Glory to God

On my desk I have a picture frame that houses our family’s 2014 Christmas card. The card proudly shows off six pictures. Five of the pictures are of my two beautiful children and the sixth picture is a shot of our family of four. I find myself staring at this picture often; in awe that that is my family.

But as I stare at that beautiful arrangement of pictures; my eyes drift to the bottom left side of the card. There, in that corner are the words:

Glory to God

The words are meant to be a Christmas greeting and proclamation to our family and friends but they also remind me of God’s grace and faithfulness in our lives.

You see, about two years ago, my wife and I were wondering if we would ever be parents (especially after our painful failed adoption in March 2013), but now we are the parents of two beautiful children (both under the age of two, crazy, I know). Life has definitely changed for us, and in more ways than one:

~ Our house is now chaotic as our living room has turned into one big toy room.
~ Our Schedules are more complex.
~ Sleep is a premium.
~ Children’s songs now ring in my head.
~ Packing and traveling is stressful.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way ūüôā

But also, our faith in God through Jesus has been strengthened (and I definitely wouldn’t have THAT any other way).

Glory to God

You see, I was a Christian before the failed adoption, but afterwards, something “more”. And that’s the best way I can describe it. My wife and I became so much closer to each other and especially to God. We began to look at God differently (and in a good way). We began to lean more on God, especially during the healing process following the failed adoption. God was great before, we just noticed it better after we thought our lives were falling apart. God never deserted us; He was just doing something amazing.

Glory to God

Now I wonder how people do it. How do they navigate life without God? How do they deal with loss without God? How to they deal with tragedy without God? How do they face death without God? All of these questions perplex me and drive me to proclaim the Good News of Jesus. I don’t want anyone to deal with the crap of this world on their own.

I want people to lean on God through faith in Jesus.
I want people to know the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
I want people to see their sinfulness and need for a Savior.
I want people to see their need to confess their sins.
I want people to hear God’s forgiveness through Jesus.
I want people to know the hope of the resurrection.
I want people to know Jesus.
I want people to give…

Glory to God

So in case you wanted to know what drives this pastor to serve and minister and write all these blog posts, well, there you go. It’s about Jesus. It’s about the Gospel. It’s about Life. It’s about giving…

Glory to God

…always and forever; for He is worthy.

The Pastor -|—

Off your butt

In a few moments I will be leaving this closet I call an office and heading out into the community to do something I thoroughly enjoy…

Visit people.

My first stop will be The Pines (the assisted living facility here in Jackson).  On the first Tuesday of every month I meet with the Salem members living there to bring them communion and to visit.  Next, I will go to what many people call my second office: Coffee Choices (I think the title of the place is self-explanatory).  In addition to getting my afternoon coffee I hope to run into people to visit with; if not customers then the staff.

And after my coffee stop I will see where the wind blows me.

To some, this may look like I am being lazy and not working, but on the contrary, this is extremely important work.  To be a minister of the Gospel; whether a called pastor or a lay person, you need to go out to where people are at.  You need to engage people in their context.  You need to listen to people and relate to what they are going through.  And to do this ministry you need to get out there.

You can’t just sit and wait for people to find you; you need to find them. You need to take the initiative. ¬†You need to take advantage of opportunities that God gives you. I am not saying that as a Christian that you need to have a sermon ready to preach to everyone you meet. ¬†What I am saying is that you need to be ready to show love to everyone and to do that you need to get off your butt.

It’s really simply ministry when you think about it; you get some exercise and maybe a cup of coffee or two.

So here I go.  My butt is leaving this chair. Will I see you out there?

The pastor -|—

Sometimes…

Don’t judge me when you see me seemingly doing nothing:
~ Sometimes I just need to sit and reflect.
~ Sometimes I just need to savor the Word just read.
~ Sometimes I just need to talk to my Savior.
~ Sometimes I just need to slowly sip my coffee.
~ Sometimes I just need to daydream about the ministry before me.
~ Sometimes I just need to mull over a conversation.

Sometimes I look lazy, sometimes I look lost but whatever the case don’t judge me because it’s in those times I can be the most productive. Many people don’t understand how a pastor works because how a pastor works can be so different from how we saw our parents work.¬†But a pastor’s work can be just as taxing thus the different kind of work we sometimes engage in.

Today I sat in the corner at my favorite coffee shop for an hour or so; holding my Google tablet, sipping coffee and nibbling on a cookie.

And that was work.

My finger nails didn’t get dirty and I don’t have sore muscles as you know them but the pastor does feel the effects of ministry thus my coffee shop work.

And as I walked back to my office; breathing in the cool winter air, I felt refreshed and ready to do some more “traditional” work; work that doesn’t draw the ire of some.

