Stiff Necked People

Below is my article for the Buffalo Center Tribune. This article is based on our daily Bible reading in a Bible reading Facebook Group that I lead. We have so far read through the Gospel of Mark and Hebrews. Currently we are working through Acts. So I present this to the glory of God.

At the writing of this article, the Facebook Bible reading group that I lead is reflecting on Acts chapter seven. It is the account of Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. He has been serving the people and performing great signs and wonders. Opponents eventually rise up to confront Stephen and debate him, “but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” (Acts 6:10). They then concoct some trumped up charges and the religious leaders seize him and bring Stephen before the council. Finally, in Acts 7:1, the high priest questions Stephen, “Are these things so?” Stephen then launches into sermon through what we call the Old Testament. Starting with Abraham and going through Solomon, Stephen recounts God’s work among his people. I read through Stephen’s sermon, and it took me about seven minutes to complete it. For seven minutes or so, the council listened without objection. They had no problem with what he was saying. There was no heresy, nothing offensive, and definitely nothing divisive. It wasn’t until verse fifty-one that Stephen got into trouble when he said, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you…” When Stephen applied the text and spoke the truth to them; the truth that they are sinners, the council became enraged.

And whether you like it or not, what Stephen said to that council that day also applies to you: You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. Please do not stone me like what they did to Stephen. Hopefully you can handle the truth. And besides, it is not me declaring this truth but rather God. But even so, many resist proclaiming this truth out of fear of being stoned by others. But as I like to say, you cannot truly hear the Good News of Easter until you have gone through Good Friday.

And so, I invite you to embrace this Lenten season. Reflect on your sinfulness and confess your sins. Remember that from dust you came and to dust you shall return. Remember that without God, death will embrace you forever. Remember and acknowledge your stiff-neckness (yes, I know that is not a word). Remember all of this but also know that there is a Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the Good News. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the Resurrection, the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life and the Light of the world. Jesus is the only Gate to God’s pastures, the Narrow Way.

And so, You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, do not resist the Holy Spirit. Embrace this Good News and praise Him, always and forever, Amen.

Fasting…Kind of

I am fasting…

…from social media…

…kind of.

I’m going on 24 hours now but let me assure you that I am still staying inline with Matthew 6:17 as my head is anointed and my face is washed. I’m not whining about it or walking around like I’m suffering from withdrawal. I do feel, though, like I am cheating a little since this is being automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter, but I am justifying it by not actually opening the apps or logging in online.

But pastor, WordPress is a social media platform, isn’t it?

Well, yes, but…it’s not Facebook or Twitter and I’m not checking WordPress and perusing it from time to time. That’s why I said “kind of“.

So, if you are “staying inline” with Matthew 6:17, why then are you writing about it?

You’re asking a lot of questions (or I’m talking to myself too much), either way, here’s why I am posting this:

My life seems quieter now.

I read a devotion recently that talked about listening to the voice of God. The author said that many people have inside voices and outside voices. He then went on to say that God doesn’t speak to us with those voices but rather with a still, small, quiet whisper. Why would God do that if He wants to talk to us so we will listen. Well, when someone whispers to you what do you naturally do?


You draw closer to them so you can hear. See my point?

Facebook, Twitter and platforms like those are loud; all using their “outside voices” to get your attention. So excuse me, I’m going to go and listen.

The Pastor -|—

Facebook and Twitter Hiatus

It seems more appropriate to write about my Facebook and Twitter hiatus here rather than on Facebook, since it is Facebook and Twitter that I am stepping away from for the time being. Oddly enough, though, some of you are reading this via Facebook or Twitter since these posts get posted to those social media outlets.

O.K., enough typing “Facebook” or “Twitter”. On to my point.

Since the election last week, I have been keeping a close eye on social media to monitor the reaction of people. I was surprised by the outcome of the election but even more surprised by the reaction of this nation’s citizens. It has saddened me to read stories of people feeling empowered to lash out against people of color and immigrants (legal or otherwise) and others who have been marginalized. I have also been saddened to read about people lashing out at the millions of people who voted for Donald Trump; and basically that is what people are doing by protesting the election. This has nothing to do with the man who was legally elected to the office of president but rather everything to do with the nation who elected him. We have our issues but I don’t see how taking to the streets shouting “Not my president” is going to solve them. We need to pray and work together to make this a better nation.

