Our Father’s good pleasure

Being a pastor and a father has opened, for me,  the door to new theological understandings of our relationship with God.  This “door”, though, may be the cause of some embarrassment for my little girl when she gets older, so for now I am going to enjoy freedom from chastisement. So here I go :-)

The other night my wife and I were enjoying some quiet time together; talking and watching a little TV.  Mayah was in the next room sleeping.  Every now and then Mayah would make a little noise or a small cry but then would go back to sleep.   Finally, after a while, she started crying and crying.  We waited; thinking that she just lost her pacifier and that she would eventually find it and go back to sleep.

But she didn’t stop crying.

Connie finally said, “I think she lost her pacifier.  One of us will need to go in.”

I quickly volunteered.

When I entered her room, Mayah was in her crib on all fours crying; pacifier in her mouth.  When she saw me she raised up on her knees and reached for me.  I picked her up and cradled her in my arms and she immediately stopped crying.

Her diaper wasn’t wet
She didn’t seem cold or warm
Night light was working fine

Basically…nothing seemed to be wrong except that she just wanted to be held.  As I sat there in the rocking chair with my little girl; feeling content, happy and loved, I remember thinking: “I wonder if this is what God feels like when what his children want is to just be near Him.”

[32] “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [33] Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. [34] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  [Luke 12:32-34, ESV]

It is our Father’s good pleasure…yea…I like that.  It was my good pleasure to go in and rock my little girl to sleep; giving her the love and security she wanted at that moment.  And even more so, it is our heavenly Father’s good pleasure to do the same: to hold you in His arms and give you the kingdom.

What a Father in heaven that we have. What a treasure :-)

Don’t wait to “need” him. It is our Father’s good pleasure to hold you and love you and to give you peace whenever and wherever.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Crazy

I’m preaching on Mark 3:20-21 & 31-35 this coming Sunday (June 8).  It’s the text where Jesus’ family comes looking for him because they think he is crazy; lost his mind; gone off the deep end.

Verses 20-21 have the family seeking Jesus in order to “seize him”. An interlude is then inserted in the story where the scribes are accusing Jesus of working for Satan (the text for June 15).  The family intervention then picks up at verse 31 where they are at the door asking for Jesus to come out.

Considering what Jesus is doing one can understand, somewhat, what the family is thinking.  Jesus is challenging the authority of the day and quickly bringing condemnation on himself and those who are following him.  If Jesus were in his right mind he would abandon what he is doing in order to preserve his life.  It doesn’t make sense to knowingly bring harm upon oneself, hence the family intervention.

And when you think about, it is kind of crazy that Jesus would do what he did for sinners like you and me.  He willing endured a horrible flogging and crucifixion.  Jesus hung on a cross; suffering for hours before finally dying.  And Jesus did that for a people who daily turn their backs on him.  But Jesus did all of this that we may know forgiveness and therefore life everlasting.

Crazy

I think that is why I sometimes have a hard time believing Jesus actually did what he did for me.

But then I find myself thankful that faith is not something that can be contrived intellectually because it doesn’t make sense.  Faith in what Jesus did is something that comes from God through the Holy Spirit.  The truth of Jesus is revealed to you and me through pure grace.  And even though (and because) I am a sinner Jesus offers forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

This doesn’t make sense to the world and hence they accuse Jesus (and Christians) of being crazy.  But the crazy thing for me is not trusting Jesus because eternity is nothing to be trifled with.

So call me crazy but as for me and my household we will follow this “crazy one”; Jesus Christ.

The pastor -|—

Reflections on 10 years

Yesterday, June 1, marked my 10 year anniversary of serving Salem Lutheran Church as pastor and I continue to be amazed and thankful for what God has been doing.

On May 2, 2004 I received a phone call from the council president that the congregation voted to call me (which I later accepted, obviously).  Three weeks later on May 23 I graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  The following weekend (Memorial Day weekend) we moved into the parsonage (with the help of many people from Salem) and then on Tuesday, June 1 I sat in this very office for the first time as the pastor (in waiting ~ I was ordained on July 2) of Salem.

10 years…Wow…

…and I am still a first call pastor (I kind of like that description; it makes me feel like a young’in).

I am still trying to wrap my brain around this fact, though; that I have been here for 10 years.  Where did the time go?  To be honest, I never thought I would be here this long. A lot off first call pastors move on after 3 to 5 years but God has had different plans for me.  And I am grateful because Connie and I have enjoyed living and serving here.  And now we are grateful to be raising our daughter here.  What a blessing, but one we don’t take for granted because we know that at any time God could issue the call to go somewhere else.  In the mean time, we continue to joyfully serve and minister as directed by God.

So just for fun, I took a look back at some news stories from 2004 and included them here for your reading pleasure:
~ According to AAA, Gasoline prices set a record with an average price per gallon of $1.738. (Oh the horror of it all)
~ Janet Jackson’s infamous halftime show “wardrobe malfunction” occurs at Super Bowl XXXVIII; where the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29.
~ Ken Jennings begins his 74-game winning streak on Jeopardy (the day after I began at Salem).
~ Terry Nichols is convicted of state murder charges and being an accomplice to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
~ The corner stone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the site of the World Trade Center in New York.
~ Ronald Reagan’s funeral is held at the Washington National Cathedral.
~ The Boston Red Sox complete an historic comeback from a 0-3 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS and then goes on to win their first World Series title in 86 years.
~ War in Iraq: U.S. forces storm the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.

And…a lot has happened in my life as well (personally and professionally).
~ Salem has done some minor building projects and upgrades.
~ I started serving at Belmont Lutheran Church 1 1/2 years into my call here.
~ I have seen people return to the Lord and new disciples enter the community.
~ I have met some great friends and colleagues.
~ Dealt with conflicts.
~ Grown in my faith.
~ Welcomed my little girl into the family.
~ And God willing, planted some seeds.

