Thursday, January 31, 2013

7 Rules Every Christian Should Break

Did I get your attention? I hope so. Actually, that got my attention. Not the 1st time but the 2nd. I was in the bookstore at CPH in St. Louis and saw a book with that title (actually it is "7 Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible" by Jonathan Fisk). When I first saw it, I wasn't impressed. Actually, when I saw it the next time I was in the bookstore I wasn't impressed. But at the last minute, as I was checking out, I traded one book I had picked up (don't even remember now what it was) and got this one instead. Glad I did.

Let me quote from the book: God does not want you to discover Him through science or history, reason or experiment, logic or philosophy, any more than He wants you to find His Spirit through trial and error, practice and leadership, tactics and methods. God wants you to know He already has found you in Jesus. And Jesus speaks. Real words. Words he has left behind as His testimony. Words that are written." (Fisk, p. 106) That sounds very Lutheran (because it is). I say that because so often in the Lutheran Church we are willing to give up the Word of God, the reality of what God has said to us, the truth of that precious Word, for something that we have concocted, put together, devised all in the name of trying "win souls" for Jesus. Too many church and pastors and church councils and Bible study groups have given up on the sureness of God's word and given in to "rationalism" (the worship of your thoughts) in order to try to find God or to lead others to God.

You can't find God through your thoughts, through your reason, through your brilliance. It is corrupt! Bam! Right there we hit a wall. It can't be corrupt. It sounds so brilliant! I am brilliant. Sorry to tell you, but you aren't. Neither am I. God is! He is brilliant. He didn't say, "Let's just let them work it out for themselves." No. He said, "I am going to go to those lost, sinful, corrupt, rotten, self-serving humans that won't listen to a thing I say and I am going to save them." What? He is going to save us? I thought we needed to save Him from this postmodern line of thinking so that others might find Jesus. Wrong. He doesn't need saving. He doesn't need us to figure out His goodness or His grace or His mercy. He gives it to us. He came to us. He did that in His Son, Jesus, the One born in Bethlehem (remember Christmas?), revealed in the Word, shown us in that which is true and trustworthy.

That is your "interpretation." Right there, rationalism is at work. You figure it out. I will figure it out. If our thoughts agree, great. If they don't. that's all right. We will still be on the right track. Your thoughts are good. Your interpretation is good. Just because I don't accept it, I don't believe it, doesn't really mean a lot. Figure it out! Wrong again!

God has already worked it out. He has revealed it in His Word, you know, the Bible. It isn't an outdated book that needs to be updated or reinterpreted or rewritten to fit the history that we want to know about. It is the timeless truth of God. Right there - in the Bible - God's Word, we are shown that God came to us. God saved us.

I am glad I picked up this book. I would love to figure out some way to take the members of St. Paul's through it because I do believe there is some good stuff in it (Biblical, Lutheran stuff that we should not be ashamed of). Stay tuned. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Wedding at Cana, Mary's statement and prayer

This last weekend the Gospel reading was John 2:1-11, which is the familiar story of the Wedding at Cana. Jesus changes water to wine. He shows Himself to be God, using 1st Article type of things to reveal that. Then as that is revealed to us, we see the 3rd Article at work - the Holy Spirit using the Word to show us our Savior, the One who has come into this world to save us from sin, death and the power of the devil. It is a tremendous text. There is much we can learn as we sit at the feet of the Word and let it guide us day after day.

I sat there and listened to what the reading was saying. As I did, prayer opened up before me. Yes, prayer. Not that it moved me to pray at that moment, but it taught me something important about prayer, which then moved me to pray. Mary showed me how to pray. Now you can say that Mary doesn't pray in this reading. And in some ways, you are correct. There are only two things that Mary does. When the wine is running out, she goes to her Son and says, "They have no wine." Then after Jesus' response, she goes to the servants and says, "Do whatever He says." When it comes to prayer, this doesn't rank up there with the top 10 most moving prayers of all times. In fact, it probably doesn't even make the chart.

But it taught me about prayer. When I pray, I take the cares and concerns to the Lord. I lay out the problem, the situation, the reason I am praying (which is a good thing) and then I proceed to inform the Lord on how He ought to answer those concerns. It even try to tell Him when to do it. "Lord, this person is ill. Please heal this person of this illness. Do it now so that they feel better. Don't let them have any difficulty with this illness. Make the Doctors smart enough to find out the problem NOW and then fix it NOW. And by the way, Your will be done. Amen." All right, maybe my prayer isn't that crass, but in some ways, it is just that.

