Month: February 2013

I’m so glad it’s not my job to create faith.

Last week we started the next round of Bible Information Class, the usual gateway into membership for our church. I use a program that’s designed to run thirteen sessions, making it long enough to be a commitment but hopefully not so long as to cause a problem. As per usual, I had several people express solid interest.

Tuesday night… three people show. All of them already members.

Sigh. We’ve been through this before, you know. Oddly enough, I didn’t get too down. I asked the three if they’d be willing to skip this week; I’d reapproach those who had expressed interest, and next week we’d try again and if it was just these three, we’d just move forward.

…I’m now scheduled to teach three separate sessions this coming week.

A young woman who wanted to come has family stuff starting right when the class was intended to start. Can I meet at a separate time? First off, I know this young woman’s family – she’s not making an excuse. (Or if she is, it’s an excuse backed up by fact. Her mom does stuff like this.) Well, OK. So I’m meeting separately with her. Oh, and she’s bringing three friends with her now. So instead of one young woman in the evening for the sessions, I’ve got four teens coming in the afternoon. Get the feeling God’s laughing?

One gentleman who’d expressed interest in coming… his work schedule is erratic. He works a manual labor job where you work until you’re done, which means he really can’t commit to anything regularly in the evening. What do you know? He approached me today in church and asked if we could meet in the mornings.

Oh, and three more non-members have approached and asked if it was too late to join the evening sessions.

So, this week we start a triple-whammy of Bible Information Classes. During Lent. Oh, also during a pretty rigorous all-member-visit.

Which means God is blessing me and laughing at me and handing more people saying, “Hey. These are people I’ve chosen. Teach them about Jesus. Teach and baptize and show them what I’ve done for them.” And that always happens in God’s timing – it certainly doesn’t happen in mine!

It also means I’m going to need wisdom in balancing all my responsibilities. Thankfully I’ve got a wife who both understands my duties – both as a pastor and as a husband and father. She’s not above taking out the rolling pin and beaning me across the head if she needs to. And sometimes I need that.

Not everything is sunny and cheery here, of course. We’ve still got one man very angry for me standing on God’s Word. (Oh, and he’s being petulant, too! Joy!) Some people are really resisting the every-member-visit and I’m concerned what the ramifications may be. I suspect I’ll be posting more on that as it develops, but in short the every-member-visit will include some parts on God’s Word being the only guide for life and faith. I have a suspicion that’s going to rub some people the wrong way. (For those who are WELS reading this, our congregation is not using the Synod materials for reasons specific to our congregation.) We recently closed our child care and are once again floundering for identity.

Yet, even in these problems, even in these struggles, God laughs and brings his people to him. He gathers his own, no matter where they are.

And if he uses me to do it? How awesome is that?

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Demons at the Teen Lock-In

You know what’s fun? Engaging teens where they’re at and in a subject they’re already interested in.

Devotion. Midnight. Teen lock-in. They’ve already gotten amazing nachos. They’ve imbibed deeply of home-made shakes. They’ve watched A Goofy Movie and played Rock Band and pool. And now, I gather them in front of a projector screen and play the following movie:

I ask: “Let’s pretend that was real. Let’s pretend it’s not faked. What could it be?”

Spirits.

Ghosts.

Poltergeists.

All good answers. I then ask: What does the Bible say it could be? Is there such a thing as ghosts? Ah, but “The body returns to dust, and the spirit to God who gave it.” We talked about how God immediately judges and sends to heaven or hell – no such thing as ghosts, at least not the way most people think of them.

But what could it be then, if it was real?

Demons?

Let’s watch another video.

“What was that?”

Kids are still busy freaking out. OK, wait a minute, and ask again. “What was that?”

“It was supposed to be a demon!”

Think about how powerful angels are. In the Old Testament, one angel – one! – destroyed an army of 10,000. That’s power. And demons are nothing more than fallen angels. They have that much power.

And they want to destroy you.

Why would they scare you?

They want to tear you away from your faith, and fear is a good way to do that. They want you to believe in ghosts. Why? So they can convince you of lies and eventually reject all comfort that God brings.

If it was you against a demon, one-on-one, who would win?

Yeah, you’re right. Not you. Unless…

Every time Jesus fought against a demon, who won? Yeah. Legion? History. Demon in a little boy? Gone for good. Demon in an old man? Toast. The serpent that Jesus came to crush? He’s flattened. The demons are already defeated. Jesus came to destroy the power of the Devil and all his followers. He claimed you for his own when he died on the cross – so they have no hold on you. You belong to Jesus, and he’s more powerful than they are! They’re on chains. They can go this far, no farther! Your only risk is if you wander inside their range, and that’s what they try to do when they frighten you.

But demons aren’t they only ones out there. Watch this video.

What was that supposed to be?

How do you know it was an angel? Because it was pretty, huh? It was bright?

You know, the Devil masquerades as an angel of light. How do you tell the difference?

Yep. By what they say. Does it match what God’s Word says? Does he accept worship from you or direct you to worship Jesus?

Good.

One more video. I’ll warn you, it’s intense. Imagine you’re the one filming this. What should you do?

Yes. Pray. Awesome. Turn to God for help. God says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and affective. Are you righteous?

No?

What has Jesus made you? That’s right. He took your sins away. You’re perfect in God’s sight. You are righteous, so your prayers are powerful and affective. Use that!

Get together with other mature Christians who will have your back!

Don’t be alone. You’re never alone.

 

And here I got very quiet.

 

You know, you’re probably never going to face down a demon like that. More often, they’ll whisper lies in your ears. They’ll try to convince you you’re alone. They’ll tell you that you’re in pain that no one else has ever dealt with. They’ll tell you lies. Don’t believe them.

You are not alone. Jesus stands with you. You are not alone. No demon or devil, no power can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

You are not alone. You’ve been given a Christian family. You’re facing demons? Call me. Text me. Use me. Use the teen leader.

You are not alone. Don’t believe that lie.

 

And when I led the prayer… the kids that usually are so cool, so aloof, they came up to me. They trembled.

And I won’t report the conversations that followed.

Look, demons are real. They are very real and they lie to us all the time.

You. You are not alone. Jesus gives these promises to you as well. Nothing can separate you from him. Don’t believe the lies.

 

**As a note, I’m fairly certain that all these videos I posted and used are faked. I made that clear to the teens — but then, for discussion’s sake, I asked, “What if this were real? What then?”

Naw, we can ignore that part of God’s Word.

Well, it’s finally happened.

A church councilman approached me today. In short, his request came down to this: “We need the church to grow, but you’re scaring them away by sticking to what you say the Bible says.”

“This is what the Bible says. See? Here are the verses.”

“That’s only your interpretation.”

There’s a lot involved and a fair amount of history behind this man’s issues. However, it boils down to: “Pastor, you did something that offended a visitor and she’s never coming back. Change what you do so that we can have more people in the church.” (more…)