Monday, July 26, 2010


What’s the last thing you could not do?  That question came to mind as I was preparing for yesterday morning's preaching.  As I was considering what I could use as a visual example of that, I thought of opening pickle jars.  As a child, I would go to mom or dad and ask them to do it for me.

I thought of this as the "pickle jar principle." When you can't do something, ask.  During the children's sermon, I brought out a pickle jar and opened it with a "pop." 

Below are the notes I prepared in advance of preaching.   If you want to listen you can click here... The audio includes the gospel reading (Luke 11:1-13) and the song "Seek Ye First."

In order to understand part of this sermon you just had to "be there."  Why?  In addition to the pickle jar, I also brought in a fan from my office and plugged it in during the message.  This particular fan has a problem.  It works fine once it gets going, but it takes a full minute or two for the blades to start turning.  The fan is quiet so you can't hear it start, but it started with good effect just at the proper time... 2-3 minutes after I plugged it in.  So it is when we ask God.  Sometimes there is a delay as we wait for God's good purposes to work themselves out.
Preaching Notes for July 25, 2010

The pickle jar principle only applies when we’re up against something that cannot be done by ourselves. At this point in my life I don’t have much trouble with pickle jars. So, instead, God blesses me with situations I can’t handle on my own. Why? Because those situations force me into relationship—into closer relationship with God and with others.

In our first reading (Genesis 18:16-32) we heard how Abraham asks… persistently… Abraham comes to God with his prayer… Will you sweep the righteous away with the wicked? God has told Abraham that he will destroy a city… and in that city, in the city of Sodom… Abraham’s nephew and his family lives there.

Oh, God, Abraham prays, Oh God—won’t you be fair? There are some in that city of Sodom who are not evil. And then he prays that if 50, 45, 30, 20, or even 10 good people are found in that city that God not destroy it.

He prays again and again… and as he prays, Abraham is drawn closer and closer to God. He is drawn closer to God because he is a faced with a situation he cannot handle on his own.

Abraham cannot help those innocent people. Even though some of Abraham’s loved ones lived in Sodom he could not help them.

The only thing he could do was to turn his attention to God and ask.

Asking God—asking God in prayer—persistently coming to God, trusting God’s goodness in the face of whatever seems impossible, that’s what God wants.

And, with God, we never outgrow our need to ask.

Like I said, at this time of my life I have no trouble with pickle jars… but if I think I’m independent or strong on my own I won’t be drawn into a trusting relationship with God or others.

So, God gives me situations where I can’t handle it on my own. So I need to ask… and asking draws me closer to God… and to others who I ask to pray for me and with me… and those relationships are precious—precious to me and to God.

God never wants us to think we can get by on our own. He wants us to ask.

Our gospel reading from Luke is all about asking. Verse 2 and following has the Lord’s Prayer… in the Lord’s prayer we admit what we cannot do and ask for God’s help…

• Can you or I make God’s name holy? You or I might be able to can say “God” or “Jesus” only for good, but you can’t make anyone else praise or pray. All you can do is ask God… We cannot change other people. We cannot make God’s name holy in this world. It’s too hard. So we pray: “Make your name to be the most precious thing in all the world!” And, as we pray, as we pray for others and see God’s answers, that’s what happens. Praying... asking God… that makes God’s name holy in & among us… and beyond.
The Lord’s prayer is full of things we cannot do. Things we must ask God to do.

• Can you make God’s kingdom come to this broken world? Can you provide everyone with daily bread? Can you forgive your own sins? …You might be able to forgive someone else… but if you’ve really done wrong, you can’t wipe away your own sins or pay the debt you owe to God or anyone else. Asking God is the only way to do that… to make God’s kingdom come… to provide what is needed… to forgive.

We must ask… and asking draws us nearer to God.

• Same thing for staying away from times of trial. There’s no way you or I can guarantee we’re going to stay out of hard times. The trials we’re going through as a church or just in our every day lives… they are not something any of us can avoid on our own. The only thing we can do is pray.

And praying, asking, begging God… it’s powerful… it connects us with a powerful God.

This is a fan I bought about 10 years ago at a garage sale. Prayer is like the connection between the fan and the power source. I like this fan because it’s quiet and because it moves a lot of air. Let’s say these extension cords are the prayer chain—or all the people that are praying for good and Godly things.

Now why this fan takes awhile to get going I don’t know. But it’s a great illustration of prayer. Sometimes the prayer just needs to keep coming… until finally God’s Spirit—the WIND of God—until finally the spirit of God takes control.
Like I don’t know why this fan doesn’t get going right away, I don’t know why we sometimes don’t get instant answers to our prayers.