And so, as I perused the likes of Facebook and Twitter, I have read angry and sometimes hate-filled words. I have seen “news” articles that I wonder if they are even true. There are petitions to rescind a legal election. So much negativity. So much hate. So much division. As I have been reading these things I have been finding myself getting drawn into the fray. I have been tempted to lash out and mix it up with people, but that would accomplish nothing. So therefore I am taking a break from the aforementioned social media outlets (Did you see what I did there? I didn’t mentioned that “F” or “T” word). I am going to take a break to care for my soul. It almost feels like Satan has been prodding me; drawing me in. I need a break and maybe even rethink my social media habits. I am not going to let Satan distract me from living faithfully in the Kingdom of God. And so, the only things that people will see from me on “F” or “T” will be faith related posts coming through third party apps (like my blog or my Bible app, for example). I am not going to sign in and check who has responded to what I’ve posted or respond to any comments. The only social media I will be doing is writing here on my blog, and therefore the only comments I will be responding to are ones posted here. What I am doing is simply taking a break from “F” and “T”. I am not sure how long the break will last but if you want to keep up with my ramblings then you will have to find them here.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to set myself up as some morally superior, super Christian by doing what I am doing. I have my issues as well. My hope is that people will consider following my example. As a people we need to watch what we post. Does it glorify God? Does it honor one another? It is truthful? As a nation, we need to bring GOD back into the fray. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Our only hope is to turn to the Creator as this world is in His hands. Let’s not let Satan tear apart this nation. We have our issues but together, and with God, we can combat that which Satan is trying to do and in the end, praise God for the victory already won through Jesus Christ.

So there you have it. My hiatus from “F” and “T” is underway. May God be praised and glorified.

The Pastor -|—

The Facebook Experiment (part 2) ~ Observations

It’s Monday morning and I just checked my Facebook account for the first time since 3 PM, Friday, Feb 27. It’s been a good weekend being away and reflecting. No twitching being off Facebook. No falling off the wagon. No cheating and justifying my cheating. Just a good weekend where I learned a lot.

But first…

Why the experiment?
I read an article earlier on Friday called: Facebook Obsession and the Anguish of Boredom. And a line in that article caught my attention: “When life gets boring, we increasingly turn to the surprises (and diversions) of our newsfeeds, not to prayer.”

And so I began to think, “Does that happen to me? Do I turn to Facebook instead of God in prayer? When I get bored, do I seek other things to fulfill me other than God? Is Facebook my source of validation or is God”

This concerned me so hence the experiment to do some soul searching. So I logged off Facebook and turned off my mobile notifications on my phone and tablet; only posting faith related material from other platforms such as this blog and Bible verses from my YouVersion app. I did continue to maintain my church’s Facebook page; but only through my mobile app as to not be tempted to log on and check my newsfeed.

Then ~ whenever I would get the urge to check my Facebook account I would stop and pray instead. And so I did. All weekend this went on; as I jotted down some observations.

(1) Early on, whenever I sat down on the couch I instinctively reached for my phone to check my newsfeed (but I never cheated).

(2) Early on, whenever I got on my computer I instinctively pulled up another tab in my Chrome browser for my Facebook account (once again, I never cheated).

(3) Early on, I prayed a lot because I was thinking about how many notifications I had waiting for me. I almost felt guilty for not checking in.

(4) Later on, I still prayed a lot, but not because I was bored or thinking about Facebook but because I wanted to. This experiment served as a reminder to “Pray without ceasing”. What a pleasant outcome.

(5) Later on, I realized that didn’t think about my newsfeed as much as I thought I would but I still prayed. I was pleasantly surprised.

(6) I missed the people I correspond with on Facebook but not Facebook itself.

So now what?

This experiment has prompted me to make some changes to my Facebook habits. My hope and prayer is that they are long term changes:
(1) Instead of going to Facebook to “waste time” I am going to peruse my newsfeed looking for prayer requests (ones explicitly stated or not).

(2) I am going to keep my notifications turned off on my phone and tablet (expect for messenger). I want to control when I check Facebook and not let a notification tell me when to check. Technology and social media have good qualities but who controls who?

