The Persecuted Church

Mighty God,
You are holy and sovereign,
gracious and merciful.
I commend my brothers and sisters in Christ to You;
those who are undergoing persecution
because of the Name; Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that if the world hated him,
they would hate those who follow him.
Today, that is as true as it was then.
Many are dying because of the Name.
Many are imprisoned because of the Name.
Many are tortured because of the Name.
Many live in fear and worship in secret because of the Name.
Protect their faith, oh God, and give them perseverance.
Shield them with the hope of the resurrection.
Strengthen them to serve in a dangerous mission field.
Surround them with Your angel armies.
May the Name of Jesus be praised.
I also lift up to You those who are doing the persecuting.
You changed the heart of Paul,
and so I know You can change the heart of anyone,
namely, those who hate You.
May their eyes be opened and their hearts softened.
May they see the Truth of Your love
and refrain from the atrocities that they inflict upon Your children.
May they see their sins;
confessing and repenting of their hate-filled actions.
And through their conversion,
may You be glorified in the world.
It seems to be a far-fetched prayer,
but with You anything is possible.
Oh God, the world can’t stop You or Your Church.
May we take comfort in that truth.
May our worship and rejoicing be unhindered
by this world.
In the mighty Name of Jesus 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 -|—

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 -|—

Prayer for those in Err

O God,
there are many who misuse Your Word;
there are many who devalue the Scriptures.
I see and hear,
I read and peruse,
and my heart is saddened;
anger threatens to rear its ugly head
against those who do not understand.
O God,
may anger not control my actions
but rather compassion for those who are in err.
Grant understanding,
O God,
to those who take Your Word as something
to suit their own desires;
redefining Your Word according to the culture;
according to the masses.

Grant insight,
O God,
to those who do not understand.
Grant ears of faith,
O God,
to those who do not and will not listen.
Grant me patience,
O God,
that I may be a steadfast beacon of light;
for this world needs Your Truth.
May I never back down

and may I never fail to glorify You.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Cross

Staring at this cross on my office wall, this poem/confession started to flow. As I think about what it means to be a church, I can’t help but think that if a church doesn’t have a right understanding of God through Jesus Christ; if they don’t truly know him, then their mission will always be askew.

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The Pastor -|—

Solomon’s Request

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
1 Kings 3:9 (ESV)

Solomon was wise in his request and thus God gave him a discerning mind (wisdom) to lead God’s people. And this request is also my request, not because I am wise in asking for this but rather I am realistic. I look at the congregation God has called me to lead and I am not so vain to think that God called me here because I am so wise. On the contrary, God called me here because God wants to use me to do something great for His church, and thus all glory goes to God. Yet, I am overwhelmed and scared silly at the task at hand. As I pray each week, Oh God, I am not a good speaker or preacher and thus if this task were left up to me I would surely bring it all to ruin, I also plead with God using Solomon’s request:

Oh God, give your servant an understanding mind to lead your church, that I may discern between good and evil, and what your will is; for who is able to lead your great church.

This is my prayer.
This is my request.

And may this be the prayer for all pastors and leaders in the church. May we never be so vain as to think that we are good enough or talented enough to lead in the church. The day that vain ambition takes over in a leader’s heart is the day the church heads down the road to destruction; following a leader that has lost their way. Learn and study Solomon’s request and make it your own.

Grant me a discerning mind, oh God, that I may lead your church rightly;
Grant me wisdom, oh God, that I may seek Your will;

Grant me understanding, oh God, that I may teach others rightly;
for this call is too great for me to do alone.
All glory be unto You, oh God, through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen

The Pastor -|—

 

For the Sake of the World

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [Acts 2:42, ESV]

And isn’t this what the church should be about:
Diving into and learning scripture,
Spending time with other believers,
Worshiping and communing together and
prayer?
It seems to make sense to me. Sure there are other things about being a church, for example, it’s not about being with believers ONLY, but sharing the Word of Jesus with nonbelievers.

Basically…

This verse in Acts 2 lays out a church on fire for Jesus.
This is a church wanting to be closer to Jesus.
This is a church who is excited about the hope they have.
This is a church that looks to the needs of others.
This is a church who gets it.

This is not a magical formula for success, but rather the activities that flow from the assembly out of their faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. When a church lives out Acts 2:42, the church is doing the very thing that should come naturally, like breathing. If these activities are laborious then something is wrong. You can’t force anything of those activities and you can’t fake it. You are either verse 42 or not. If your church is not, then go back to the beginning: Devote yourself to scripture.

To having any real and lasting hope; for the church to make an impact in the world; for the church to be a beacon of light in a dark world, verse 42 needs to be present. Because believe it or not, people need and want to be part of verse 42.

Only God can make a difference. Only God will bring the increase: And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. [Acts 2:47]

Let’s be an Act 2:42 church that glorifies God almighty for the sake of the world.

The Pastor -|—