Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How Can I Sing Joy to the World?

The Christmas season often brings out myriad emotions, including joy, peace, love, excitement, and warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia.

But the season can also be very difficult for those who have lost a loved one and are facing a Christmas season without that person, for those who have experienced life changing events (health issues, divorce, job loss, etc.). 

One thing that can make the Christmas season especially difficult is when someone has sinned against you in an especially painful way.  That deep hurt and joy and laughter all around seem incongruous.  How can you sing "Joy to the World" while feeling hurt and angry inside?

We know that others will sin against us, but it seems unfair that things like that should happen during Christmas season.  The very time of year might make it harder to deal with.

So how do we forgive those who have sinned against us and hurt us deeply?
Jesus addresses that very question in a parable He told, which is recorded in Matthew 18:21-35. 
(I preached a sermon on this text back in 2008 and you might find it helpful also. Click here to listen to it). 
21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

We can find the willingness and ability to forgive others, only when we realize that God has forgiven our debt of sin that is so utterly massive that no matter how terribly someone might sin against us, it will be insignificant in comparison.  Our sin is like the ocean and the sin committed against us like a single glass of water; there is no comparison. The forgiveness given us by God, through Jesus, is amazing and beyond what we can even imagine.  Remember that the name "Jesus" wasn't chosen by Mary and Joseph because they liked it, but Joseph was instructed by an angel to give the baby that name.  The angel said, "you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Of course, knowing how great a debt we've been forgiven doesn't necessarily mean that it will be easy for us to forgive others. We still have to deal with feeling hurt and the anger we have as a result. But the good news is that just as God send His son into the world to be our Savior, God the Holy Spirit has also been sent to us so that we might be able to trust in Jesus and live holy lives.

The Holy Spirit brings healing and peace to our hearts.

So when you struggle to forgive, remember God's forgiveness and pray that the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the hearts of all believers in Christ, would give you a heart of forgiveness.

And yes, you can sing "Joy to the World" because the whole reason there is joy is that Jesus has come and He has established the reign of God in which we receive forgiveness and can grant forgiveness freely.  You can sing "Joy to the World" also because even though you're hurting right now, there will come a day when Jesus returns and there will be no more sin, anger, hurt feelings, or troubled relationships.  When Jesus returns, there will truly be joy and peace.

May the love of God the Father, the Salvation and forgiveness we have through Jesus Christ, and the peace and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit be with you this Christmas season.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Teaching the Faith to Children

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

The most important job parents have is passing on the Christian faith to their children. Christian parents know this of course, but often aren't sure where to start or how to go about this.  I thought I'd pass along some ideas and resources that might be helpful to parents as they go about this most important task. 

  • Put on Christian music at home, as you drive to school, when shuttling kids around to their various activities, and at bedtime.
Music is a fantastic way for children to learn the faith. When children hear hymns, they'll learn them (their brains are sponges!) and then they'll be better able to participate on Sunday mornings, which will make things more enjoyable for them and easier for mom and dad. 

Here are some music recommendations for kids. 
These are really great because they're hymns the kids will hear in church, sung by kids.  You could also get a copy or two of the "My First Hymnal" book and use that with these CD's as part of family devotions. 

Sung by kids and primarily fairly simple songs that kids will pick up quickly. 

Randal Goodgame does a great job with children's music. His music is always fun, catchy, and often goofy.  There's a mix of funny songs and songs that will be helpful in teaching the faith on his various albums.  

Koine takes hymns, keeps the wonderful words, and gives them a very contemporary feel.  Their music is great for adults and older children, but will also be enjoyable for younger children. 

  • Pray with your child before they head off to school for the day.
This is a great way to remind them of who they are, whose they are, and that they can be praying all day long.  It's also powerful because God hears those prayers and has promised to answer! 

  • Send a note of encouragement with a verse of Scripture in their lunch box.
In keeping with Deuteronomy 6:7-8, why not send a reminder for them along with their lunch? It's a simple thing to do and a good reminder for them.  You don't have to do it every day, but doing it on occasion is a great idea (and my wife's idea, not my own!). 

