not counted in Lent, fine, but at least include a “non-Lent” scripture reading (on Sunday) to encourage people to read everyday.  The Sabbath Day is a day of rest but not a day of rest from reading God’s Word.  In Matthew 4, as Jesus is weak and tired from fasting for 40 days, Jesus responds to Satan’s temptation by saying, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  We need this word everyday…you can never get too much.  And if you are getting tired from reading God’s word (and need a break) then you’re simply reading for information (like for class) and not for nourishment.   You should never need a “day off”.

OK…I am done ranting now.  I am going to go and violate my Bible reading plan.  Hopefully I won’t get struck down 🙂

Happy reading and may God bless your day.

-edh-

I am a tweeter

I never thought I would actually do it but I am officially a Twitter user.  I signed up for my account over lunch today and now I am off and running.  If you want to find me my user name is: SWMNRev.

My purpose is to explore the ministry aspects of Twitter.  I don’t plan to get overly narssasitic and tell people when I am going to the bathroom, drinking water or going for a run.  I am going to try to limit my tweets (I guess that is what they call Twitter updates) to ministry tweets.  This is an experiment so we’ll see how it goes.

Are you using Twitter?

Is this worth while?

What’s your experience?

-edh-

All the craze

I have been utterly amazed at this wild thing called “the Wii craze”.  My sister and I got one for our parents for Christmas.  A number of our friends got one for Christmas and a number of my students got them.  And since then, Connie and I have been looking for one.  Every store we go into there is no Wii to be found.  A sales person at Best Buy said that there are people that come in everyday asking about them.  And since we live no where near a place that would stock a Wii, we are at a disadvantage. Before Christmas I never gave too much thought in getting a Wii.  I knew they were out there, but I haven’t had a gaming system since the Atari 2600 (now that dates me) so I never got captured by this craze.  But after we got my parents one and started playing it…well…I got hooked.  And then we heard about the Wii Fit…that right there convinced my wife.

So we have been looking online and the story has been the same…”Out of stock”…until last night.  Connie’s brother put us onto Gamestop.com and sure enough…a Wii…so I ordered one.  I should have one by next week.  I guess I gave in to “the craze”.

Today is January 20 and our 44th president is being sworn into office.  Today…January 20…we (officially) begin a new era.  It’s an era that worries me because of what I have heard from people in the media and in my own little world here in SW MN.  I have heard comments that suggest people are putting their hope and faith in Obama.  People are putting this president up on a pedestal.  It is almost as if they view him as a savior.  I guess one could say we are in the midst of an “Obama craze”.  But this is one craze I am not going to get caught up in.

I am not here to express my political beliefs.  As a pastor and as a Christian I am going to pray for Preisdent Obama and for the congress and for all elected leaders.  They all have a tough road ahead of them.  But I am not going to put my hope and faith in any person of this world…no matter how popular they are.  Our hope and faith needs to be in one person and one person alone…JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!

I hope and pray that God uses Obama to work for peace.  I hope and pray that God uses Obama to stabilize this country.  And I hope and pray that Obama is faithful and listens to God.  I hope and pray that Obama puts his agenda aside and asks for wisdom from God our Father.  I hope and pray that the people of this county recognize the fact that Obama is a sinful human being (like we all are) and not our savior.  I hope and pray that the people of this country (and the world) recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Only one person can save us.  Only one person can restore peace in this world.  Only one person can lead us in ways of truth and justice.  And it is not our president or any world leader…it’s JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!

When I was a kid, the Atari 2600 was all the craze…but that faded away.  In the 80’s Rubik’s Cube was all the craze…but that faded away as well.  Today, Wii is all the craze…but that too will fade away.  As with anything of this world…all things will eventually fade away (Yes…even the “Obama craze” will fade away), but one person has not and will not fade away…and that is…JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.

-edh-

The downward spiral of communication

I am becoming more and more convinced that, as a society, we are in a downward spiral when it comes to communication.  Don’t get me wrong…we have more ways to communicate with one another than we did 5, 10, 15 years ago.  Communication has sped up and has allowed us to get more immediate feedback.  And communication has become more efficient.  But I believe one-on-one; interpersonal communication is changing rapidly…and in a lot of cases for the worse.  Allow me to give you a couple examples from my own life:
(1) I was checking my Facebook account one day when I received a message from a parishioner here in town.  She had a question for me.  So naturally I wrote back, answering her question.  A minute or so later she responded to my response and then I did so likewise.  This went on for a couple messages before I realized something.  This person was just across town…either go over there or call her, I thought…so I called her.  And you know something, we were able to take care of what we needed much faster and more efficiently than writing impersonal messages back and forth.

(2) Two weeks ago I was getting ready to head back to Sioux Falls to attend the LifeLight Music Festival.  Connie was already over there.  As I pulled out of my driveway, Connie sent me a text message asking me a question.  I stopped the car and replied to her.  She sent me another one and I replied again.  After my second message I realized (once again) “why don’t I just call her?”…so I did.  We were able to take care of what we needed much faster and more efficiently than writing impersonal text messages back and forth.

(3) I recently heard a news report on TV that said that more and more teachers are discovering the negative impact that text messaging is having on written communication in class.  They are seeing papers using text message shorthand…because that’s how more and more teenagers are communicating…and it’s carrying over into the real world.  Are we in a catch-22 situation?  Do we need teach young people text message shorthand (like we actually need to teach this) so they can get by in the world?  Do we allow them to use this shorthand in class?  Does stopping this put teens at a disadvantage out in the world?  These seem like strange questions to ask, but I can’t help but to wonder.  What does this say about our future?

Now…I do believe that Facebook and text messaging and email and the like do serve a good purpose.  If I am in a class or a meeting, sending a quick text message to my wife is an easier way to communicate without disrupting anything.  But if all possible…I want to make the phone call.

What would Jesus do today?  Would he have a Blackberry or some kind of smartphone so he could communicate with teens today?  Would Jesus have an email account?  It seems to me that Jesus would value face-to-face; voice-to-voice communication.  There is just something more personal about it.

With all the advances in technology, relationship building through communication is taking a huge hit and spiraling downward.  But who am I to talk…I am sitting behind a computer writing this.  I just returned a Facebook message from a friend 4 blocks away and my smartphone is lying 6 inches from me just waiting to be used.  I guess I, too, have a long ways to go.

-edh-