Worth Nothing

Melting way in a storm

This is what I am now. Broken. And this is what I should be. My name is Gomer. I wasn’t always this filth. Once I was happy.

The day of my wedding. It hurts to remember it now. The rabbi pronounced us married. And I turned to my husband. My new husband. Hosea. You should have seen his smile. He was so in love with me. He had built me a home. Built us a home. He was a man of God. He always treated me so, so well. He loved me just because I was his.

And then I thought I found someone better. I noticed another man who was taller than Hosea. Better looking. And he treated me well, too, when we’d meet in the street. And when Hosea held me, I’d pretend I was in this other man’s arms. It was just my imagination. It didn’t matter. And then I went into the other man’s arms.

I left Hosea. I left the man who had smiled so much on our wedding day. I left him for someone else. And it was good. The other man prized me. For a while. And then he decided he wanted someone else. And I was. I was alone.

It was better with Hosea. But I can’t go back. I can’t dirty him with what I’ve done. So I dwell in the ruins. I’m not good enough for him. I’m not good enough for his love. I’m not good enough for his smile. I am broken. I sell myself, but I know what I’m worth. Nothing. (more…)

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A Rest in the Wood Between Worlds

bright daylight environment forest

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

The grass cradled my crumbled form. Dogs panted nearby, the sun illuminating their golden coats. My seven-year old son played happily, adding his glorious sounds.

I rested.

I do not know how long I slept on that peaceful hillside. The voice woke me. “The woods between worlds has welcomed you, but you must return to face what you left behind.”

I sat up. The dogs reclined on the hillside. My son was sitting, staring off into nothing like he needed a nap.

And the church lay up the hill. Back in reality.

I do not know where the voice came from. I do not know who spoke it, though I suspected Aslan.

I did not want to go back.

Back to disaster. (more…)

Review: Domesticated Jesus

Domesticated Jesus
by Harry L. Kraus Jr.

We’ve domesticated Jesus. We’ve made him a small, tame god that’s not able to protect us. We’ve made ourselves big and him small. But a domesticated Jesus isn’t worth our praise. He’s not worth our time. And here’s the problem: The real Jesus isn’t small. He is a mighty God that does protect us! In Domesticated Jesus, Harry Kraus looks at this abomination we commit ever day of our lives, who Jesus really is, and what we can do about it.

What I thought I was getting: A book that would look at how we domesticate Jesus, show us how Jesus isn’t domesticated, and that the real Jesus is so much better.

What I got: A book that touches on how we domesticate Jesus, and how we can make sure we don’t domesticate him in our lives. (more…)

No Church For You!

Whew. Worship was canceled today. Kind of.

All week I’ve been struggling with dizziness. For the most part it was just an annoyance, but yesterday (Saturday) it was bad enough I canceled all my appointments. I was able to do plenty of office work, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I was frustrated. I don’t like being the one canceling. (Though, as has been noted, I rarely cry if someone cancels on me!)

And then… this morning.

I was hoping that the dizziness would be like most pastors’ illnesses: Maybe bad on Saturday, but fine on Sunday. Whether it’s God working to make sure his people hear his Word, or just adrenaline, I’m usually fine on Sunday mornings. When I got up this morning, that’s what it looked like.

Good. There’s lots to do today. Choir, then worship, then Bible study, and then a new member class. All of it good, but a lot to do and much more difficult if I can’t stand up because the world is spinning. (more…)

Let me just hide in this box for a bit…

photography of person peeking

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

So he canceled on me. Again.

And the prospect I went to visit in the hospital was sleeping, so I didn’t get to see her.

And I’m sitting here, thinking about how I’m not able to visit people, and I’m…

…well, I’m happy, all right? Relieved wouldn’t be inaccurate. I’m content to sit in my office a little longer and do a little more work on the laptop, and now I suddenly have about twenty minutes that I don’t have to be actively involved with something before my next appointment shows up here. (And this person doesn’t appear to be canceling.)

This is me: The pastor that doesn’t want to people. (more…)

Review: Peter

Peter: Bold Disciple
by Stephen M. Luchterhand

Peter walked on water. He denied Jesus. He was the rock. He was the leader. He lived with Jesus and knew him so well. In Peter, Stephen Luchterhand walks through the big moments of Peter’s life that we know about from Scripture, showing him for the sinful man he was who learned to depend on Jesus.

While Luchterhand’s prose style didn’t overly arrest me, his descriptions and settings are effective. In particular, his retelling of Peter walking on water worked very well, as well as Peter’s initial call. Writing Peter’s life story in such a small space presents a challenge: Do you pick highlights, or do you try to tell everything quickly? I think Luchterhand chose well by picking highlights to focus on, while giving some good summary statements for “the other stuff.”

The book did leave an effect on me, though. I think next summer I’ll be doing a sermon series on Peter! He is a fragile stone, and we can learn much from how Jesus treated this brash and broken man. Luchterhand is not afraid to show Peter’s sin and point to how Jesus reached out to him and forgave him.

If you’re looking for a quick primer on Peter’s life, this is a great book to grab. Go for it!

