Month: January 2012

Volleyball Fellowship

Bella plays volleyball better than I do. And if you understand that sentence, there is little I can do to help you.

The truth is, I’m not much on playing sports in general. I don’t have the physical strength nor the coordination, and I’m not terribly invested in developing those traits. I enjoy watching sports. I enjoy yelling at the tv with friends and cheering on the local grade school teams. Playing though? Just not my thing.

So why was my face smashed by a volleyball yesterday?

Ah, fellowship. For good Lutherans, it usually involves food that make most nutritionists weep. This time around, it involves a net and a volleyball. We’ve got four churches in fellowship in Kenosha, and these churches share a volleyball league. My little church has fielded two teams, and I happen to play on one of them. I’m certainly far from the strongest link, but I’m happy to say our team is more interested in laughter than winning. We’ve lost every game thus far, but in general the team seems ok with that.

And I’m there to just have fun with the congregation members. It’s a weekly thing and well worth my time. Working together in something that does not carry a lot of weight brings a certain joy and closeness. Plus, it’s just fun playing when winning doesn’t matter.

The entire league is a relaxed way of helping the members of the churches meet each other and see that we’re not in competition. Well, maybe we’d like to win a game, but it really is a friendly game. This is huge, in particular for my church, where there is an attitude of “us vs. them.” The other pastors and I are attempting to work together for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom while maintaining the distinct personalities of each congregation. The volleyball league is simply one way to do that.

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We’re not done here .

Mark 1:14-20 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

 

We’re not done here.

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I’m not an evangelist.

Yep. That's a reaction I've had!

On the road to becoming a pastor, seminary students are given a few assessments. In that amount of time, they usually get a good feel for where their talents lie. And one thing became apparent in both for me: I’m not an evangelist. I don’t have a fire to get out there and share Jesus with others. Frankly, it’s scary!

And yet… God laughs. Yesterday, by God’s grace alone, five adults stood in front of church. I was blessed to confirm them and welcome them into communicant fellowship. God had used me to welcome them to thirteen sessions to look more closely at what the Bible teaches. (Incidentally, I’ve avoided calling it a class or a study, as those words can often have negative connotations.) And… the Word works. That’s all there is to it: The Word works. The Holy Spirit used his Word to turn hearts and convince souls that Jesus died for them. That in baptism they were born again. That in the Holy Supper they will get to taste and see that the Lord is good! (more…)

I’d like you to meet Jesus.

John 1:43-51 43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

 

I’d like you to meet Jesus.

  1. Come and see
  2. You will see

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Religion is Bogus

Last week, one of the teens sent me a message on Facebook. “Hey Pastor what do you think of this?” He then linked me to the following video:

I watched the video. I considered. The video was expressing something very common, though I’m guessing many teens would never state it so eloquently. They might not even be able to put it into words, but now this video has given voice. It’s been watched over and over again. And so… this teen wanted to know my take. What did I think?

I didn’t answer him. I sent a return note saying that it was worth considering. (more…)

Do you have the appendix of the body of Christ in your congregation?

I Corinthians 12:7-11 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

 

One body, many parts

  1. Every gift is advantageous to the body.
  2. Every gift is advantageous to the parts! (more…)

Am I doing something wrong?

Am I doing something wrong?  I guess I find myself asking that question now.  This week I was feeling very nervous.  I had planned on giving a catechism review test on the commandments.  I spent an entire class period reviewing with them.  I told them exactly what would be on the test.  I wrote a test that I thought they all had a very good chance of doing well.  In many ways I knew that the kids knew the answers, but most of them failed to show it very well.  (more…)

“I don’t have the qualifications necessary to untie a shoe.”

Mark 1:4-11 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

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It’s only a sermon… it’s only a sermon… it’s only a sermon…

No, I never preach based on anything but the Bible. And the blog has yet to apear as an illustration. I suppose anything can change though, huh?

On an average week, I still get nervous delivering the sermon. I’m bringing God’s Word to his people. I’m proclaiming truth that is a precious gift, and I don’t want to mess it up! This is a huge weekly responsibility. I’m very thankful I can take refuge in prayer immediately before sermon delivery to ask for God’s guidance — as well as his forgiveness for anything I end up messing up.

Yet, tomorrow is coming. Tomorrow, I will preach again. It’s only a sermon. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Roughly every quarter I attend a pastors’ conference. It’s a chance for continuing education and mutual encouragement. I look forward to this chance to spend time with people who have similar frustrations and similar joys. It’s a chance to ask for advice and celebrate with others in the good things God has given.

At a normal conference, we join together for a worship service. Then, we get three scholarly papers on a unified topic. The first paper is exegetical — in other words, it digs into Scripture to see what it says about the topic. The next paper will be historical; it investigates how the church has approached this topic, whether right or wrong. The last paper is practical; all right, how do I as a pastor today use what God tells me about this topic? It may sound boring to some, but for us it’s typically a good chance to grow in a way we don’t get in our normal day-to-day ministries. And this… this is a good thing!

Except… I’m the new guy. (more…)

Be Amazed.

Luke 2:25-40 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29    “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you now dismiss your servant in peace.

30    For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31       which you have prepared in the sight of all people,

32    a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

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