But now you may say, “Work? You’re writing a blog post. How is that work?” To answer that fully I would have to write another blog post but I’m not going to do that. So what I will say in response will have to suffice for now:

Sometimes I just have to write…

And that is work of a different kind; one that exercises the mind. ¬†But now I’m off and ready to go; thankful for the “work” I did today. ¬†May God be praised in all I do and say; and not just sometimes but always.

The pastor -|—

We get to

I heard a statement yesterday that I hate to hear ~ but I also love it hear it:
“Eric¬†has to¬†preach tomorrow.”

“Has to”? ¬†Really?

My response was immediate:
“I¬†get to preach tomorrow.”

I hate to hear that phrase because it makes what I do sound¬†laborious and¬†tedious and that I really don’t enjoy it; that I would rather be doing something else. ¬†But I love to hear that phrase because it gives me the opportunity to share my faith and the excitement I have in preaching and leading worship.

“Have to”? ¬†Not even close.

Of course people smile and nudge me as soon as I correct them as if to say:¬†“That is what I meant.” But part of me doesn’t believe them. ¬†Even so…I had an opportunity yesterday and I am happy to say that I took it.

Don’t get me wrong though. ¬†I am not trying to say that my job is any better than yours. ¬†I am not trying to imply that my job is more honorable than yours. ¬†I am certainly not saying that your job doesn’t matter as much as mine. ¬†Sure…I get to stand in front of people and proclaim the Gospel in what I hope to be no uncertain terms. ¬†But then again…so do you.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
[1 Peter 2:9-10]

We are ALL called to be ministers.
We are ALL called to proclaim Christ’s saving love.
We are ALL called to witness to the resurrection.

It’s just that my “job description” is a little different from yours. ¬†We ALL have holy and important callings. ¬†For God has placed each one of us in the vocation we are in for a particular purpose…so make the most of it. ¬†Instead of saying (or thinking)¬†“I¬†have to go to work”, say instead¬†“I¬†get to go to work and share my faith with others.”¬† That is a holy and important work. Imagine the impact we could have on the world if we looked at our “jobs” as mission outposts for the sake of the Gospel.

God, please help me see myself as an instrument for your glory. ¬†Help me to see my place in life as having a specific purpose. ¬†May you be praise through my “work”. Amen.

edh -|—

First Day of School

We didn’t serve Doughnut holes¬†this year but we were still out in full force ūüôā

Today was the first day of school…and like last year Salem Lutheran Church was out in the parking lot to greet kids and their parents.

You may remember from my “Doughnut holes” post from last year (see link above) but the church parking lot provides a convenient way for parents to drop off their kids and pick them up from school…and the first day of school is the busiest.

This year the Salem Lutheran Church council had more time to plan and brainstorm. ¬†So this year we were out in the parking lot with coffee for mom and dad and juice for the kids (like last year). ¬†Something different from last year is that instead of doughnut holes we gave the kids a choice between a box of raisins or a granola bar; something they could take with them and eat later if they wanted (and it was healthy). We also had pencils with various sayings like “Jesus loves you“.

And…we had a box of kleenix…which was a welcomed sight for a couple parents ūüôā

Why did we do this?
~ It wasn’t to gain more members
~ It wasn’t a fundraiser.
~ It wasn’t to bring more¬†visibility¬†to the church.

The reason was simple:  To share the love of Christ in a very practical way.

…And we had a lot of fun.

After we were done ideas were starting to flow for next year…but hopefully it is not a full year until we show the love of Christ in a practical way. ¬†Hopefully this is a daily habit for people.

And for the Church…I look forward to the next opportunity ūüôā

edh -|—

The Bread of Life

We are continuing in John 6 this week with verses 24 Р35.  This scene picks up where we left off last week; Jesus feeds the 5000 and then goes for a walk on the water; scaring the disciples half to death.  After calming the disciples down and climbing into their boat they head to the other side of the lake.  Once over there the people that were fed by Jesus realize Jesus and the crew are gone, so they climb into their boats in search of Jesus (looking for breakfast).  Once again, the people still have no clue who Jesus really is and what he really did for them.

Now we get some talk about Jesus being the “Bread of Life“.¬† The people are looking for real bread; talking about how Moses gave the Israelites manna from heaven.¬† But Jesus fires back and says that it’s not Moses that gives bread from heaven but God who gives the TRUE bread.¬† And this bread means life.

I am the Bread of Life” Jesus says.

The quote that jumps out to me (besides, of course, the Bread of Life comment) is the one Jesus says to the people when they come looking for him.¬† Jesus tells them that they are only there because he gave them something to eat.¬† Jesus then goes on to say “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”¬† This statement may not have shocked the people too much then, but what about today…a society that is based on “working for food that spoils“?¬† This verse is reminiscent of the verses that talks about storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust can not destroy.¬† This is an intriguing connection.

So maybe I will “play” with this connection some more…Hmmm…

What do you think of this connection; not working for food that spoils and storing up treasures in heaven?

