Pastors' Blog

Facing Rejection

When someone talks about prophets I usually think of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet during a very troubling period of Israel’s history. Ahab was the king and Ahab had forsaken the Lord by worshiping other gods. Elijah condemned him for this and you can imagine that didn’t make him very popular with Ahab.

But Elijah was determined to make his stand on the word of the Lord. So Elijah held a contest between himself and the priests of a false god named Baal whom Ahab worshiped. The contest was simple: whichever god answered their prayers that one was the true God. Well, of course, the Lord God is the only true God and he answered Elijah’s prayer. Baal is a piece of stone or wood—he can’t answer anything. So there, Elijah had it, proof that the Lord was the true God of Israel. Did that change Ahab’s heart, though? Nope. Elijah received a death threat from Ahab the next day. So he fled for his life. From the height of victory, to the pit of despair, Elijah faced the rejection of God’s people.

It’s actually the story of all of God’s prophets: from Isaiah to Jeremiah, to John the Baptist, to Jesus and, yes, to you and me. God’s prophets are the people who declare God’s message. In a way, that makes us all "prophets." And it also means that like Elijah, or John the Baptist or Jesus we get rejected.

So what do God’s prophets do in the face of rejection? They stay faithful. That’s what Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus did. And that is all the Lord ever asks of you and me: stay faithful. Yes, being a prophet of the Lord means you must endure rejection, but all the Lord asks is that you be faithful. 2 Timothy 4:5, "Do the work of an evangelist."


Keep Reading >>

Sailing through the Storm

We read in Acts chapter 27, “When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘northeaster,’ swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.”

If this were a story from a week ago, I wouldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it because the sailors would have seen this storm coming. The captain would have loaded up his weather app on his smartphone and he would have checked the radar and he would have seen this nasty bank of wind and rain coming toward them and he would have said, “We’re staying put until this passes.” That’s how much things have changed in 2000 years. We can see the weather four states away and we can make our plans with better knowledge. How many of us, before we head out on a long trip, don’t check the weather first to see if we’re going to run into any difficulties? It’s nice, don’t you think? It gives you security, a sense of what’s coming, a sense that you’re at least somewhat in control of what’s going on in your life.

Until, of course, you’re not! Disaster strikes and your plans come crashing down all around you. Your reality of the future that you had pictured so vividly and so assuredly in your mind is utterly ruined. Some unexpected event, some tragic phone call, some diabolical email, some post on Facebook, some memo at work, some disaster that blew in out of nowhere and the gentle wind that you were riding on turns into a hurricane of grief, sadness, guilt, frustration and anger.

If only there was some kind of life-event radar. Some app we could call up on our smartphones that warned us of impending disaster. As we sip our morning coffee and catch up on the news we could look at it and say to our spouse, “Oh! Look at that, there’s a 20% chance of betrayal today.”  Wouldn’t that be great!?

Actually, no, it wouldn’t because God knows that such a thing would rob you and me of a great opportunity. It would steal away the chance to learn how to sail through disaster, to learn that our Heavenly Father has his hand outstretched in love saying, "My child, I have you. I love you. Stop putting so much faith in what is out there and trust in me." God will save you, because Jesus already has--for eternity.


Keep Reading >>

The Cathedral of Christ

There are some magnificent churches in this world. Rising above the city of Prague is the glorious St. Vitus Cathedral. With its black gothic spires stretching into the sky and massive stone supports along its sides you can feel its strength and admire its beauty. In London, St. Paul’s Cathedral survived the bombing by the Nazis in World War II. As you walk through the church its beauty and detailed architecture take your breath away. Detailed paintings give you a sense of wonder, and when the organ begins to play, you might think you were getting a taste of heavenly glory. Such beautiful churches in this world…

But we don't have to actually go to Europe to find these beautiful churches. They are all around us. And they are just as magnificent. From the outside, you might not think it a very glorious church. It might not be listed on any historical records. It maybe doesn’t boast cathedral-like architecture. But I’m not really talking about outside appearances, or architectural design. I’m talking about what makes a church truly glorious. This is the kind of glory that puts the cathedrals of Europe to shame. And when I think about this kind of church, I think of churches planted by Christ.

It can be easy to wonder just how successful or impressive the church is in the world. You might worry that your small church that barely has 50 in worship is considered successful. So here's the trick to finding out. All you have to do is answer one simple question: is Christ there?

You see, Christ plants a glorious church. It may not look impressive, but it is glorious because it grows by Christ’s power and by his power it is growing into something great.

Jesus once said in Mark 4, "[The church] is like a mustard seed, which when sown on the ground is one of the smallest of all the seeds planted in the ground. Yet when it is planted, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches so that the birds of the sky can nest under its shade.”


Keep Reading >>

The End of Jealousy


That horrible destroyer of relationships and, yes, even faith. Jealousy is often at the heart of so much sin. 