  • Begin/continue family devotions each day.  
Right after dinner or right before bed time are usually the best times to be able to do this consistently.
What can devotions look like?  Read the Bible or a children's Bible or a devotion together, sing a song or two, and pray together.  

Here are some great devotion resources.

This is a great resource.  It has 130 different stories from the Bible, beautiful pictures with each story, questions to ask children for each story, and a prayer to use at the end.

Too often, children get the idea that the Bible is just about rules. This children's Bible does a great job of showing that the Bible is first and foremost about Jesus coming to be our Savior. 

This is a resource that has been around for a very long time, but it's still a great resource.  We read through a about half of it with Timmy when he was younger, then he took over and read the rest of it all on his own.  It's great for middle school children.

Reading the Bible can be a daunting task for an adult, so imagine how intimidating it could be for a child?  These booklets are perfect for instilling in children the habit of daily Bible readings without that being an overwhelming prospect.  You can read the Bible with them or they can do it on their own. 

Living Planted has some great (free) resources for family devotions. 

Creative Communications has some good resources for Advent and Lent devotions.  Explore the site a bit and see what they have to offer.
  • Set an example by regular attendance of church and Bible class.
This one is so important. If you're not setting an example by being in Church and Bible Class regularly, they won't see those things as important.  If you skip Bible Class while the children are at Sunday School it will plant in the minds of your children that Christianity is for little kids, not adults. If you prioritize other things over being in God's house, the children will pick up on that and see other things as being more important than the things of God. 

I hope these resources are helpful to some parents.  I'd love for you to share ideas you have. Please let me know if you do make use of any of these resources and if they've been helpful for you. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Invocation for the Ohio House of Representatives

Today I had the honor of opening the Ohio House of Representatives in prayer, thanks to one of my college students who is working there part time putting my name in for consideration.  Below are the words of the prayer.  You'll notice that it isn't a sermon, as that isn't what I was invited to do, but an earnest prayer to the Triune God who has promised to hear and answer the prayers of His people. We are commanded to pray for our leaders and today I had the chance to do so publicly, in their presence. If you'd like, you can watch the video of the prayer here. (it's the 11-16-2016)

Lord God, we give you thanks for this day that you have made. Your mercies are new every morning and You have seen fit to grant us another day and all that we need to support our bodies and lives this day. Indeed, this is the day that You have made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Today we pray for all who are in authority, but especially these men and women who have been elected to serve the people of Ohio as members of this house of representatives. 

Gracious Father, we thank You for the gift of government and we pray that you would grant wisdom to these men and women, that the actions they take would always be for the security and good order of those whom they serve. 

Grant to these representatives humility, a spirit of sacrifice for the common welfare, an understanding of justice and a willingness to uphold it, as well as joy in their service.  Grant them the courage to defend and speak up for the most vulnerable in our society, from the unborn to the elderly, and all in-between.

We thank you also for the aids and assistants whose labor is invaluable to the work of this state and this House of Representatives.  We pray that they too would know the significance of their work and find fulfillment in doing their jobs well.

Lord of hosts, we thank You for men and women who work to keep us safe by their service in the military, police departments, and fire departments. Grant them safety as they serve to protect us.
Great Physician, we also ask that you would grant good health to these men and women and to their families.  Where there are health issues, grant them strength for the day and help them to find their hope in You.

Triune God, you have commanded that your people who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus should pray for those whom you have placed in authority so that we might lead quiet and peaceful lives and do the work of sharing the good news of Jesus with all people, and today I am pleased to do just that.


These things and all other things You would have us ask of You, O God, grant us for the sake of Your Son Jesus. Amen.

Monday, October 31, 2016

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" A sermon on Luke 18:9-14

Below is a rough transcript of the sermon I preached on October 23rd.  Unfortunately we had technical difficulties that day and were unable to get a recording of the sermon, but I've had several people ask about getting a copy of the sermon.  I write my sermons to be spoken, therefore I sometimes write things in such a way that I know how I'll say it, even though that's not how it is written, so this transcript might be a bit choppy. 

Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.

In my first call, as a missionary pastor to three small congregations in southeast Missouri, I was serving in an area where Lutherans were sparse.  In fact, on occasion the question would be raised, “Lutheran? I’ve never heard of it. Is that some sort of cult?”

