Now what? (Psalm 119:14-16)

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. [Psalm 119:14-16]

Last night I made my appeal to God for forgiveness; something we all need to do on a daily basis and then some. I appealed to God’s mercy through faith in Jesus Christ and then threw myself at his feet. And then in the words of Romans 5:10-11 I heard that I am reconciled to God through faith in Jesus.

Praise be to God, but now what?

After we have made our confession; after we have appealed to God’s mercy through faith in Jesus; after we have thrown ourselves at God’s feet, what next? Of course we will hear a word of forgiveness, but after THAT; after the absolution of our sins? We certainly shouldn’t go away unchanged or unfazed. There must be something next.

And there is…

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
Take delight in learning God’s ways.
Take delight in knowing what God desires.
Take delight in following God in all things.

Take delight in God’s law, for in God’s law we see a holy wisdom that is far above anything of human understanding. God’s ways and thoughts are indeed above our ways and thoughts, so desire God more than all the riches ever known in the world and will ever be known.

I will meditate on your precepts
Don’t just read and study God’s law, but meditate on them. Think about them. Ponder them. Reflect on them. May they not be a passing thought. May reading God’s law never be cursory. May God’s law sink in and take up residence in your heart.

and fix my eyes on your ways.
And as you are walking with God; as you are meditating on God’s ways; fix your eyes on the object of your desire. When I take my wife out to eat, I am not staring and gawking at other women. That would be rude and unfaithful. My desire is for my wife and so I fix my eyes and attention on her. In the same way and much more, fix your eyes on God and His ways. Don’t be unfaithful.

I will delight in your statutes;
Delighting in God’s statues will only come through diligent study and appreciation of who God is through faith Jesus Christ. If your faith and trust is not in God through Jesus, then you are never going to truly delight in God’s ways. It’s only through understanding what God has done for you that you can appreciate what God is up to and wants for you and desires for you and commands you to do.

I will not forget your word.
Make your meditation of God and His ways a daily habit that you will not forget. Even one day off can cause our simple and weak minds to go astray. You may think you are smart and have a good memory, but when it comes to God we have the attention span of a flea. Mediate often and seek God continually.

But what if I fail?

You will fail.
You will fall short.
You will turn away from God.

Just don’t accept this sin condition of yours but rather keep running to God, for God’s mercy is great. His faithfulness is endless. His love is all encompassing. His grace is amazing.

Keep running to God and appealing to his mercy through faith in Jesus Christ, and start all over again; desiring to truly learn and desire God’s ways more than anything. Don’t take advantage of God’s faithfulness but desire God’s faithfulness with all your heart and being.

May God be praised in your learning and meditation of His holy Law.

The Pastor -|—

Post Easter vacation ramblings

Hi there…my name is Eric…

OK…enough of that…<“we all know you haven’t been around for a while”>.  I hope it doesn’t worry you that I was just talking to myself.  Maybe I need a longer post Easter vacation. Maybe I need some more coffee (which doesn’t sound like a bad idea).  Maybe I need…well…we could go on for a while here so I won’t bore you.

In any case…Easter is done (at least the day of Easter is, we are still in the Easter season) and my vacation is over.  Now I am back in the office and I was greeted with another death in the congregation.  Nothing quite like being thrown into the fire right away.  But hey…the life of a pastor.

I spent the morning attempting to clear off my desk (notice the word “attempting”) and now the call of this 70 degree day is tempting me to leave the office.

<Must…do…some…work…>

Wow…this post has turned strange very quickly.  Maybe I DO need some more coffee 🙂

Anyway…I just wanted to check in with you and share a couple things that you will be seeing here shortly:

(1) I am working on an adult class on Paul’s letter to the Romans.  I have always been intrigued with this book and decided I wanted to dive deeper into this with some people.

(2) I am continuing my preparations for my educational event that I will be attending in June at Virginia Theological Seminary.  I have a case study to write, a book to read and a couple congregational projects to do.  And this is all due on June 15.  I need to get to work.  I hope to share some insights with you here.

(3) More ponderings as a pastor (me) serving in a rural context.  Now that the program year is coming to a close in a month or so, I am hoping to do some more writing.

OK…enough rambling for now.  Hopefully you long time readers aren’t too worried about me.  And hopefully you first time readers aren’t being scared away.  I am really quite “normal” (whatever that means).

So with that…God bless your day…and I hope to see you again soon 🙂

Take care.

-edh-

Coffee shop ponderings — hospitality

Many of you know that I spend a lot of time at my favorite coffee place, Coffee Choices.  Part of the reason is because I really like coffee, especially the variety of flavors that Coffee Choices offers (Black Raspberry and Blueberry Cinnamon Swirl are my favorites).  Another part of the reason I spend so much time there is the hospitality that they practice.  When I set up camp at my favorite table by the front window on Thursdays to eat lunch and write my sermon, I never have to get up.  They always make sure my cup is full and that I have everything I need (they treat all the customers that way…not just me).  The hospitality keeps me coming back.

