But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” [Acts 7:55-56]
Stephen knew he was in trouble. He knew his life was in danger. Stephen knew that he was not getting out of this crowd alive. But he was unfazed. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he sees the reason for his faith. And I can about imagine the peace he felt, even as the people dragged him out of the city to stone him.
The reason I was drawn to this text this morning was because of a prayer request I received yesterday from a friend. He sent a group text to a few of us; asking how we should be praying for those Christians that ISIS recently captured. This has been weighing on him and wanted to know how to pray. So I sent the above text and wondered if we should be praying that those Christians see what Stephen saw and thus be strengthened and encouraged. Someone else then chimed in and suggested that we pray that the faith of those persecuted Christians have an impact on their captors.
But is there more?
I’m not sure what those Christians truly need since I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for them. I can’t imagine what I would pray for if I were in that situation or how my faith would hold up. But I like that text from Acts so I am going to pray for those Christians using that text and then pray that their faith impacts their captors and then fall in Romans 8:26…
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
…and then turn it over to God.
I don’t and can’t know what they truly need, but God does. So let’s allow the Holy Spirit to take our groanings and sighs and cries and carry them to the Lord. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for us. Let’s give it up to God and say, “May your will be done”
The Pastor -|—
Posted in Acts, Holy Spirit, Morning devotions, New Testament, Prayer, Romans
Tagged Acts 7, Faith, Morning devotions, Persecution, Prayer, Romans 8
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [Galatians 5:16-17]
We are at war.
No, I am not talking about the war on terror but it is close. This is the war against the flesh; sinful desires. And this is a war that has been going on since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden in Genesis 3. And it is a war in which Satan is relentless for he knows what he is up against: Weak human beings.
The problem for many is that they don’t realize they are at war. It is hard to fight a battle if you don’t arm yourself. But worse yet, you are not going to fight a war unless you first declare war. You need to be ready and that means knowing who your opponent is, where the war is being fought, what is at stake and what your assets are.
Opponent ~ Satan
Location ~ The flesh
What’s at stake ~ Your soul
Assets ~ Jesus
Your biggest weapon in this “war on terror” is walking in the Spirit; staying close to God in Jesus Christ. That means staying in scripture; being in prayer; living a life of worship; studying the Word; having regular fellowship with believers. If you arm yourself in such a way, you are giving yourself the upper hand, not because you are so smart or strong but rather, through faith, you are submitting to the one who already fought the battle and won the war.
That’s right, the war has already been won, but the battle still goes on. It’s a backwards way of doing things but Satan is still trying to take down as many people as he can before Jesus comes again to claim his prize once and for all. But don’t despair, God is not throwing you to the wolves in the interim. You are here to glorify God in this life and bring others to him. You’re not alone.
Fight this battle with the flesh as you walk along side the one who has won the war for you: Jesus Christ. Declare war on Satan and realize temptation is all around you. Stand strong and hold firm to hope of the resurrection.
So go into battle today, ready and willing to fight, all to the glory of God.
Praise be to God and Amen!
The Pastor -|—
Posted in Galatians, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Morning devotions, Sin, Temptation
Tagged Galatians 5, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Morning devotions, Satan, Sin, Temptation
Holy God, Advent is a season of preparation (like I need to tell you that), but I feel so unprepared.
There are so many people that need to hear the Good News of the Christ child.
There are so many hurts that need your healing touch.
There are so many lonely people that need to know your presence.
There are so many misdirected people following secular holiday idols.
I think of all of this and feel overwhelmed and therefore I feel so unprepared to meet the demands of ministry. So I lay it out on the line for you this morning:
~ I fall back; trusting that your Holy Spirit will catch me.
~ I let go; trusting that your Holy Spirit will guide me.
~ I will wait; trusting that you will do something absolutely amazing.
So maybe it is a good thing that I feel unprepared because that leaves room for you to do something through me. So I lift up to you those who don’t know Jesus, those who are hurting, those who are lonely and those who are misdirected. Prepare me to minister to them; that they may know the true joy that is Jesus Christ our Savior born to us.
And may I continue to feel unprepared.
The pastor -|—
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 -|—
Happy Pentecost Sunday!
May the Holy Spirit rush into your life and lead you to boldly speak the name of Jesus without holding back.
May the Holy Spirit give you courage to face the world as the world is so much stronger.
