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 -|—

To Silence Satan’s Laugh

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.[John 17:11]

I listened to a sermon recently where the pastor talked about oneness as the Father and the Son are one; using the above text. But something he said really caught my attention. He said that when we, as a church, get caught up in disputes or controversies or anything that takes our eyes off of Christ, Satan laughs.

He laughs.

Why?

Satan laughs because he won as he managed to get the church to take their eyes off of Christ. And ultimately that is what Satan is trying to do with all people. For you see, sin is a turning inward to see yourself as god; trusting oneself over God almighty. And when we look inward, we see only our agenda and our will. And let me tell you, our agenda and our will is not God’s.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8-9]

And Satan knows this and thus tries get us to focus on ourselves. For if Satan can divert our attention away from Jesus, then the church is not going to be the church as God wants. In scripture, the relationship of Jesus and the Church is like that of a husband and a wife, but only better. But if a wife (the Church) is not focused on her husband (Jesus); or worse yet, looking for another, the marriage is in trouble. And therefore, as the Church, we need to be one with Christ. For it is only by looking to Christ that we see his purpose and will for our lives. And that purpose? Is to be one as the Father and the Son are one. And when we are in one accord with the Father, the Kingdom of God is advanced. We are called to glorify God through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ whereby letting the Holy Spirit add to “the numbers”.

But that won’t happen if the church is turned in upon itself. The Church MUST be Christ focused. The Church MUST humble itself before the throne of God. The Church MUST lay it’s burdens down and trust God to care for it’s needs. The Church MUST remain focused. The Church MUST be one as the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit) are one.

And so my prayer for the Church; the congregations I am leaving and the one I am heading to shortly, is that we are one; one in purpose. May our eyes remain fixed on Jesus, so much so, that we give no occasion for Satan to laugh.

All praise, honor, glory and worship be unto God our Father through Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Pastor -|—

P.S. If you want to listen to the sermon I referenced at the beginning, follow the below link.

Sermon by Pastor Gary Jepsen, May 1

An Active Church

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, ESV]

Notice the four underlined words in the text above:
Go
Make
Baptizing
Teaching

They are all active. There is no where in the Bible (that I remember) where it says,
“Stay and wait”,
“Build it and they will come”,
“Create an attractive program and the nonbelievers will flock to you”.
No where does it say anything like that. Rather we are to,
Go and Make
Baptize and Teach
Serve and Love
Proclaim and Share

We are to be active and do something, not be passive and lazy. Yet that is what many churches do. Why? Because it is easier to just sit around and use our brains and wait for people to respond. The problem is that nonbelievers are not looking for Jesus. They are busy serving their own self-made gods. And if they are serving their own self-made gods, the only way to show them Jesus is by going to where they are and show them Jesus. But that takes work. That takes energy. That takes faith in God through Jesus Christ. It takes a passion for souls and a love for people. Sitting back and being passive is not loving. Love is active and therefore Jesus says “Go”, “make”, “baptize” and “teach”. Jesus calls us to be active because those who do not believe are active in not believing. Passivity can not compete with activity.

And so the Great Commission sends people out.

Imagine if those disciples stayed locked up in that upper room. Imagine if they set up camp in Jerusalem and counted on word of mouth to bring people to them. Imagine if Jesus did that. But the fact of the matter is this: Jesus was active. The post-resurrection disciples/apostles were active. Just read the book of Acts and see how Paul risked his life to bring the Gospel to people. The Church, by definition is an active and living being. I say that because the Church is not a building or programs. The Church is people with Jesus as the head. That is active.

So,

Go, Make, Baptize and Teach.

Go, Love, Serve and Proclaim.

Go, get off your butt and bring the Gospel to your neighbors, and all to the glory of God.

And one more thing: Jesus will be with you, always and forever 🙂

The Pastor -|—

The under appreciated

Serving as a pastor is a calling of the Holy Spirit, but it is not a calling that is any more important than any other calling people receive.  As a pastor I am called to the ministry of Word and sacrament.  I preach, lead worship, teach, visit the sick and I am the spiritual leader of this flock that God has called me to care for (among many other responsibilities).  It’s a vocation that not everyone can do but that’s O.K.  Scripture teaches us that people are given different gifts for the building up of the Church.

With that said, I want to highlight a group of ministers that too often go unnoticed and under appreciated (unless they do something “wrong”).  These are the people that serve behind the scenes but also are the ones that can receive some of the harshest criticisms. And unjustly I might add.

These people:
~ serve in the kitchen; hosting host funerals and church potlucks.
~ get up extra early in the morning to make sure the sidewalks are clear of snow. ~ come in at night to vacuum and clean toilets.
~ type up the Sunday bulletin and monthly newsletter.
~ change a flickering florescent tube.
~ set up communion for worship.

And there is a whole host of other things these people do.

Sometimes the person sitting in the pew doesn’t know who these “people” are.  All they know is that what needs to be done gets done…and it had better be done and done right.  I can handle the criticism I receive because this congregation has called me and pays me to be their pastor. But the ones who serve behind the scenes often do so without pay and do so expecting nothing in return. So when these silent ministers receive criticism for “not serving well enough” it is often hurtful.

Instead of taking these people for granted, let’s say “Thank you”.  If you don’t know who does one of those many things that just gets done, find out and thank that person.  But know this ~ these people, working behind the scenes, are often people not looking for thanks but if they get it they will gratefully receive it with a smile and go about their ministry.  They may be behind the scenes because they don’t like attention or because they are just doing what needs to be done because it needs to be done.

These under appreciated people need to be appreciated more because can you imagine if these people in your congregation didn’t do those behind the scenes jobs?  Can you imagine if that someone didn’t shovel the sidewalk?  Can you imagine that someone not cleaning the toilets?  Can you imagine that someone not setting up for communion?

Those people you don’t see are also called to ministry.  My calling is to preach, teach, lead worship, etc.  But others are called to scoop snow, clean toilets and serve in the kitchen.  Let’s seek these under appreciated people out and thank them for serving God the way they have been called.

The pastor -|—

More processing…

O.K….I am back, writing about “the vote” at the ELCA CWA, but all I want to do here is share with you a couple snippets and let you process/respond to them.

FIRST — a woman came into my office last week to express her feelings about where the ELCA is going.  We had a very fruitful discussion, even though we have differing views.  She stopped in again today and handed me a piece of paper with 2 Cor. 6:14 – 7:1 written on it.  She said that this is where she is coming from.  She was on her way to another appointment so we couldn’t talk about it.  What do you think about this scripture in relation to the homosexuality discussion?

SECOND — I received this link on Facebook today.  It is a news release from the ELCA titled “The Church’s mission is bigger than one issue”.  I found this helpful.  What do you think?

Like most other people I am still processing.

Praise be to God!

-edh-