Review: Echo

Echo
By Jonathan Fisk

Christianity isn’t something you do. It’s not something you try to become. It is something that has been done, and that truth echoes through eternity. In Echo, Jonathan Fisk takes the reader through the core truths of Christianity, these truths that echo through all of history. He lays out the Ten Important Things About Being Creation, the Three Elements of the Gospel, the Five Results of the Gospel, and the Seven Edges of Christian Holification. Through it all, he shows how this is unbroken truth worth repeating – again.

First off, if you read through those numbers – 10 things, 3 things, 5 things, 7 things, and you happen to have grown up in a household that used Luther’s Small Catechism, you might realize what this book really is.

First, Fisk walks through the Ten Commandments. Then he walks through the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed. Then he walks through the five elements of the last article of the Creed. Then he walks through the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

However, don’t think this is a boring book. This is not your average catechism class. (First off, while he does address the Sacraments, that’s not the focus of the book.) (more…)

Ouch.

One of the reasons my professional reading has slowed down is that I’m purposely taking in more video content. As I grow in my professional life, I want to learn in as many ways as possible. I will often take in videos of others pastors’ sermons. I want to grow in my preaching ability, and this is one way to do it. And this morning, I watched this video:

Ouch.

This one hurt me. A lot.

In case you aren’t able to watch the video, here’s how it begins: The pastor asks, “Have you ever seen Matthew 18 happen? Have you ever belonged to a church where they actually followed this part of the Bible?”

Ouch.

He related a story where a pastor said they would start keeping Matthew 18, and his church asked him to leave. Because it’s scary.

So, what’s Matthew 18?

When your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault. Just between the two of you. Not judging him, but because you love him. Because you don’t want him going to hell, because he has chosen to love his sin and deny what God says about his sin. If he listens… show him Jesus.

And if he still says his sin is more valuable, go with one or two others. Show him that you’re not the weirdo here. Show him that what he’s doing is that serious. And if he listens… show him Jesus.

And if he still says no, I want this sin more than I want forgiveness, I want what I get with this sin more than I want Jesus’s promises of heaven, I value this sin more than I value God himself, then go and tell the church. Mourn over this person. Ask if anyone has more information, or has a connection that they can talk to this person. And if that person listens… show him Jesus.

But if he still doesn’t listen, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. And how did Jesus treat them? He loved them. He spent time with them. But he never, ever let them think that they were good with God when they weren’t. The goal was always, always to put them in touch with forgiveness.

And as this sermon went on, I thought of… this man. That woman. These people.

I have failed. This shepherd has failed over and over again. I have run away from being a good shepherd. I’ve said I was too busy. Or I knew how it would end. I have let people slip away from God’s Word. I have allowed people to think that their sin and their Savior can be held in the same hands and loved in the same heart.

And in this sermon, I was the one called to repentance. I have not loved the people our God has given me to love. I have loved approval and business and praise more than I’ve loved the souls that Jesus died for.

I have sinned.

And as I sit here typing, my first impulse is to say, “And I’m going to do better.”

But… that’s putting the fruit before the vine.

Doing better isn’t wrong. Wanting to serve God well is certainly good. But before I am enabled to do that… I need God’s forgiveness. Confession isn’t just admitting that what I have done is wrong.

It is seeing that Jesus did better for me. He obeyed for me. And he died for me.

I need to go spend some time with my Savior and see this miracle.

And then… then, when I know how loved I am, when I see that I am forgiven that much, when I am empowered to see how loved these others are…

…then, and only then, can fruit come. Only then can I share Jesus.

Review: Never Forsaken

Never Forsaken: God’s Mercy in the Midst of Miscarriage
by Kathryn Ziegler Weber

I wept over this book.

Nine women tell the stories of their miscarriages. Each chapter features a different woman’s story with a different focus. One chapter talks about dealing with the question, “Why?” Another talks about shame. Another talks about dealing with your own sins in lashing out while grieving. Another talks about how to talk about miscarriage with others. Every chapter ends with an excellent three-paragraph summation and an in-depth Bible study that takes the reader deeper. The book holds several appendices as well, including a worship service memorial for use by grieving families, Martin Luther’s words to parents of stillborn children, and suggestions for further Bible readings and prayers.

If you are a pastor or in charge of a church library, you need to get this book for the use of your members who face this trial. If you are a parent who struggles with grief from a miscarriage, I highly recommend you read this book. (more…)

“It brings tears to my eyes.”

 

photo of men having conversation

Apparently there are no pictures of two people just talking in a restaurant; every pic is either a business meeting or a date! 

He came in to church yesterday wearing a fedora. He actually looked pretty good in it, like he was about to go out swing dancing or something. I’d never seen him before, but he looked young – I’d guess older teens. I learned later he was 21.

I converted from Roman Catholicism, but my Lutheran church is too liberal,” he told me as he entered. “I did some research and saw that you were more conservative. So I thought I’d give you a try.”

Today we sat together over supper at a restaurant and chatted.

I was Roman. Traditional Roman,” he told me over chili-glazed brussel sprouts. “We rejected Vatican II. And I was really into it. I was at seminary to become a priest. But as I read more and more, I realized I couldn’t do it all. There was always this uncertainty. But I had some friends who had left the Roman church to become Eastern Orthodox. So I left seminary and tried that for a while. It was basically the same thing. And then I was Baptist, but they just kept pushing rules, too. And then I discovered Lutheranism.” (more…)