Of course, there were a lot of churches around.  And the focus of most of those churches was in teaching people how to live.  People were instructed to look at their lives to see if they were really walking with the Lord or not.  The main focus was on the Christian and Christian living.

Now, there is a place for looking at your life and measuring it against God’s Law to see how you’re doing.  But when we do that, measuring ourselves against God’s perfect standard of holiness, it’s not going to reveal how well you’re doing, but how truly sinful you are.

Just briefly, let’s do that.  Let’s take God’s holy law, which is summed up in the Ten Commandments, and measure ourselves against that standard.

1       1. You shall have no other gods.

Have you feared something more than God?  Been more afraid of losing your job because of doing what God commands than of God’s wrath for breaking His commandments? 
Have you trusted in something more than God?  Trusted that you’ll be okay because of the money in your bank account or your ability to deal with a situation?
Have you loved something more than God?  
Have you skipped church to do something else? 
Has the money God has entrusted to your care been used for your pleasure at the expense of His church?  
Have you spent more time on facebook, upping your image, than in prayer?

       2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. 
      Have you consistently called upon the Lord for help? 
      Have you failed to speak His name to others? 
      Have you used His name as if it were a curse word?
  
       4.    Honor your father and mother.  
      Have you always been respectful of your parents? How about your teachers?  Your president? Police officers?

       5.    You shall not murder.  
     You might think you haven’t broken this, but Jesus says that if you’ve hated someone in your heart, even for a moment, that you’ve broken this commandment.
  
      6. You shall not commit adultery.  
     Have you look at someone who isn’t your spouse and lusted after them? 
     Have you fantasized about what it would be like to be married to someone else?  
     Have you looked at pornography? Or women, have you read one of those books that causes you to fantasize about the perfect man?

We don’t even need to go on, because the truth is, you’ve broken all of God’s commandments.  You and I are lying, blaspheming, covetous, adulterous, murderers in our hearts and don’t even come remotely close to keeping God’s law.

So then, knowing this, what do we do?

If we look to ourselves to try to solve this problem, it will either lead to pride or despair, and often times a swing between the two. 

In Missouri, my church members and my family were surrounded by people who tried to solve this problem for themselves. They would try to cover up the sin.  To try to pretend as if it isn’t there and to work harder to do better.  For those who took this approach, there was great fear that someone might find out about their sin and reveal the fact that they were truly a fraud.

Those who took this approach had to put on a mask to go to church. Not a literal mask of course, but they would put on a false front that everything was okay.  There wasn’t room to talk about struggles they might be having because such struggles would be evidence that you might not really be a Christian. Real Christians don’t do those things or struggle with those things.

Now, when those people who tried to overcome sin on their own thought that they were doing well, they would become very arrogant.  They’d look condescendingly at those who were struggling with sin and essentially say, God, I thank you that I am not like other men, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.

But when those people who were so prideful about how good they were found themselves sinning, they were left with two options.  They either tried to cover it up, because they couldn’t face what would happen if anyone else found out about their sin…or they despaired.

They would despair that they must not really be a Christian.  How could God love me when I’ve sinned against Him again?  I’m not as good as everyone else and I don’t think I can do everything I’m supposed to do.

Some of those who found themselves despairing would double their efforts and try again.  They’d enter back into that endless cycle of pride and despair.

But some would simply drop out of attending church altogether.  After seeing that everyone else in the church sinned too, but just pretended that it didn’t happen or tried to cover it up, these people would finally throw up their hands and say, “They’re all hypocrites.  The whole thing is a bunch of bologna.  If that’s what Christianity is all about, I don’t want any part of it!

This was the situation that surrounded us in Missouri.  People who were filled with pride and thought they had it all together, or at least who pretended that was the case, and people who were despairing and burned out on the church.

But, you know, I’m sure you’ve seen the same things with people around you here in Ohio.  I’m sure you’ve run into people who say, “Christians are all a bunch of hypocrites.”

And sometimes you might think they’re right.  Sometimes we act like we’ve got it all together. Sometimes we put on false fronts.

