Month: October 2012

Don’t Be Surprised.

Mark 13:5-11 5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. .

Don’t be surprised!

  1. Everyone is going to have pain.
  2. You’re going to have pain.


When the Preacher Doesn’t Pay Attention to his Own Sermon…

This is not a good time to lose your train of thought.

Yesterday I slipped into the sacristy as the congregation sang the last verse of the pre-sermon hymn. I grabbed a sip of juice from the glass my wife left for me. I closed my eyes to pray for blessing on the sermon as I usually do.

No prayer came.

Instead, I saw that empty back pew. The pew where the older teens usually sit when they’re at church. The pew that should have been filled, based on what several teens had told me.

It stuck in my craw. I had to physically shake the thought out of my head. Now was not the time to ponder. Now was the moment to concentrate, to focus my thoughts so I could bring God’s Word to God’s people that were present. It does no good to preach at people who aren’t there – and in fact, it does quite a bit of harm. (more…)

What do you withhold from God?

Genesis 22:1-19 22        Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.


God keeps his promises… Right? (Part 7) (more…)

You can change church!

Look! Interactive!

Social media is inherently interactive. You can choose to make church interactive, or you can resign yourself to seeing a generation missing for decades to come. By “interactive” I mean someone’s participation has the ability to shape the content of the experience itself. – Leonard Sweet,  Viral

A lot of things in Viral really got me thinking, and this passage (and what follows and precedes it) struck me hard. Church really isn’t interactive the way we do it in my congregation. At least, the worship service isn’t. A lot of other things are, but not the worship service. It’s participatory, sure – the congregation sings, we speak certain things together, we all recite the creed and pray the Lord’s Prayer. But participating and interacting are two different things.

Can I somehow make a worship service an interactive experience? (more…)


Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival
by Leonard Sweet

Have you noticed that our culture has changed? Sure, it’s been in a state of upheaval about every decade for quite a while, but there’s something… different about the upcoming generation.

Sweet has noticed the difference. This book is incredibly useful for those who want to figure out the differences and how to harness them. Rather than slipping into what could have been an easy, “The next generation rocks and here’s why!” or “The next generation is going to have to shape up or have a crappy world,” Sweet walks a very good middle ground showing the strengths and weaknesses of the younger generation.

Sweet proposes two “types” of people: Gutenbergers and Googlers. Gutenbergers prefer paper books and logic. They prefer being told how it is. Googlers, in contrast, live technology and prefer stories. He’s very clear in presenting the two groups as points along a spectrum and provides a few tools to discover where you are. I happen to straddle the line but lean Googler. Sweet also points out that this isn’t a pure generational divide either; there are plenty of younger people that are Gutenbergers even as there are plenty of older folks who are Googlers.

As I mentioned, the book is very useful in differentiating and identifying differing characteristics that exist within a normal congregation. It also helps to pull apart some of the tangle that exists when the two groups interact. It gives some great tips for involving Googlers in a Gutenberger congregation that I’ll be using. (more…)

Sarah holds laughter in her arms.

Genesis 21:1-7             Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”


God keeps his promises… right? (Part 6) (more…)

Body Parts at the Pot Luck

Learn this very important lesson: Never stand between a Lutheran and food.

Today we had that greatest of Lutheran traditions: the pot luck. Everyone brought a dish to pass. A member of the church purchased fried chicken for the main dish. and there were scads of “healthy” food. I may or may not have had around a dozen devilled eggs.

Once again I looked around the fellowship hall and saw my congregation interacting with one another and I was blown away by how blessed I am. My congregation rocks.

And today was a neat day. Through a combination of factors, the teens returned today. Over the summer, many weren’t around. Before that, many of the older teens (now out of high school) had been… sporadic at best. This week God chuckled as he brought together a number of good things and we had a number of teens unexpectedly return.

It was so awesome looking around my congregation. Here’s a table of… mature folks eating calmly with smiles. Here’s a table with some moms all chatting while their kids yell random things. And over there are bunch of teens are running around. It added a touch of crazy to the proceedings that I welcomed.

It worked out that, as they are wont to do, the teens all sat together and ended up being the bulk of a team for Bible Jeopardy as we waited for someone to pick up the chicken. They did a great job and actually beat the mostly-adult team.

Teens are a gift to God’s church. They’re not the future of the church. They’re today. They are a gift today. (more…)

Abraham Laughs

Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22 17  When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.


Bible. Bacon. Good.

Men sat around talking about beauty aids. And by beauty aids, I mean beer. Just another Saturday morning at my congregation.

Well, not really. This was new for all of us. Saturday was our first monthly men’s Bible breakfast. The idea is fairly simple: Offer breakfast. Lots of good, terribly food. Have some fun. Have a practical Bible study. Go home fed and nourished in body and soul.

I arrived at the church kitchen, ready to cook my contribution of hash browns, at about seven-thirty. That’s a good hour before we’re supposed to start eating; I figured I’d be the first one there. No dice — I was the fifth one there! Four other men (one of them a teenager) eager to get this party started, already getting going with bacon and pancakes and making sure the eggs will be good to go.

I set up the computer and projector in the center of a U of tables and paused the slideshow on the first image:

The men who were making breakfast were… intrigued. Especially when I told them that the Bible study would concern that picture.  (more…)

Abraham takes matters into his own hands.

Genesis 16:1-16 16            Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

6 “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now with child

and you will have a son.

You shall name him Ishmael,

for the Lord has heard of your misery.

12    He will be a wild donkey of a man;

his hand will be against everyone

and everyone’s hand against him,

and he will live in hostility

toward all his brothers.”

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.