Prayer

Prayer Answered

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Yesterday I prayed that God would remove my head from my ass.

God does what is best.

Today we had a lunch. And what a lunch it was. Our entire cafeteria was set to accommodate sixty-four people. Several ladies were ready with their pasta and rather tasty meatballs. And in worship we had…

…we had twenty-six people. A low week for us lately. Instead of having more people in worship for our big event, we had less people than usual. On the other hand, we did have a handful of visitors.

Only one of whom had heard we had a special thing going on. (more…)

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Heresy on Vacation

This to me says “Vacation!”

“The only answer is abortion.”

On this particular vacation, I made it my aim to read. I brought a bevy of books with me to a secluded location, cut myself off from the internet, and simply enjoyed life.

I only read one of the books I brought with.

One day while on vacation, my Bride and I ventured to the local Goodwill. We had taken our family to a place… well, not known for books. I wanted to browse the bookshelves here, and didn’t expect to find a whole lot. We returned to our vacation home with ten new volumes.

We’d found some little treasures. A hardback French translation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, purchased to use as a gift for a friend who delights in French. My Father’s Dragon, a delight of a children’s book, for my Bride’s mother. For me, Me, Myself, and Bob, Phil Vischer’s autobiography. I ripped through that one in about twenty-four hours; it’s a great account of how chasing your dream or your ministry is not chasing after Jesus. Vischer was brought to recognize this and writes about it at length near the end. I recommend the last few chapters all by themselves for some sobering and well-grounded thoughts.

Well worth it if you find this hanging around somewhere.

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It’s not my church.

I have an imagination. Sometimes that’s a blessing. I love making up stories. God has given me the ability to tell his stories in a way that people hear “story” and not “boring Sunday school,” and so they learn more about the Bible. Imagination is a good thing.

…and then it’s not.

This past week, I had two related meetings. Both of them were high stressors for me — to the point that I wasted two days this past week, not able to do any office work, not able to visit anyone, because my head was in those meetings and mentally preparing and bracing myself. I do not exaggerate when I say: If these meetings went badly, this congregation might not make it to the end of 2013. And my brain decided the best thing to do was to make that worst case scenario the most likely scenario.

And that’s when imagination is a bad thing.  (more…)

I’ve got backup.

People pray for me. That blows me away.

I mentioned in Bible study today, after church, that it hit me during church. “Sure, it was a pre-written prayer. But in it, you all prayed for me. And that blew me away.”

And a woman in the Bible study shrugged and said, “Every day I pray for my pastor, my church, and my synod.”

Whoa.

They say – they being the Bible here, which means the “they” in this case is God, which isn’t really a they – I think daylight savings time is getting to me – they say that one of the purposes of gathering with other Christians to worship is simple and necessary encouragement. And this was incredible encouragement. I’m important enough that others are routinely lifting me up before God’s eyes and refusing to let him forget me?

Whoa.

It came to me as we were discussing this at Bible study, but I think the analogy is true.

When you find out others are praying for you, it’s like running into battle. You’re on your white charger, blade held high, screaming at the enemy as you race toward the oncoming tide of terrible, dark forces. You feel alone.

And then you realize that there is an army chasing after you, backing you up. A tidal wave of valiant, honorable troops backing you up.

And that is what prayer for another person is. It is backing them up on the field of battle. They are not alone, though they may feel it.

And at least some in my congregation are backing me up. They’re praying for me. And that is humbling. And scary. Me? I’m nothing! I’m just some guy!

It’s funny… right now in that same Bible study we’re reading through the book of Esther. As Queen Esther contemplates risking her life to do the right thing, her cousin Mordecai says, “And who knows but that you were put in your royal position for such a time as this?”

Who was Esther? Just some girl. She was blessed with beauty. She was blessed with wisdom. She was blessed to be put in the right place at the right time. But in the end… she was just some girl that God used to rescue his people from annihilation.

I’m just some guy, but God has placed me here in this congregation at this time. I shepherd his flock – for now, at least. Unless Jesus comes again, another will come after me, just as many preceded me.

But for now, the congregation supports me. And that still blows me away.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to this.

Wait — God answers prayers?!

My prayer looks nowhere near as stylish.

Who would have thought?

You’d expect a pastor to know this already. You’d expect a pastor to get it. Silly, stupid, sinful me. God hears and answers prayers.

I’m not a fan of council meetings. They can get rather contentious here. There’s a lot of history that predates my time (even of life) here that makes for some heated gatherings. There are certain issues that need to be dealt with on a council level, and the men involved don’t always see eye-to-eye. It’s gotten to the point where I would rather knock on doors and ask people what they think of Jesus than have a council meeting — and I am so not an evangelist. I’d rather sit in church with my three children, running herd over them solo, than go to a council meeting. If there’s one thing guaranteed to bring up my stress level, it’s a council meeting.

And so I knew there was coming up. There wasn’t just one, not just two, but three contentious items on the agenda. Plus sundry other necessary items to discuss.  I was fairly certain we wouldn’t get through the first item, much less all the others.

So, I prayed. I prayed to God for wisdom for myself. I petitioned for patience. I begged for openness in the other men. Basically, this took up a lot of my prayer time.

And then… the meeting went smoothly. There were no outbursts of anger. Yes, there were most certainly disagreements. Yes, not everyone saw eye-to-eye. Yet, it was much closer to what I’d expect at this kind of gathering: discussion that focused on the blessings God has given and determining how best to use those to his glory. I’m not a fan of every decision reached. Thankfully, most of the decisions were made with the understanding that we can revisit them after a little bit.

But I was shocked at how easily it went. We even ended early, having discussed every single item on the agenda.

God answers prayers. Who knew?

Lord Grant Me Wisdom

 

King Solomon had some big shoes to fill when he took the throne as the king over all Israel.  His father was the great and legendary king David.  For 40 years, David ruled Israel.  Now the throne was his son’s.  Imagine the pressure and the thoughts that must have been going through his mind realizing all of the duties he would have as the leader of God’s chosen people.  So when God came to him offering to give him whatever he wanted, Solomon took a look at how God had already blessed him.  Solomon knew God’s love for him and his father David, but in his zeal to serve as the king, he thought he needed the knowledge and the wisdom to rule.  He knew that he needed God’s help to fulfill the task that God had placed before him. 

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Let’s talk

I have only been here a little over a week and already people have been wanting to meet me.  This is great!  I want to talk to the members and get to know them.  I want to communicate better with them.  What goes through your mind when it is someone who has been inactive?  Last week I called to set up a home-visit with someone who is unable to come to church.  Little did I know that the rest of the family that lives with them is inactive.  When I talked to another member of the family trying to reach the home-bound member, she told me that she would like to talk to me as well.  What a great surprise and joy! Yet at the same time fear. 

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What to do?

Last weekend I was ordained into the public ministry and installed as the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church.  Was I nervous?  Yes I was.  Was I excited?  Yes I was.  Am I happy?  Yes I am.  I am starting my first week as a pastor. It is what I have been looking forward to for 8 years.  Now Monday comes.  The pot luck prepared by the congregation is over.  The church which was bustling with people is once again quiet as every one else returns to their work week. 

What to do now?  Where do I begin.  One might say that the answer was obvious.  “You are up to preach on Sunday morning so you had better get started on that sermon.”  There is so much that has to be done like meeting people and preparing Bible classes, and getting ready for Sunday School.  That is all important and needs to get done, but as I sat in my office preparing for the week figuring out exactly where to begin I realized there is only one place to begin.  Prayer!  (more…)