In the Romans text for Sunday, Paul urges the church in Rome to “practice hospitality”.  And this is more than making friends and family feel welcome in your home.  But practicing hospitality is making people feel welcome, valued, special, etc when ever and where ever you are.  If, upon my first visit to Coffee Choices, they were not hospitable, I probably would not have returned again, but because they make me feel like a valued customer I have no problem giving them my business.  And because I have developed relationships with many people down there through hospitality, I have had many fruitful and inspiring conversations.

Imagine the impact we could have on people if we showed that same hospitality to all people at all times and in all places.  What if we made people feel like they are to most valued and special person in the world.  People would stop and take notice and want to be around you.  And the more people are around you, the more opportunities you have to show the sincere love of Christ to them.  But don’t let your hospitality be for selfish reasons, as Paul says in Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere“.  And when love is sincere, people will notice.

The people down at Coffee Choices are not putting on an act to get people to come back again, their hospitality is sincere, and THAT brings me back again and again.  Let YOUR love be sincere for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

-edh-

Sunday morning prayer

I don’t know about you, but there’s something so comforting and soothing about a candle burning near by…especially when it smells like Strawberry Cream.  It almost makes me crave a Strawberries and Cream drink at Starbucks.  It’s just too bad that the Starbucks near us is being closed.  Darn it anyway.

But that aside I am enjoying a nice cool morning…with an aroma of strawberries floating in the air…giving thanks to God for another day.  And what a great day it is.  Connie and I have had a fun week with friends and a fun weekend at home with family.  My cousin and his wife renewed their vows yesterday and when we as a family get together (cousins and all) we have a great time.  I just wish I could have stayed longer last night but I had a 2 1/2 hour drive to get home.  Oh well…some time with family is better than nothing.

Anyway…last week I let my busy schedule get the best of me but not today.  I am not going to leave without praying with you this morning.  So let’s join our hearts together as fellow members of the body of Christ and offer our prayers to God.  Let us pray…

Father in heaven we praise you for your incredible love and mercy.  You offer forgiveness; you give us life; you show us your will.  But Lord God, we too often follow the ways of this world.  We too often conform to the patterns of this world.  Instead of standing up for you we take the easy way out.  Loving God, we ask for wisdom and courage to follow you so others may see our good works and give you glory.  All this dear God, we pray through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. [ Reference:  Romans 12:1-8 ]

 

 

May God richly bless your day with His abandant love and mercy.

 

Take care!

 

-edh-

Ministry model vs. Business model — Part 2

Ministry model vs Business model — Part 1

…I’m alright.  My mom called me this morning thinking something was wrong.  I did not post my usual “Sunday morning prayer” yesterday and had not posted my usual “Monday morning check in” yet today.  Sorry mom (and little sis)…I didn’t mean to worry you two.

Anyway…I am here.  Yesterday morning got a little busy and this morning has been the same.  It is hard to believe that September is right around the corner so that means Sunday school, Release Time and Confirmation is upon us.  Wow…where did the summer go?

Council meeting update
Last week I resumed talking about the business meeting model vs. ministry meeting model for my church council (See the above link for part one of this series).  In July we did some brainstorming on how we can better advance the mission of Christ.  I was very excited and encouraged about the outcome of that meeting.  I then mailed out some “homework” for the council; encouraging them to continue this ministry planning.  My hope was to discuss what they did at out August.  Unfortunately we did not get to do what I wanted to do.  It didn’t work out to start the meeting with mission planning and by the time we got to that agenda item it was getting late and people were getting restless.  I need to sit down with my president and make sure we are on the same page here.

Then today I got an email from a council member on how we need to spend more time in scripture and prayer at council meetings.  She felt we need to start our meetings reading the Bible together and praying more.  She must have been reading my mind these past few weeks and months.

So here is part of my plan to transform the Salem church council into a ministry meeting model over a business meeting model. Let me know what you think:
(1) On a piece of poster board that is hung in our meeting room, I have a list of our ministry priorities that we feel will advance the mission of Christ (this is our brainstorm list from July).  This will serve as a reminder each and every month why we really are taking time out of our busy schedules each month.

(2) The assigned council member for the month will lead the group in devotions as always.

(3)I will then lead the group in reading scripture.  Maybe the focus texts will be the lectionary texts for the upcoming Sunday.  Discussion and prayer would follow.

(4) Begin the “business” meeting portion of the ministry meeting.  This way, if the meeting starts running long, whats really important will not get the shaft.

So one of my priority do-to items this month is to sit down with my council president and share with him this plan and make sure he is on board.

What are your thoughts on this plan so far?  What would you add or do differently?

Series to be continued…

Take care and God bless!

-edh-

Coffee shop ponderings — God’s “good” plan

Here I am…posting my coffee shop ponderings from outside of Coffee Choices.  Actually…I never made it there today to write my sermon (I did make it there this morning for coffee though).  I usually start writing the sermon in my office and finish it at my coffee shop, but today was different.  I got on a roll and couldn’t stop typing.