(3) I am only going to check Facebook when I have an identifiable purpose; not checking to see how many people have “liked” something.

(4) No more mindless perusing of my newsfeed. Pray instead; continuing the “experiment”.

And so we’ll see how this goes; this continuation of “the experiment”. This has indeed opened my eyes to how social media can have a huge impact on your life. Like I said earlier, social media is not bad but like anything else, it’s how you use it. And if you’re using Facebook to receive validation from people you barely know; remember that God has already “validated” you through Jesus Christ.


~ Seek God
~ Peruse God’s promises
~ Update your status with God through prayer
~ Know that God has already clicked your “like” button
~ And remember to “log in” and check you “Godbook” (Bible) often.

Thank you, God, for a great weekend and for opening my eyes to new habits. May you be glorified. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Facebook Experiment

I just read an interesting article about Facebook addiction and it spoke to me.

[Pause to pray]

I am not sure the depths on the addiction for me but I do know that I spend a lot of time on it. Often, I justify my time there by saying that it is ministry related. And for the most part it is, but there are mindless moments when I am pouring over my news feed when I could be doing something more constructive;

Like praying, perhaps (actually, that’s what this article suggested)

So I am doing an experiment this weekend. As of 3 PM central time, I have logged off Facebook and turned off my mobile notifications. I will be posting Bible/devotion related material through other platforms (i.e. This blog post and scripture from my YouVersion app), but that is it. When I get the urge to check Facebook, I am going to pray instead. And then on Monday I am going to evaluate the weekend.

[So far there has been lots of prayer and I am only 20 minutes in]

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not condemning people for using Facebook…

[Pause to pray]

…and I am not suggesting that everyone cancel their accounts and boycott Facebook, but rather I am want to explore how social media may be drawing my attention away from God. I am curious on how much time I actually think about Facebook and how much I care about what others care about what I write and post. I DO care…

[Pause to pray]

…but I don’t want Facebook to consume my life. I want God to consume my life. I want my attention on the one who has saved me through Jesus. I want to draw closer to Him. I want to be in communion with Him. I want to care more about what God thinks of me. So hence the experiment.

I am not sure what will come out of this weekend. Maybe my priorities will be changed drastically. Maybe I will notice a huge difference in my relationship with God. Maybe my Facebook habits and posts will change. Maybe I will crack and check Facebook…

[Pause to pray]

…Maybe nothing will change. I am not sure what will happen but I got a feeling there WILL be lots of praying. So I will report back with a blog post on Monday. I will be taking notes throughout the weekend and praying about this Facebook relationship.

[Pause to pray]

But whatever happens, may God be praised and receive the glory.

Father God, draw me closer to you and help me see greater depths of your love for me. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The week in review

<Deep breath>

I have been trying to stop and to that from time to time…stop and take a breath…but it has been tough this week.  Here’s my week in review:

Monday: Relaxing day with a hint of stress and anxiety over what was coming up during the week.

Tuesday: A do-to list that looked a mile long.  I would check one thing off and add two others (one step forward and two back…all day).  But in the end I did get all the Tuesday items checked off plus 3 for later in the week (a minor victory).

Wednesday: A day that was a little more low-keyed (since I got so much done on Tuesday).  Ministerial meeting, out-of-town hospital visit, and council meeting.  All the while overseeing the new patio that is going in at the parsonage next door.

Thursday (today): Plan two worship services for Salem’s 125th anniversary weekend, sermon prep, parents coming through to have lunch with me (I can hardly wait), and an out of town Shetek Lutheran Ministries board meeting this afternoon/tonight.  And sometime today I need to get to a building supply store to buy some retaining block for the patio landscaping.  This should be an interesting day.

Friday: This is supposed to be my day off but I got a feeling it might not be.  At the very least I will sleep in, but beyond that…who knows.  It all depends on today.

Saturday – Sunday: Salem Lutheran Church’s 125th anniversary celebration.  If you hear from me next week it means I survived the weekend.  I am looking forward to the celebration but part of me will be glad when Monday arrives.

Now that you know my calendar for the week I what to share something with you that was written on my Facebook site the other day by a friend and reader of this blog.  He wrote:  “Live within the limits of the day.  God is also the Lord of the undone.”  Thank you, Patrick, this has been helpful this week.

God bless all of you and take care!