But that never works with Jesus.  He sees right through the false front. He sees your heart.  He sees your sinful heart.  And that might be terrifying.

Except that Jesus, knowing your sinful heart, knowing you are broken and don’t have it all together, but instead that you daily sin against God, invites you to come to Him with all of your sin, with your broken heart, and to receive from Him mercy.

But the tax collector beat his breast saying, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Christianity, you see, isn’t about teaching you how to become better so that you can show God how good you are and that you deserve to enter into His kingdom.  Christianity is first and foremost about Jesus, the very Son of God, coming into the world to save sinners.

Therefore, the church is a place for real sinners.  Here, we gather together with others who also haven’t kept God’s holy law, but have sinned against God and we confess to God and to each other, “I have sinned, in thought, word, and deed.”  We cry out to the Lord, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

And we hear God’s response, “The punishment for your sins have been taken by Jesus in His cross and passion.  Your sins are forgiven.”

We don’t have to put up a front and pretend like everything is okay.  We can come to the Lord just as we are and receive His mercy. 

You see, Jesus didn’t come to earth to save good people.  Jesus also didn’t come to teach us how to clean ourselves up so that we can be right with God.  Instead, Jesus came to call us to repent of our sin and come to Him and receive full and complete forgiveness.  He came to clothe us with His holiness and take our sins and pay for them on the cross.

So now, when we do sin, there’s no point in covering it up, because God already knows of our sin and our brothers and sisters in Christ know that we’re sinful too.  Instead, we confess that sin.  We do then seek to do better, to live a holy life and keep God’s law.  But we know we will fail.  And when we do, rather than despairing, we can come to Jesus again and again and again and say, “be merciful to me, a sinner.”  And He does have mercy.

There’s a great quote from the first president of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, CFW Walther, in his book Law and Gospel that really sums things up quite well. He says,
"'You are trying to be a pretend sinner and, accordingly, expect Christ to be a pretend Savior.'" I do not want a pretend Savior; that is why I should not be surprised that I am a real true sinner."

Fellow sinners, would you please join with me in closing this sermon with a prayer to our real savior?


Lord Jesus Christ, you know that we are sinful to the core.  You know that even after you’ve called us to faith, even after the Holy Spirit has been at work in us, we still find ourselves sinning against You. 
We break the 10 Commandments daily.  Without You, there would be no hope for us because we can’t overcome sin by our own strength.  But with You there is forgiveness.  You have had mercy on us and given your life for us on the cross so that we can know our sins have been paid for in full.  
Remind us when we do sin, that it is pointless to cover it up or try to fix it ourselves, so that instead we might simply bring our sin to You, confess it, and hear you say, “Your sins are forgiven you.  I’ve already paid for your sin in full.  Go in peace.” Thank You Jesus, for your mercy.  In Your name, Amen. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Mission of the Church, mercy, and a Radical Life vs. a Plodding Life

This morning I posted on Facebook an article written by Reformed Pastor Kevin DeYoung. It's not perfect, but it is a very good article that pushes back on some of the trends we see in Christianity these days. A friend (and member of the church I served in Illinois) replied to the post; "Ok so this article popped up below the one you shared. I read both and now I'm confused. What do you think of this guy's opinion?"

This is a great question and I started to answer on Facebook, but it started to get WAY TOO LONG for a Facebook response, so I figured I'd address it in a more in depth way here. I highly encourage you to read the articles (linked above) before you read my blog post.


There's a lot to cover here, so I'll take it point by point.
1. The author of the second article clearly has a dislike of the writer of the first article (Kevin DeYoung). That's clear in his opening. It seems to me that McDurmon (the author of the second article) has a bone to pick with DeYoung from the start and doesn't take the post with the spirit intended, but is looking for a fight. 

The dichotomy of "Christ follower" or "the confines of the church" are not extremes that DeYoung embraces. Rather, he is reacting to a false dichotomy that he sees being pushed by others. His larger point is that it often seems more attractive to ditch the church, ditch ecclesiology, and go do your own thing as a "Christ follower" or to find others who want to do the same things you want to do and have them be your "community." DeYoung is pushing back against the idea that the only true and authentic Christianity looks radical. In many ways, he's doing exactly what Luther did during the Reformation. When Karlsadt led a peasants revolt, Luther spoke against him and commended people to do their vocations faithfully rather than revolt against authority.