Yesterday I was on the phone with Karl Kruse, the pastor who was here with Nate the Sunday he and the youth presented on the Good Samaritan. If you were here, you’ll remember Karl—I was told he had a 15 minute prayer.

Why does he pray so long? Again, much about our relationship with God is not easy to explain, but I do know this: Karl Kruse’s wife Nancy has had Stage IV lung cancer. They went to Charlotte, North Carolina to a special prayer conference specifically for those who need healing from cancer. Karl said the trip to Charlotte and the first days there were very hard. Nancy was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. But, by the last day of the conference, Nancy was up out of her chair and dancing—with no oxygen.

I don’t know the rest of the story. I don’t know why going to a particular special prayer conference was important. But there’s something about prayer… something WONDERFUL… and when we’re willing to abandon ourselves to God’s will in prayer—Praising, Repenting, Asking and Yielding—letting God take control—so often amazing things happen.

So often we become ready to dance and sing and praise for grace even before healing is complete.

So, Jesus says, this is verse 9… keep on asking… the word “ask” here is not just a one time thing… it’s not ask if we “ask” and the gift is given and there’s no more need to ask anymore. Asking is never in the past. Asking is always for now.

So we live in prayer. Asking. Seeking. Knocking.

We do not know when or how God will give. We do not know where or how we will find. We don’t know when or how the way out or the way in will be opened… so we come to God and we do not give up. We live in prayer… asking… seeking… knocking… drawing near to God more and more every day.

And amazingly, God gives the the best gift… the Holy Spirit… the powerful presence of our amazing God.

I praise God for what I cannot do. Because, when I cannot, I ask. And asking can bring me into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Monday, July 19, 2010

God Knows and God Loves

My daughter Naomi posted a video worth hearing and watching on her blog of yesterday.  Click that link to go to her blog, or go directly to this link at Woodland Hills Church.

The video is by Kevin Johnson, former missionary to the Netherlands, was made July 11, 2010 at Woodland Hills Church.  It was based on Hebrews 4:12-16

Are you hiding from God?  It's time to stop.  Allow your real self to be honestly and totally found.  Pour your messiness out to our Lord.  Ask for someone to pray with you as you do.  There, known by God, you will know his forever love.

I hope you'll say, like my daughter did, that this speaks to your heart.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Listen First

Below you can read the first part of my notes from this morning's preaching, the texts were from Genesis 18:1-15; Psalm 15; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42.  The audio version is not complete from the beginning and my notes don't go all the way through the "vision" of God's grace I was given eight days ago--you can read more about that here.  

In the gospel from Luke 10 we see Martha making things nice for Jesus in her home.  Her her sister Mary is doing nothing but sitting, listening to what Jesus was saying.  Jesus says: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

Notes for preaching from July 18, 2010

The “better” part—the “one thing”—the precious jewel that we cannot and should not miss—we receive that as we hear, as we listen… not to just any voice… but as we listen to the Word of God.

That’s why Jesus pointed out Martha’s distracted ways, scurrying here and there, trying to make everything nice.

Hospitality is a good thing. Hebrews 13:2 says this: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

An angel is a messenger of God and a warrior of God—an angel is a messenger warrior of God who wields the sword of the Holy Spirit—an angel can be a person or a prophet who comes to speak the truth—in Genesis 18 Abraham welcomes three guests who speak for God. The most important guest, of course, is Jesus Christ.

When you pray, “Come, Lord, Jesus, be our guest” do you expect then to hear him speak? If we simply entertain our Lord, whether he arrives in a person or even as an angel… if we simply invite Jesus in a prayer but do not listen to him, we’ve missed the point of inviting him at all. We welcome Jesus, and angels, and prophets, and anyone who speaks God’s Word, so we can listen—so we can hear what the Lord has to say.

It’s time to listen—to listen to God’s excellent promises, so no faithless fears or worldly anxieties will hide us from the light of God’s love—even in the storm.

Yesterday we celebrated the wedding of Richard Kuhl and Amanda Schmieg. After the wedding the sirens blew. A tornado had been spotted up near Kingston and it was moving south-east.

Those of us who have been through tornado warnings most of our lives don’t tend to be too panicked about them. I know some have suffered terribly, but many of us know that a direct tornado hit is pretty rare. But still, we know it can happen. So, as a way of remembering God’s glorious promises, we prayed together in the church basement—trusting in the promises God has made—asking God to spare us for Jesus’ sake—and receiving the peace that goes way beyond what we can understand, peace rooted in what Jesus has done for us in his life, his sufferings, his death and his resurrection. We stayed down the basement for a short time, we calmed the visitors from California—no tornado warnings out there—and soon the storm passed by.