May the Holy Spirit remind you what Jesus taught that you may teach others.
May the Holy Spirit lead you to places that you would never dream of going.
May the Holy Spirit be your guide as it did for those first disciples.
Let us pray…
Holy and Mighty God, it is difficult to admit that we are powerless and weak. It is scary to think we are nothing but sheep in the midst of ravenous wolves. Oh God, restore our hope in you through Jesus. Strengthen our faith that we may know your peace. Open our eyes that we may see your power. And send us forth in your name. May we not rely on our ingenuity, creativity or intelligence but may we seek your wisdom in order to bring your peace into this world. Loving God, you are the restorer of creation, not us. May we be your instruments and give glory to your name. Now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, Oh God, our Rock, Redeemer and Restorer, Amen.
God bless you this day and always :-)
The pastor -|—
I tell you…this adoption journey has been an incredible faith journey. The longer we wait the more fervent my prayers become. The more money we spend the more I turn to God for the faith to be patient and to trust. The more we prepare our home for a child the more excited I become. The more I talk about this the more I wonder what kind of father I will be.
In my last post about my adoption story I mentioned that I was a little hesitant about diving in; which was the complete opposite of how my wife felt. I worried about this or that. I had a hard time with trying to figure out how we were going to pay for this. I was nervous about some of the logistics. Now…I can hardly wait until the day that I can be referred to as dad. Even to type that word, “dad”, seems strange when it refers to me. There’s a part of me that thought that it would never happen. And even though that part of me was saddened by that potential future I was starting to grow accustomed to it. But now…I can’t imagine traveling another road; I can’t image a future where I am not called dad.
And that feeling; that confidence that God has chosen a child for us out there…somewhere…makes this an incredible faith journey. I keep praying and asking God “When?“; “How long, O Lord? How long?“; “How will this be?” I lift up my fears, questions, concerns; and eventually I feel this sense that God understands and gives me that comforting embrace that says, “Be patient my child; be patient“. It is something that I can’t adequately describe but maybe you know what I am talking about.
And maybe this wait is part of God’s plan in shaping me; in refining me; in preparing me for fatherhood (Wow…really strange to type “fatherhood”). Whatever the case, I can’t imagine going through this process without my relationship with God through Jesus. I can’t imagine trying to navigate the plethora of paperwork and phone calls and planning and applications without God. I can’t imagine trying to plan and figure out every last detail without the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I can’t imagine not having God to lift my voice to.
So the waiting continues and this potential father is super excited. My life will change in countless ways but I am so ready to face those countless changes. As scary as it is going to be I am so ready to be called, “Dad”.
Praise be to God!
The pastor (and potential father) -|—
We tried something new yesterday at Salem. Shocking…Lutherans trying something new. Wow :)
Anyway…what we did for the first time was have coffee fellowship time BEFORE worship. I know that this is not a revolutionary thing as I have experienced this at other churches in the past, but it was new for us. And from what I heard from a number of people this was a big hit.
[By the way…I take no credit for this idea. I wish I could.]
When people arrived they seemed pleasantly surprised by the crowd in our small narthex. When I told them about the coffee time a smile quickly formed on their face :) Many people grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to visit. Before long there was a holy buzz in the narthex. People were talking and laughing. One of the cool things I noticed was that there were people participating in this holy buzz that normally don’t stay after worship for coffee fellowship time. That put a smile on my face :)
At about 10:10 a.m. (worship begins at 10:15) I began to wonder how I was going to break up this holy buzz. I almost wanted to have worship out there in the narthex (but there were people in the sanctuary waiting to begin). So I walked inside; waited for the organist to stop playing; and I starting talking. People quickly filed in as I shared the morning announcements. It was a smooth transition.
As worship continued I quickly noticed something else (something others shared with me later). There was a different kind of “energy” in the sanctuary. It’s hard to explain but that pre-worship holy buzz drifted into the sanctuary and something happened. One person said, “It felt warm“, and I would agree. Following worship some people continued to hang around in the narthex for another cup of coffee and another quick treat.
More holy buzz.
All in all it was a great morning.
I think it is so easy to take Christian fellowship for granted. Worship, scripture reading and prayer are important and essential but so is taking time to visit and listen to people. I know we can not recreate last Sunday but I think it is safe to say that pre-worship fellowship time is going to continue…and definitely with my blessing.