2. The author's definition of "Church" in the second article is only partially correct, but is very incomplete. He writes, A group of “real Christ followers living in community” IS the church. That is true. The Lutheran Confessions (Smalcald Articles) say the same; That God, today a seven-year-old child knows what the Church is, namely the holy believers and lambs, who hear the voice of their Shepherd.

However, this definition has to be considered in the larger context. In 1 Corinthians (and elsewhere in the NT) we get the bigger picture that indicates that the church is both the local gathering as well as all believers everywhere. It also shows that we are not free to just do whatever we want as the church, but that we are to follow the lead of our head (Christ) and we are always to do things in light of our fellow believers. The local church always exists as a local manifestation of the lager whole, so we have a responsibility to have unity with our fellow believers.

Do we need a church building to be the church? No. But do we need to gather together? Yes. Is there to be a pastor who is in authority over the local church? Yes. Are we free to leave behind those who are "holding us back" so that we can be more genuine, authentic, followers of Christ? Absolutely not.

3. The author of the second article writes: Problem: social justice is a mission of the church. 
Actually, the mission of the church is to make disciples through baptism and teaching. The Church exists for the sake of delivering the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the cross. 

Secondarily, the church is called to address social issues. But "Social Justice" is a loaded term that has a lot of baggage that Christians can not agree with. So, not to "social justice," but yes to addressing social issues like poverty (as you heard from Amos on Sunday and will again this coming Sunday), racism, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, etc. 

The Gospel of Jesus should (and does and will) lead to social actions. Many hospitals bear Christian names because Christians founded them. Women being treated well (as equally valued by God and society) came about because of Christianity. Child labor laws, the end of slavery, caring for the poor; all of these resulted from the gospel changing hearts and then changing their actions. (You can read about this in the great book "How Christianity Changed the World" by Dr. Alvin Schmidt. 

What does McDurmon mean by "Social Justice?" He doesn't define his term here, so I don't know. Does he mean things like this? If so, that's great! However, traditionally "Social Justice" has been used to speak of replacing the gospel message of Christ crucified and risen for sinners with social activism. It means using force (political or otherwise) to compel those who have money or power or opportunity to give those things to those who do not have them. This idea is not fitting with Christianity. Here is one pretty good overview of "Social Justice." 

4. To sum it up; I think DeYoung's argument can be aptly articulated by this sports metaphor. In football, every kid wants to be the quarterback or running back or a wide receiver. Those are the glamour positions. Everyone notices the RB who carries the ball for 100 yards in the game. The QB is guy who gets talked about the most. WR's make big plays that impact the game in an obvious way.
But the truly great teams know that the most important positions aren't RB, WR, or even QB. The most important position for the offense is that of linemen. The linemen seem to get talked about only if they miss a block. But without a good offensive line, the QB doesn't have time to make a good decision before the defense hits him. Without a good OL, the RB doesn't have a chance of gaining many yards. Without a good OL, the WR won't have a chance to catch passes.
Few kids say, "I want to be an offensive linemen." Yet they are the most important players for the success of the offense. 

In the church, there is a temptation to want to stand out. To do something big and impressive. But it is those who humbly and faithfully do the vocations given them by God, love the neighbors around them, and faithfully serve in ways that are not at all flashy (altar guild, counting money, Sunday School teacher, etc.) that often make the biggest difference for the church and the kingdom of God.
Do we need those who are willing to step out (when called by God) to do something that seems risky and scary? Absolutely. But before a person does that, it is good for them first to learn the importance and value of the "plodding" Christian life. 

It is much as Paul wrote about men who desire to be pastors. Before he is to become a pastor, first, He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (1 Timothy 3:4).

What DeYoung is emphasizing is much the same as what Paul seems to desire for Christians in 1 Timothy 2 also.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Peaceful. Quiet. Not drawing attention to ourselves or the radical things we're doing, but humbly and simply doing the work God has given us to do, which includes caring for the poor and addressing social issues.