But we could only pray, and be confident in God’s help, because we had listened to God’s Word. And that’s the same listening that God calls us to in the scripture readings for today.

Abraham and Martha were very busy making preparations for their guests. But the most important thing was what the heavenly messengers had to say—the mysterious trio in Genesis 18—and Jesus in Luke 10.

God wants us to listen to his Word, to learn from it, to live by it, but especially to know and allow God’s glorious grace to sink deep into our souls, so we are never afraid.
You can listen to most of the 10:30 version of today's sermon by clicking here. I'll see if I can get the complete sermon uploaded later... technical issues that missed the first few sentences or paragraphs I think in what I could get ready quickly.

Here are the prayers from worship for you to pray where ever you are
Suggested prayers for June 18, 2010.

Our Lord Jesus has made us children of God through baptism and faith. So as children come to their mother or father with their needs, let us bring our needs to God. After each prayer I will say “Let us pray to the Lord.” Please respond with “Lord, have mercy.”

We stand in awe, Father God, of your mercy. We stand in awe of your powerful grace and of your Word which tells us from the beginning that everything is going to be okay. Use every circumstance of life to make us listen to you, so we are not afraid. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

Thank you for your promises, solid promises based on your life, sufferings, death and your glorious rising from the dead. Help us listen for and remember those promises at all times, not only for ourselves, but also for others, so many may be brought close in your love, forgiven and new and clean. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For all the baptized, that they might not stray from you, and that your Holy Spirit would grant to them, and to each of us who hear your Word, a faith that is stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

We thank you for those who have welcomed us with good hospitality, who, like Martha and Abraham, make strangers and friends feel honored and cared for. Thank you for all of our vocations and the opportunities you give us to serve. Thank you for the many ways our church serves others beyond our area: though our missionaries in Japan, through Lutheran Social Services and Lutheran World Relief and so many other notable and important organizations. But as we serve, never let us turn our attention from your Word. Bring us, every day, to times when we sit quietly, listening carefully to what you say. Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For a Gospel zeal that strains to make Christ known with all the energy that He powerfully works in us, and for the work of the Holy Spirit, that unbelieving hearts would be turned to faith in Jesus, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For faith that rejoices in sufferings and trusts that God is using those troubles for our good and for the good of those around us, and for gifts of healing and transformation, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

Add your own prayers here.

Into your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Headed in to Minneapolis now to visit mom and dad. Dad turned 84 yesterday.  I'm just 30 years behind.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Oh most loving Father, you want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing you, and to lay all our cares on you, knowing that you care for us.  Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds in this mortal life may hide from us the light of your immortal love shown to us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer from Lutheran Book of Worship, page 47

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I started reading this book while on vacation.  My daughter Naomi gave it to me awhile back.  It's worth your time.  Here's a summary from
Christianity has an image problem.

Christians are supposed to represent Christ to the world. But according to the latest report card, something has gone terribly wrong. Using descriptions like “hypocritical,” “insensitive,” and “judgmental,” young Americans share an impression of Christians that’s nothing short of . . . unChristian.

Groundbreaking research into the perceptions of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds reveals that Christians have taken several giant steps backward in one of their most important assignments. The surprising details of the study, commissioned by Fermi Project and conducted by The Barna Group, are presented with uncompromising honesty in unChristian.

Find out why these negative perceptions exist, learn how to reverse them in a Christlike manner, and discover practical examples of how Christians can positively contribute to culture.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Yesterday I went skydiving.  A friend sent me an email this evening asking if it was "tandem" or "solo."  There might be some pictures up on my facebook wall... I don't know for sure because I'm still off facebook until I get back from up north.  

Here's my answer to my friend's question:
No, it wasn't tandem. It was solo. Because of that the jump was preceded by a 6 hour class.

The most frightening part was the teaching on "parachute malfunctions." It was impressed on us over and over again that we could die or be in a wheelchair for the rest of our lives and it was basically up to us to keep ourselves safe... but there were no guarantees. There were many possible malfunctions... we did carry reserve chutes but there are no guarantees with them either. Only at the end of the malfunctions part of the class did the instructor tell us that he had never even needed to use his reserve chute in 600+ jumps and he remains terrified of how he would react if he ever needed to do so...

Fortunately after the class there was too much wind so we needed to wait awhile before the jump. Fortunately I was in the third of four Cessna planeloads so I could watch other chutes successfully open and watch other novice jumpers land without crashing or breaking anything. Fortunately the radio worked so someone from the ground could coach us all on what to do "in flight." My nephews went on the planeload before my son Dan and I but I did jump before him. Bragging rights!