Mary says simply, "They have no wine." She states the problem. Jesus tells her that His hour had not yet come (meaning that it wasn't the time to act). God's time is what is important not our time. He knows at just the right moment when to act. He knows what the right time is. If He would have taken away the pain I had in my chest back in March of 2011, I would still have a sick gall bladder and undetected heart blockage. I prayed for Him to take the pain away. I begged Him to act at that moment. When I went to the ER, I was certain that if I prayed fervently enough, God would take the pain away, would make me feel well and life would go on. I TOLD Him. Mary says, "They have no wine." Perhaps a better prayer would have been, "Lord, I hurt." Laying the problem firmly in His hands,, then trusting Him to act.

That is tough to do, isn't it? We want to tell God what to do. We want to inform Him in how to act. Instead, we are to lay it before Him, and then wait on the Lord. Be still and wait on the Lord. "But I hurt!" was my cry. "I know you do," He responds. Then another line of Mary's comes into play. "Do whatever He tells you." Do whatever He tells you. Go to the doctor. But they don't know anything. They will, in time. But I don't want to wait. Wait for the Lord. Be still and wait for the Lord. still and wait for the Lord. I know your problem. I know the outcome. Remember, I can change water to wine. I can give life from death. I can show the doctors what your problem is. Just wait for Me to act in My time, in My hour. When it is right, it will happen. But...hush My child.

Do whatever He says. Off to the doctor. Off to tests. Off to surgery. And amazingly enough, in His time, I find myself in 2013, doing well. Sick gall bladder removed at the right time - check. Heart blockage found in His time - check. Good result at echo stress test 1 1/2 years later - check. In His time, in His way.

Lord, here is my problem. I lay it before you. Now I pray, not to tell you what to do, but asking You to give me strength to face this problem, patience to wait for Your time, and faith to trust in You. Amen.

Water to wine - teaching me that God will act in His time, when it is His will. Now, if only I can remember that the next time I pray.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Blessed New Year - 2013

I sit here on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 and reflect back and look forward. It is a good thing to reflect back upon the things that have happened but you don't want to get "stuck" in the past. If you do then you won't continue to grow and become the person that the Lord intends you to become.

It was on Jan. 4th last year that I had hernia surgery. It was the last of 3 major health issues and I was so thankful to have it behind me (though on this Friday that I was feeling pretty crummy). After having the gall bladder removed and a heart cath with a blockage in 2011, health issues was capped with that surgery. And I thank the Lord that the rest of 2012 was good for me in the health department. I rejoice at the wonder of healing that the Lord has given to us. How it is possible that we can do such invasive procedures on the body and recover? It sure wasn't evolution that made that possible. It was the amazing healing properties that the Lord gave to our bodies when He created us that makes this possible. Thanks be to God for them!

As I look into 2013, I do so with much excitement. I believe that St. Paul's Church and School will both continue to see growth. We had such a great year in 2012, blessed by the hand of the Lord and guided by the Holy Spirit. We have spent time working on a new direction for the church and school and in 2013, we will begin to implement a plan to reach those new goals. Continued growth in the school along with retention of the students that we already have is a priority. Reaching out into the community with the message of the Gospel and bringing new families into the congregation is also a high priority. We will make plans to begin more Bible study opportunities as well as fellowship groups.

All that is possible only through the work of the Spirit in our midst. We can make all the plans we want but if He doesn't guide us, they will come to nothing. And we need to work together as members of this congregation. It will take a lot of effort from each member and a support from each one. These goals will challenge us and stretch us. We will be tempted to look back and say, "But we didn't do it that way 5 years ago or 10 years ago and did just fine." We can't look back and try to do things the way we always have. Why? Because we don't live 5 or 10 years ago. We live in 2013. Our community has changed. Our church membership has changed. The message is the same. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is the same. But how we get that message out and how we reach people with the message of life and hope has to change. We are working on that. Yes, it will be a challenge. But the souls of people are worth the challenge that we go through to reach them.

I will be posting our new goals soon. I hope you will take time to look them over and figure out how you can be a part of the growth of St. Paul's Church and School. Then volunteer to help out. Offer your services, your talents and your abilities to help move our congregation forward.

Yes, it is going to be an exciting year!