-edh-

VBS

VBS (Vacation Bible School) is almost upon us here at Salem Lutheran Church.¬† Our coordinator has been hard at work for a few weeks now.¬†¬† It is fun to see her excitement and energy as July 20 fast approaches.¬† And if you want evidence of Emily’s excitement just walk through the lower level of Salem and see the decorations…it looks like a swamp…very fun.¬† Right now we have 30 pre-school kids registered with more expected to just show up on Monday morning.¬† I am in charge of the Bible story each day which I am looking forward to with much excitement.

In the afternoons we have a VBS style program (or daycamp) going on for our K Р6 graders with Shetek Lutheran Ministries.  Salem is hosting the pre-school VBS and our ELCA neighbors down the street is hosting the daycamp program.  Daycamp has about 55 kids registered. All in all it is going to be a fun week.

My dream and goal for next year is to get most if not all the churches together in Jackson to put on a VBS program together.¬† There is so much we can do if we combine our resources, gifts and talents together without having to re-create the wheel (which we seem to be doing this year).¬† Salem, Our Savior’s and Belmont Lutheran Churches are together this year but I envision a much greater ecumenical partnership in 2010.

So here’s to VBS:¬† lots of energetic pre-schoolers…cool aid…games outside…crafts…singing…Bible stories…and hopefully some seeds planted.¬† Thank you to our volunteers, parents, and congregations for your support, time and committment.

So here’s to VBS and the Holy Spirit working in the lives of our kids.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Meeting us on the road

I love the fact that Jesus meets us where we are at.

Luke 24:13-35 was the Bible study text for the SW MN Synod Assembly this past weekend (June 12-14).¬† It is also a text that I use for my personal ministry mission statement (see the above page tab for more details).¬† I believe there is a lot for us to learn from this.¬† I mean…how often do we try to get people to come to us.¬† I am as guilty as anyone.
–We create programs to try to “lure” people into the church building.
–We encourage people to go out and invite people into the building for worship.
–We spends lot of time (and money) making our buildings look nice so people will be attached to our building.

But that is not how Jesus did ministry.

–Jesus did not sit stationary and wait for people to find him.
–Jesus did not set up a home office and advertise classes, speeches and seminars.
–Jesus did not build a fancy building with the thinking “If I build it they will come”.

Jesus went and met people on “the road” and that should be our ministry example as well.¬† I guess that is why I have a ministry mission statement based on Luke 24…to remind me that I need to get “out there” and meet people where they are…literally and figuratively.

But as we do this we need to remember who is in charge.¬† We don’t what we do as a church in order to beef up the offering plate, make our numbers look good or to acquire popularity in the community.¬† As a church we go out and meet people on the road to proclaim the saving love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.¬† That should be our ONLY motivation…because after all…that was Jesus’ ONLY motivation as he went to the cross all FOR YOU and FOR ME.

-edh-

God is awesome!

I really want to share with you some details about an encounter with a gentleman (Q) last night, but I can’t because of confidentiality.¬† But I do want to say that God is awesome and works in wonderful and powerful ways.¬† I also want to say that I am thankful for the priesthood of all believers because without faithful people living out their faith, this gentleman would not have received the care that he desperately needed…not just last night but for the last couple months.

I want to give a big shout of thanks out to these two parishioners but I won’t.¬† Rather I will give and big shout of thanks and praise out to God for working through these two people to share the Gospel with Q.¬† I want to say that it was pure chance and dumb luck that they found me last night so I could talk to Q (I was out for a run and hence away from my home and phone).¬† But I won’t say that…rather I will say that God is awesome and works in wonderful and powerful ways.

I don’t know what is in store for Q but I can rest assured that he will be cared for and love for the rest of his life.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Remembering Martin Luther

luthers-seal463 years ago day, in 1546, Martin Luther (the great reformer of the Church and the namesake of the Lutheran Church) died.

So in honor of Martin Luther I would like to share with you Luther’s morning prayer:

We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected us through the night from all danger and harm.  We ask you to preserve and keep us, this day also, from all sin and evil, that in all our thoughts, words and deeds we may serve and please you.  Into your hands we commend our bodies and souls and all that is ours.  Let your holy angels have charge of us, that the wicked one have no power over us, Amen.
(From Lutheran Book of Worship)

If¬† you visit Rev. Joelle’s blog you will find Luther’s sacristy prayer.¬† This is another prayer I use often…usually before I begin the task of writing the sermon I am to preach.¬† It is a reminder to me that God is in control and since that is the case, we can not fail.

Luther’s task to reform the church was not something that came from his own personal agenda, but it was something blessed by God.¬† Of all people, Luther understood that he could not do anything he was doing without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.¬† Let this day be a reminder to us all that the ministry we do (whether we are ordained or not) is not something we do on our own.¬† Seek God’s guidance and direction knowing that if we were to do this ministry relying on our own strength, we would surely bring it all to ruin.

May God bless your day and ministry.

-edh-