I never could have imagined what God was going to do with me here and I can hardly wait to see what else God has in store.  I hope it is here at Salem and Belmont for many more years but everything is in God’s hands.

Thank you to the Salem and Belmont for your love and willingness to serve.

Thank you to the community of Jackson for making this a great place to live.

Thank you to my colleagues in the Jackson Ministerial Association for being great servants to serve with.

And thank you, God, for your faithfulness and grace.  You are an awesome God and I am excited to being serving you in the body of Christ here in Jackson.

All Praise and glory be to God forever and ever!

The pastor -|—

Forgetfulness: A prayer

Gracious God,

When Jesus’ body was broken and his blood spilled; he did it for me.  And now Jesus commands us to eat bread and drink the cup in remembrance of him; of what he did for us.

Remembrance ~ this implies, though, that we forget.  And we do. We forget about Jesus.
We forget about his love.
We forget about his sacrifice.
We forget about his faithfulness.
We forget about his suffering and death; we forget about his cross.

How could we forget such things?

but we do.  

Our sinful, evil, lustful, vengeful, despicable minds forget about the King of glory.

But you do not forget us.
May we not forget Jesus.
May we not forget all his benefits.
May we not forget about his grace.
May we not forget about the life he gives us through faith.

But here’s the cool thing, O God, your forgetfulness is even greater than ours.  When we come before you to confess our sins with all our heart we are told that our sins are far removed from us and no longer held against us.

You forgive and…

You forget
You don’t hold a grudge
You don’t dwell on our sins

O God, I am thankful for your forgetfulness and abhor my forgetfulness.

May I remember and praise you always.

Amen!

The pastor -|—

Weakness and strength: A prayer

Lord of heaven and earth,
mighty God,
loving Father…

You are more satisfying than worldly pleasures.
You are more fulfilling than worldly pursuits.
You are more precious than worldly treasures.

But, Oh Lord, I need your help!

Satan pursues me with false promises; trying to entice me to follow his ways. He pursues me with visions of grandeur; trying to tempt me to disobey you.  Satan is relentless and persistent and determined.

But as for me, O Lord…

…I am weak.

On my own I don’t stand a chance.
On my own I will be devoured by the prowling lion.
On my own I am condemned.

May I look to you and see the Way.
May I look to you and know Truth.
May I look to you and have Life.

Eternal God, compassionate and gracious; grant me strength that I may dwell in You; that I may enjoy the victory you have won through Jesus Christ. May I have the faith to cling to that crown and not to a paper crown that Satan tries to pass off as a treasure.

Thank you God for your mercy and forgiveness.  May all come to praise and worship you as their Lord and Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord and whose name I pray.

Amen

The pastor -|—

Wonderful moments

I had a wonderful moment in worship yesterday (in addition to the hearing and preaching of the Gospel).  It’s a moment that I suspected would come eventually but I was still caught by surprise when I saw it.  It was so uber cute and I’m glad I got to share it with the congregation (at least with those who were sitting along the aisle and could see).

About half way through the final hymn I got up and approached the altar to silently pray.  I thanked God for sustaining me through a busy morning (2 worship services) after a night where Mayah (my 1 year old) did not sleep much.  I asked that His holy Word would continue to work in the hearts of those who heard it this morning and I praised God for His awesomeness, love and grace.

Upon turning around to walk out my wonderful moment happened; my little girl was excitedly walking down the aisle towards me.

[Mayah just started walking this past week so we are still smitten with the cuteness of it all]

My heart melted as I got down on one knee with my arms open wide; waiting to receive my little girl.  I could see smiles cascading down the aisle of those privileged enough to be able to witness this moment. When Mayah got to me she lunged into my arms as if she could hardly wait to get there.  I scooped her up and proudly walked up the aisle with a huge smile on my face.

For me it served as another great reminder of God’s blessings in my life.  It was extremely difficult to get out of bed on Sunday morning after only sleeping a couple hours and the coffee was barely able to give me the boost I needed.  With a lot on my mind, God was faithful to send His Holy Spirit to give me what I needed to lead worship and preach the Gospel.  And to top it off (like icing on a cake), God sent my little girl down the aisle as if to say, “You are loved“.

What a moment :-)

I do feel blessed and not just because I have a wonderful little girl and loving wife, but that I have an awesome God who loves me so much.  God was faithful so that He may be glorified through this weak and tired body of mine.

So many wonderful moments and blessings all around.
What a great day.
What an awesome God!

The pastor -|—

Silence

Not a creature is stirring, not even the church bats.

For many, the silence here could be deafening but for me it is welcomed.  Release time, confirmation and Wednesday Night Live are done for the year.  My secretary doesn’t work on Wednesdays.  My cell phone is on vibrate.  The lights are off (except for the light shining through my office window). And the only potential noise is the church phone or a surprise visitor (both of which may startle me if they happen).  So for the time being I am enjoying the silence (I just wish I could fix this squeaky desk chair then all would be good).

I do have things to accomplish today (and they will get done) but this pastor needs some silence for a while:

[11] And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. [12] And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  (1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV)

[10] “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

Hmmm…God encourages silence, day dreaming and just being still.  I like that. You don’t need to be moving all the time to be doing the work of the Lord.  You don’t need to be talking all the time to be communing with God.  You don’t need to be with people all the time to be productive.  Sometimes it is just about you and God; alone, together and in silence.

But don’t take my word for it, read your Bible.

So…

Silence your phone.
Lock your door.
Hide from the world.
Resist the blinking notification lights on your phone or tablet.
Don’t respond to that text message you just got.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

You have God’s permission.

The pastor -|—