God’s Word

The Refreshing Moment of Not Being Needed

God keeps his promises. Who knew?

So, a congregation member posted a sin – rather proudly – on Facebook. I knew I had to deal with this individual; after all, it was a public sin, and one that would give major offense. (In fact, later that day I encountered a congregation member in a public area that basically exploded at me: “How could [this person] do that?!”)

However, that person contacted… my wife. And was confused why so many people were upset. And could my wife just supply some Bible verses that spoke to the situation?

And that person accepted the Bible verses. And when I visited that person two days later, I found out that God’s Word had done the work. It had convicted the person of their sin. They had repented. They expressed sorrow over their sin and taken steps to get away from that sin. I’ve got a follow-up appointment later this week to see if those steps continued to be taken, but at least as of two days after the posting… things were better.

And it’s so ridiculous. I thought it was on me to deliver Law and pronounce the weight of the sin. Sure, I rely on God’s Word for that – I had verses at the ready! – but this person didn’t need me to deliver it.

God’s Word, all by itself, was enough.

Like I said: God keeps his promises. His Word is powerful and effective. When he sends it out, it doesn’t come back to him until it’s accomplished its purpose. He doesn’t say: “God’s Word doesn’t come back until it passes through Pastor’s mouth and then does what it’s supposed to do.”

Duh, pastor. You should know this.

One thing that hadn’t happened yet, though, and one thing that I was thrilled to do: This person, when I met, was repentant. They sorrowed over their sin.

They needed forgiveness.

Oh, how awesome that was: all geared up to have to deliver Law (by far my least favorite part of the call), and instead God delivers me a person who desperately needed the Gospel. So, yes, I forgave the person of their sins.

I needed the reminder: God’s Word does the work. Not “God’s Word through Pastor’s mouth.” Sure, I get used all the time to deliver God’s messages, but it’s not me.

God’s Word does it.

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I’m Like He-Man

Prince Adam grabs the Power Sword and holds it aloft. He cries out, “By the power of Grayskull…” Streams of energy shoot forth from the sword. He is bathed in a swath of light. His muscles bulge. He grows. He changes. He becomes… He-Man! He completes the transformation and declares, “I have the power!”

He beholds the sword in his hand. “Meh,” he finishes.

Yeah. I’m pretty sure that’s never happened in any iteration of the 80’s hero. You don’t declare you have amazing power and then shrug your shoulders and say, “Whatever.”

…but what if you do? (more…)

Something I’ll never get used to:

Yesterday a member of the congregation told me: “It’s like you said last week, pastor…” and they continued to quote the sermon at me. That’s really scary.

If they had quoted the Bible, I would be proud of them. But they quoted me. I realize that this is a compliment; it means that I am communicating well and in a way that is memorable for at least this congregation member. And what they quoted is certainly biblical. The problem I have is that they used my words.

What happens if I go off the deep end? What happens if what they remember is that time I spoke the wrong thing? What happens if they take as their example my sinful weakness? It scares me.

I pray that God preserves me in faith. This is a worthy prayer and one every Christian can (and should!) pray. I pray that my Father guides me so that I don’t mislead anyone by false doctrine, nor by accidental deception. And all I can do here is continually point to Jesus, not myself. It’s not my sermon I want anyone to remember. It’s God’s truth. I want them to remember the Word.

And I suppose when I am faithful, it’s honoring and humbling that God would use my sermon to bring his truth to his people…

…but it still scares me, and I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever get used to it.

We Need to Get Busy

Lies we tell ourselves about the church:

We need to get busy

What lies do you believe about the church? Things like, “We need to grow the church. As long as we keep doing good things, the church will grow. It’s the pastor’s job.” Over the next month, we’re going to look at the early church and see what they thought of these statements. We’re going to see how they dealt with the lies. We’re going to then apply their answer to our situation today. And we’re going to confront the lies in our own lives. It might make you a little uncomfortable. It might strike a little close to home. I hope it does. I hope this gives you a chance to reflect on how you approach this thing called “church.” I hope you grow as you consider all the many ways in which you have been lied to and how those lies have seeped into your life. I hope it draws you closer to the one who has saved you from those lies and freed you to worship Him joyfully.

Today, we’re going to take a look at a lie that is very dangerous for us here at St. Luke’s. You’ve even heard it spoken here. I’ve fallen for it. “We need to get busy if we’re going to survive!” It’s easy to fall into this lie. It would have been easy for the apostles to fall into this lie. I want you to picture the situation: It’s about forty-three days after Easter. Last Thursday, Jesus ascended into heaven. He retook his throne. And now there’s about a hundred and twenty believers left. If they’re going to survive, they need to get busy! But what did they do? Let’s take a look.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”

“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.  Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen  to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (more…)

Wait… Someone Listens?!

I got a huge compliment yesterday, and it’s hard for me to really grasp it.

Yesterday we began a new sermon series: Lies we tell ourselves about church. This is especially important here for us; now that we know I’m sticking around for a while, the congregation has two inclinations: Either relax, because the pastor will handle it, or hurry up and get busy so that we can take advantage of the blessing of the pastor. I’m very thankful that the congregation is leaning toward the latter. Yet, I’ve already seen (and fallen for) a certain lie that says, “We need to get busy!”

You see, we don’t need to “get busy.” We need to get into the Word and apply it to our situation. Throughout the sermon I made that point, applying it both to our congregational life, pointing out where we — and I, personally — had failed at this in recent memory. I also applied it to individual lives, using the example of deciding whether or not to move.

Now, it’s true that I expect the congregation to listen. But when they give evidence of not only listening, but then applying God’s truth in the sermon to their lives — wow!

We’re hosting a block party in a little over a month. The man in charge of the festivities came up after the service to make some announcements (pretty normal for us) and stood up and said, “We’re going to have to put this on hold. I realized I’ve been so busy getting the block party ready, I never asked what God says about something like this. I’m going to take some time in the Bible and get back to you all next week.”

Wow!

Now, I have every confidence that we’re still going to host a block party. I also have every confidence that this study will sharpen our focus. Why are we having a block party? What’s the goal? How can we use this to give glory to God?

And even more: to have a sermon have such an immediate effect… well, it’s not what I expected, and I’m humbled God would use me in such a strong way! It is so encouraging to have someone listen and immediately display a change because of that. And even more encouraging to see this person be driven to the Bible for their answers, and not necessarily to me. My desire is not to connect people to me, after all, but to God’s Word!