The door opened, I put one hand on a wing strut and, with help from the jump master, got my feet positioned on the front edge of the "step" in the 100 mph wind. Then, on his command, I climbed out on my own near the end of the strut, let my feet fly in the wind as I hung on, saw him signal to "go" and I did... that's when I lost control and, for all intents and purposes, CONSCIOUSNESS for like 1 second or less... totally forgetting everything I was supposed to do, having terrible form and totally panicking until the chute caught me... my poor performance created twisted parachute lines...

But thanks to the grace of God and trustworthy (non-postmodern) physics, they untwisted on their own--kind of like happens when kids are on swings they have wound up.  I then proceeded to get one of my hands twisted in the "toggle." That's what we jumpers ;-) hang onto to steer the chute. I worked my hand out and finally got it put in correctly... and then totally enjoyed the rest of the flight and landing.

I don't know how long the flight down took, but it felt like almost 10 minutes. The chute was huge and slow and very fun to fly. I could control where I wanted to go. Great engineering, great view of the Wisconsin countryside near Chippewa Falls.  I felt like a bird.

Next time I'll know what to do, I think, to get through the panicked moment of letting go...

Peace to you in Jesus' name.
The parallels between my life and the life of others in Cokato and that jump are uncannily precise. Even on that same day others were taking huge steps of faith... on the way back from skydiving I got a phone message confirming that.  Amazing.  I am so thankful!

God calls us to follow Him in faith EVERY day.  Pray that I, and we, will share the same level of courage and trust the Lord for all things.  He will catch us--even if it takes awhile for things to untwist and become clear.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Better than a Hallelujah Sometimes

Thank you to my friend Gintare who sent this my way a moment ago. "May this song be a blessing for you today and may your heart rest in it."

God loves a lullaby
In a mothers tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves a drunkards cry,
A soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The woman holding on for life,
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
The tears of shame for what's been done,
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing out,singing out.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah - sometimes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Comfort Is Not The Issue

Last night (look below this post on my blog) I posted a video link to the movie "Luther."  Now, I'm fully aware we cannot rely on the movie "Luther" as history.  Nonetheless, much of it does catch what happens when feeling meets the truth of scripture.  Here is a dialog from the Luther movie, about 53 minutes from the beginning.  Martin Luther is standing (when he should have been kneeling) before Pope Leo, arguing the truth of scripture against the "comfort" found in what, in those days, seemed to give comfort--an "infallible" church led by an infallible papacy. Girolamo Aleandro is listening from behind a door.
  • Luther: The honor of the papacy is not preserved by the naked assertion of papal authority, but by safeguarding the pope's credibility and the clear testimonies of divine scripture.
  • Leo: The pope interprets scripture.
  • Luther: He may interpret it.  But he is not above it.
  • Alendro (angrily whispering): He was to say one word!
  • Luther: We both know the selling of indulgences has no scriptural support.  If common people could read the Bible for themselves they would understand just how broad the church's interpretations are.
  • Leo: That is outrageous!  The scriptures are too complex for even the average priest to understand, much less the common man.  Indulgences are an established tradition which give comfort to millions of simple Christians.  
  • Luther: Comfort!  Your grace, I'm not interested in comfort!  Comfort is not the issue!
  • Leo: So you consider your discomfort more important than the survival of Christianity?
  • Luther: I'm interested in the truth!
  • Leo: The truth? The Turks are building armies on our eastern borders! We are on the brink of war.  To the west lies a world of souls who have never heard the name of Christ!  That is the truth!  Christianity is tearing apart and just when we need unity most, you create confusion!
  • My goal is not to quarrel with the pope or the church, but to defend them with more than mere opinion!  The gospel cannot be denied for the word of man!
In recent conversations it has seemed to me that some of our local church members, and also some pastors beyond our church, are using the same argument as Pope Leo.  Some say that those of us who are concerned about the ELCA's slide away from Biblical authority should just keep quiet or, as I heard stated at the special congregation meeting on June 23, find another church in which we can be more comfortable.  With the Martin Luther in the movie, I must say "Comfort is not the issue!"  The goal must be to defend the truth and comfort of the church with "more than mere opinion."  The truth cannot be denied for the word of man.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Don't Build on Feelings!

I found this video (below) on google.  We have an original or two in our church library.  The quality of the video on google is not good but, I think, better than nothing.  You can watch by clicking on the video below or at this link on google video:

I ran into it because I was trying to recall a scene in this movie where Martin Luther hurts the feelings of a young woman--he hurts them terribly.  Why?  She bought an indulgence, based on her faith in the Roman Catholic church.  She bought an indulgence to help her poor sick daughter.