On Sunday I am continuing my sermon series on Romans by preaching on chapter 8 verses 26-39.  I started pondering and praying about verse 28 where it says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Upon pondering this verse I started thinking how this verse is often misused (or at least used in the wrong situations).  The times I have heard this verse used is when someone is facing a devastating disaster or disease diagnosis or something else devastating.  And in times like those, Romans 8:28 is the last verse I want to hear.  If I am mourning the lost of my house and possessions because of a tornado, quoting Romans 8:28 almost sounds like that God planned this disaster so he could do something “good”.  At the moment that is not comforting.  After the fact I may be able to look back and see the good that came from that disaster, but not right now.

I think this verse is used because of our insatiable desire to explain everything.  If we can’t explain it in scientific or logical terms we chalk it up to God’s divine plan (“I am not sure why this happened, but God is going to do something good thought it; it was God’s will.”)  Telling a parent, who’s child just died, that it was God’s will is often not the right thing to say.  Or trying telling them that God will do something good though that death.  You might get an angry response in return.  But who knows how they will look at death later on down the road.

Instead, I see Romans 8:28 as a proclamation of grace.  The “good” God is working towards is nothing else than our reconciliation through Jesus Christ.  Ever since the Fall, God has been working to reconcile creation back to himself.  And it is only though faith that we can recognize this “good”.  Sometimes the “crap” of this world can cloud our faith so we cannot see God active in our lives.  But after the dust clears, then things begin to clear up.

In a simple phrase, quoted by a friend of mine on Facebook, “It’s all grace!”  And that is so true.  God IS working for good, but let’s be careful how and when we use this verse.  We might do more harm than good.  Instead, share with people how God has gotten you thought difficult times.  Talk about God’s amazing love and how he never left you when you were going to a tough time.  Let people see the “good” for themselves after the dust has cleared.

What are your thoughts on Romans 8:28…especially in the context of verses 28 – 39?  Do you think this verse often gets misused?

SIDE NOTE:
There will be no “Coffee shop ponderings” next week as I will be on vacation up north.  Actually, there might not be a whole lot of activity from me at all next week, but you never know.  In the mean time, I look forward to reading your thoughts here.  Take care and I will catch you later.

-edh-

Monday morning check in — The law at work in us

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:15-25)

Yesterday (July 6) I preached on the above text.  Actually…I am spending the summer in Romans with the congregation.  I haven’t done a preaching series for a while, but after preaching in Romans the last couple weeks, I decided to look ahead and mapped out a plan that takes us through August.  I taught an adult class on Romans a few years ago, but never spent this much time preaching in Romans.  This is going to be fun.

In the above text I italicized a couple phrases that really hit home for me.  The first one is Paul’s frustration that when he wants to do good, evil is always right there with us.  Paul goes on to lament about what a wretched man he is…who will rescue us?  “Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord”.  Paul’s frustration is also my frustration.  But what really bothers me is when we take this “law” (as Paul states) and take it to heart a little too much.  I mean…how many times have you said (or heard it said) “The devil made me do it“?  We resign ourselves to the fact that we are wretched and sinful people and give up.  We simply throw up our hands and go on sinning saying (or thinking) “I can’t help help it…I’m a sinner“.  Does this “law” at work in us give us an excuse to keep on sinning?  As Paul would say, “By no means!  We have died to sin, why do you live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2) 

We have a powerful law working against us, but it doesn’t mean we just give in and give up.  We have an awesome God that through Jesus Christ gives us eternal life.  That right there should be motivation enough to fight this law at work in ourselves for the glory of God.  God fought the hard fight for us so we may have life.  I mean…the cross was not easy.

Our fight against sin is one we can not win on our own.  We will lose many battles.  We will grow frustrated.  But “thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Thanks be to God that the war has been won.  Thanks be to God that God does not abandon us.  Thanks be to God that we are loved beyond measure.  Thanks be to God!

Next week the Romans text is chapter 8 verses 1 – 11.  This talks about living according to the Spirit verses living according to the flesh.  This should prove to be a good follow up and hopefully a source of strength and encouragement for the fight against sin.

Other stuff
It is going to be an ugly day here in SW MN.  The humidity is at 100% with a 73 degree dew point.  That makes for a tropical day.  With the early morning rain and the threat of severe weather looming, no work is being done on our ramp project today.  Currently the forms are set for the deck to be poured; we just need some nice weather for that part to proceed.  So because of that I don’t have any updated pictures.  When they start pouring the cement I will post some more pictures.  If you want to see some more pictures of the project, visit our church’s website at www.salemjackson.org and click on the “ramp construction” link.  It has been fasination watching this project but people are starting to get a little anixous to get back into the sanctuary (and I am too).  Another month or so and we will be back in. 

So with that…God bless you and have a marvelous day 🙂

-edh-