As believers, jealousy can undo us. Even in congregations of Jesus Christ, jealously can prevail. Do you ever look to the ministries carried out at another Christian church and wonder: “If only, if only”? Do we wonder why we can’t be successful like those “other” Christians? When we begin to compare ourselves like that, the good purpose of maybe finding out something useful, quickly leads to jealousy. We begin to hate and despise what Christ has done among us. We begin to wonder why Christ is withholding his blessings. And we accuse Christ of mistreating us. 

Stop all of this! Because if we go down that road then we are headed straight for rejecting Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the poison of Satan that is being planted among us already. It begins as fear, impatience and disharmony. And if we drink this poison, we drink eternal death. Let’s repent. Forget all that, and be refreshed by Christ, your savior.

Now is not the time for feeble hearts and feeble minds. Now is the time to look up and see Christ’s bright light breaking through the clouds of dark despair. Now is the time to remember that Christ has made us one family. We don’t belong to Satan anymore. Christ broke in to his house, tied him up with the beams of the cross and crushed him under the weight of the stone that covered the tomb. Christ’s death took away Satan’s control. Christ’s resurrection took away guilt which kept us in darkness. And Christ freed us from slavery to sin, slavery to jealousy, slavery to fear. Christ stole us away from all that and Satan can’t control you anymore because he is tied up and helpless.

So let’s put away all the fear. Let’s not look with envy on the work of Christ elsewhere. Fix your eyes on how Christ has brought you into his family. Remember how he stole you from Satan. This is the work that Christ is doing and will continue to do among us. And when we are committed to seeing this and nothing else, then we will stand firm against any difficulty. And we will not just stand firm, but we will triumph!


Keep Reading >>

No More Fear

If there was something you feared, what would that be?

It's easy to get used to fear. You're boss at work is overly demanding and you get so used to that fear you start to think that's normal. Or you're so used to the paranoia of what others think of you that you micromanage every relationship and manipulate everyone.

These things sound horrible and depressing but people live this way. You might live this way. And the fear becomes normal.

God says to us, "You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear but you received the spirit of sonship." (Romans 8:15)

So what God says is an identity shift needs to take place inside of us. Fear results because we are worried about ourselves. It's a protective measure because we're uncertain about ourselves. Good wants us to see ourselves as he does: sons. Don't think sons like male children, but sons like ancient Romans who inherit the family estate. These are children who have all the advantages over the slaves. They have nothing to fear in society because their family heritage ensures their for success.

Do you get the picture? Because of Christ, you are an heir of God. He has made you that through the work of Christ's death on the cross. Your value comes from that. Not what others think, say or do; only what your Savior has thought, said and done FOR you.  In other words: perfection.

So no more fear. You belong to God and your brother is Jesus Christ.

 Can I get an Amen?


Keep Reading >>

Rescued from Ruined

Kyle didn’t realize it, but he was ruining his life. He thought he was living the big life. The parties on the weekend were wild and carefree. His job was making him a lot of money to play with. His friends were just as wild as he was. But he didn’t realize how ruined he was. He didn’t realize the paranoid feelings he was getting more and more were because his brain was getting fried on party drugs. He didn’t realize how bad his health was getting because of the lack of sleep. He didn’t realize the diseases growing in his body because of the multiple partners he slept with. He didn’t realize his party friends were disloyal and really despised him. He didn’t realize it, but his life was ruined.

But a friend realized it. She saw the wild pictures on Instagram. She heard from this other friend about his drug habit. She knew how ruined his life had become. So she rescued him. It wasn’t easy, Kyle resisted. But she eventually convinced him that he was a mess. And when the cloud of fantasy that had become Kyle’s life lifted and he saw who he really was, Kyle was filled with guilt and dread at what he had become. But his friend rescued him out of that life and led him to a better one.

That can happen, to us, too, you know. We sometimes live our lives in a fantasy of who we think we are. We ignore our addiction to sin and the disease of wickedness that lurks in our hearts. We forget how ruined sin makes us.

That is, until God dispels the fantasy to rescue us.

The same thing once happened to a sinful man named Isaiah. Here's what happened, in his own words, "Woe to me!" I cired, "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips..." Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." (Isaiah 6:5-7)

Rescued from ruined. No matter the sin, no matter the grace, your sin is atoned for, your guilt taken away. This is God's special work for sinners like us.


Keep Reading >>

Our Pentecost Faith

Pentecost is an ancient celebration. It began back in the BCs as harvest celebration for the Jewish people. Today Pentecost continues a celebration of a different kind: the celebration of the Holy Spirit's work in our life.

Today's Pentecost is a celebration of an end and of a beginning. It is a celebration of the end of the disciple’s education. For nearly four years, Christ had been their professor and now he had departed from this earth. He is not there with the disciples, now called apostles. He isn’t there to be the “go to” guy to answer all their questions. They’ve graduated from all that. So Pentecost is a celebration of the beginning of their ministry. It is the beginning of doing what Christ told them to do, to proclaim the gospel to all nations.

But what would the future hold for these men? It wouldn’t be long before the apostles would be beaten for teaching about Jesus. It wouldn’t be long and the first great persecution of the church would break out, scattering believers throughout the known world. And so is Pentecost also a day of uncertainty? Is Pentecost the day that reality begins to settle in on the apostles: “Man, is this is the real deal, or what!”