Before we seek to do a radical thing for God, let us first learn what it is to follow Christ in the seemingly small things.

Hope this was helpful!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reformation Day is All About...

As a baseball fan, when I think of October, I think of the World Series.

As a Lutheran, when I think of October, I think of Reformation Day.  

October 31st means a lot more than trick or treating, because was on that day in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis (95 points proposed for theological debate) to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany; thus he started the great Reformation.

But what is it that we celebrate on Reformation Day? Is it just a day to say in true Pharisaical style, “Thank God I’m not a Roman Catholic?”  Is it a day to beat our chests as Lutherans and declare how proud we are to be Lutherans?  Is it a day that is all about the past and a reminder that the best days of Lutheranism are behind us?

Sadly, I’ve seen all of those attitudes in connection to Reformation Day.  But that’s not at all what Reformation Day is about.

Reformation Day is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is about right teaching, not for the sake of being right and proving others wrong, but because the right teaching of God’s law will lead sinners to know that they are entirely and thoroughly sinful and in need of a savior.  It is about right teaching because the right teaching of God’s Gospel shows that God has given that desperately needed Savior to us and that He has done EVERYTHING needed to make us right with God by taking the punishment we deserved for our sins and giving us His holiness.

Reformation Day is about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is a day to be reminded of the means by which God delivers His great gifts of forgiveness, new life, and salvation.  Through the absolution spoken to a sinner who has confessed his or her sin, God the Holy Spirit truly does deliver the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross.  Through Holy Baptism, God the Holy Spirit brings us to faith and delivers to use that same forgiveness won for us by Christ on the Cross. Through Holy Communion, God delivers the very body and blood of Jesus, under the bread and wine, to us so that we can know His presence with us and (again) deliver that forgiveness won for us by Jesus.

Reformation Day is about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is a day to remember God’s great love for sinners and how Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. It is a day to remember that God isn’t done seeking and saving the lost, but continues to work through us (believers, the church, pastors and laypeople together) to reach the lost and bring them into His kingdom so that they too can receive forgiveness, new life, and salvation.  Reformation Day isn’t a day to beat our chests and pretend that we’re better than anyone, but to humbly remember that God saved us when we were undeserving and be reminded that He would use to reach more people.

The great 19th century theologian Charles Porterfield Krauth was so excited about Reformation Day that he wrote this; 
"The Festival of the Reformation is at once a day of Christmas and of Easter and of Pentecost, in our Church year; a day of birth, a day of resurrection, a day of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Let its return renew that life, and make our Church press on with fresh vigor in the steps of her risen Lord, as one begotten again, and born from the dead, by the quickening power of the Spirit of her God. Let every day be a Festival of the Reformation, and every year a Jubilee." 

As we come to the 499th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 Thesis this October 31st, may we be reminded that this is a day that is all about the gospel of Jesus Christ so that
·         We are reminded that we have received the gospel of Jesus Christ when we were undeserving.
·         We might be a people who are strongly focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
·         We would make known to the world the gospel of Jesus Christ!


Salvation unto us has come, indeed!

This was my newsletter article for the October 2016 church newsletter

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Evangelism, Apologetics, and Assimilation Resources

I thought it might be useful to put my things concerning evangelism and assimilation in one post for easy access.  Just click on a post below and off you go.

Evangelism

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part I, Obstacles

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part II, Advantages

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part III, Getting Started

Apologetics


Prepared: Ready to Witness in Rural and Small Town Areas (webinar)

Assimilation

Assimilation in Rural and Small Town Congregations (webinar)
Something I forgot to mention that I should have, is simply doing a time and talent survey that involves everyone in the congregation (especially new members) and then following up by making use of the information.

A Welcoming Congregation (a Bible Study I put together for my congregation).

A book I found particularly helpful in thinking about assimilation is "Inviting Community" which is edited by Kolb and Hopkins.  Each chapter was written by a seminary professor. I cannot overstate how helpful this book was to me. 

You are free to adapt and use any of the material here for in your congregation and need not attribute any of it to me. If any of this is useful to you, please use it in the name of the Lord and for the good of His kingdom.