If the apostles were worried about the future, we certainly don’t see it as we read about in Acts. In fact, a quick glance through the book of Acts demonstrates the exact opposite. The apostles were beginning to see that Pentecost is faith without fear. Pentecost is about Christ’s promise to send them the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is about enjoying the unique peace of Christ. With this in hand, the apostles fearlessly proclaimed the gospel.

Faith without fear… It’s a bold statement because we have plenty we could be afraid of. Pentecost is an end and a beginning for us as well. It is the end of “having Christ” with us as he teaches the disciples. And it is the beginning of our own ministry. Does this frighten you? Today, we follow in the bold footsteps of the apostles. There is no fear because Pentecost is faith without fear. Like the apostles, we too enjoy the Holy Spirit as our counselor and we too rejoice in the peace of Christ. Today is fire. Today is power. Today is courage. Today is Pentecost.


Keep Reading >>

Christ Helps us Help a Hurting World

The Christian church, and the Lutheran church in particular, has a custom called "confirmation." Perhaps you remember the day of your confirmation: whether you were confirmed as a youngster or as an adult, I hope it was a happy day. And it should be because confirmation is a celebration of God’s word. He brought you to faith. He keeps you in the faith. And he will bring you to himself in heaven.

So now what? Sometimes confirmation can seem like such a big deal that we put all this emphasis on it without thinking about the day after confirmation, or the life after confirmation.

Confirmation means strengthening—strengthening for a life of showing your faith. Because whether you are aware of it or not, there is a world out there that hurts. It hurts because it’s lost in sin. And you and I, who have been confirmed or who will be confirmed, have the answer for that world.

The problem is sharing that answer with the world is painful. There was a Christian man named Stephen.  And he shared the message of Jesus with a hurting world. And what did the world do to him? It murdered him. Jesus once said to his disciples, "The world hated me and it's going to hate you, too." And Stephen was an example of that. You might look at his story and think, “What a painful thing to go through, what a terrible experience!” But in the midst of all the bad things that happened to him, Christ was right there to strengthen him.

Acts 7:54-58, "When they heard these things, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at [Stephen]. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed up into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  He said, 'Look, I see heaven opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' But they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and rushed at him with one purpose in mind. They threw him out of the city and stoned him."

At the moment of their greatest anger against Stephen, Christ knew what Stephen needed. And Christ knows that we need his help if we’re going to be any help in this world. Jesus helps us help a hurting world. 

You know what the last thing Stephen did before he died was? He prayed for those who were murdering him. Christ had kept his promise to him, and he will keep his promise to you.


Keep Reading >>

Passing the Test of Love

I don’t know if I would have passed the test like he did. I don’t know if I’ve got the faith or the love to do what this man did. In an instant, a man pulled out some handguns and started shooting. The innocent people who were caught in the line of fire on the Trestle Trail Bridge in Menasha, WI could never have seen this coming and never have prepared themselves for this random violence. But there it was. In the amount of time it took to empty two handguns of their bullets, the whole scene was over. Blood, carnage, confusion. And love. In middle of all that, a father lies dying, and his last words to his wife were stunning, “Forgive the shooter.” I don’t know if I would have passed the test of love.

How many of us come into contact with that kind of evil, that kind of blind hatred that reaches out to hurt innocent people standing around? I wouldn’t have been surprised if anyone had been angry at the shooter. But here is the true character of Christ, the true heart of Christ, spoken in words that still break my heart, “Forgive the shooter.”

Passing the test of love…could you do that? Could you look your murderer, the killer of your daughter, the maniac who hurt your spouse—could you look that monster in the face and say, “I love you” and then die? Maybe we need more opportunities like this. Not more violence. Not more blind hatred. But more opportunities to look the undesirables of our life in the face and proclaim our love to them. Maybe then we’d learn what means to pass the test of love.

John 4:7, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."


Keep Reading >>

Don't Kick a Tree

Suzie looked at the tree in her backyard and wondered if it would grow any pears this year. She was too little to realize that the pear tree in their backyard was dying. But she wanted pears. Every day in the spring she would go out and look at the tree, hoping that it had made a pear. But all it ever did was grow leaves that eventually just fell off. The tree just didn’t have the strength to produce pears. Once Suzie went out and yelled at the tree, “Why won’t you make any pears?!” She even kicked it. But the tree couldn’t do it; it was too sick.

Sometimes we’re like little Suzie when it comes to growing God’s fruit. God wants us to live perfect lives. Our consciences tell us what we should be doing and how we should be living. Yet, no matter how often we tell ourselves to do those things we still can’t produce the kinds of perfect fruit that God wants. No matter how hard we kick ourselves, we still sin. We’re too sick to grow God’s fruit on our own.

Making the kinds of trees that can grow God’s fruit is the work of Christ. John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." His work reverses our sinful dying condition so we can grow the kind of fruit God wants. All Christ does is he connects us to himself: the true vine and that connection cleanses us from our sin and gives us the power to grow God’s fruit. 

No kicking required.


Keep Reading >>

Older Posts >>

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. ~ JOHN 3:16