The scene begins about 35 minutes into the movie.  The woman who buys this indulgence has all the best intentions in the world.  She wants to help!  But as Martin Luther knows, help based on a lie is no good.

Martin looks at the paper she has bought and says, "It's just paper, Hanna.  These words mean nothing."  The look on Hanna's face shows her hurt and disappointment.  She says, "It's no good?" She is about to cry.  Martin then puts money in her hand and says she should trust in God's love and save her money to feed her daughter.

When Hanna leaves, Martin's turns and his face hardens.  And he begins writing the 95 theses that set in motion the Reformation--resulting, though Luther did not intend it, in the forming of a new church--a church that eventually took on his name.

Are the 95 theses just "paper" too?  Not if they are based on God's Word.  That has been the teaching of our church since its founding.  Our church is not based on making people feel good.  Even though it is painful to have our feelings hurt, something else is even more important--and that something is the truth.  Yes, we need to love, but truth must never be cast to the side.

If we encourage people to base their life on feelings because the Truth of God's Word is "inconvenient," or hard to interpret, we are wrong.  Building on anything other than the Word of God is building on feelings.  A church, or a life, based on feelings--it will fall.

Fortunately, the truth of the Bible has a shining center--the life, love, death and resurrection of the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven as the Living Word of God born to live among us and to die for us.  Jesus hurt people's feelings too.  We saw that as we've been reading scriptures for the past few Sundays.  But that's okay. Feelings are always a poor foundation.  Good to get rid of it and build anew on the Truth--the truth that has within it the loving heart of God.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ask the Lord

Happy Independence Day -- our country began with a DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE signed 234 years ago.  Jesus came to do a work of independence--to declare freedom and to decisively defeat the rulers of this world -- sin, death and all the devil's power--to set us free from the strongholds of death.  And, today, continues to set people free through his Word.

Today's sermon is based on two readings assigned: Isaiah 66:10-14 and Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

        You can listen to the sermon beginning with the gospel reading*, by clicking here.  

        If you prefer to read, look below after these notes.

The title "Ask the Lord" was inspired by something Gemechis Buba said in a sermon that you can access at Standing at the Crossroads.  Incidentally, another sermon by Gemechis is at this link on the Hosanna! Lutheran Church website.  There you can listen to him or other presentations from Faith Lift. Lots there worth your time.

One more comment... to understand the Isaiah 66:10-14 reading, we need to understand that all of the promises associated with Jerusalem and Israel are transformed through Jesus Christ.  There are a few chapters in Romans where it says that the Jewish people are not rejected -- and that's very important.  However, the promises for Jerusalem and Israel are transferred to us, to the family of faith.  So when Isaiah 66:10-14 talks about being consoled in Jerusalem, what it really means is being consoled in the family of faith.  You, in this scripture, are both the child and the mother.  You are the child who need comforting and nurture, but, when you know Jesus' love and grace, you are also the mother who offers that comfort and truth to others.

Here is the written version of today's sermon--the little addition in the beginning about the SPOON was a spur of the moment add on.


Jesus said:
Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
AS A NATION – and as individuals – we’ve all had our share of victories, defeats and draws.
The Revolutionary War – Victory
The Civil and World Wars – Victory
The Korean War – pretty much a draw
Vietnam – Defeat
Iraq – Afghanistan… still to be seen.
But – as Christians – as disciples of Jesus – we do not rejoice in our victories as individuals or as a nation –

Instead, we dance for joy because our names are written in God’s Book of Life – and there will be a wonderful welcome in heaven where we will be gathered like children – comforted at a mother’s breast—all because of Jesus.

Isaiah 66
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her—
now, because of Jesus “Jerusalem” is not the city that has that name in the middle east—Jerusalem is now the community of people who trust Jesus—

rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her…
there is a lot to be sad about these days… we’ve been through so much…
rejoice with her in JOY
it says in Isaiah 66 verse 10… verse 11
that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast—
that’s one of the things we do when we come to church… we are here to be COMFORTED…
that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.

I know that’s not the way we usually talk, but the church—the people who believe and trust in Jesus—we are pictured in the Bible as THE BRIDE OF CHRIST… and the Word of God is what we receive as we get together—and the Word of God is what nurtures and feeds us—sometimes like mother’s milk—and sometimes like meat.

Verse 12: For thus says the Lord: I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Even when we have victory, even when we have prosperity, even when the wealth of the nations comes our way… there’s something better we can receive when we Ask the Lord.

We can be comforted forever… in our forever home.

It is there as my hope.

And I can’t wait.

Rejoice, says Jesus. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. HALLELUJAH!

Through all the victories and defeats of this life, when we know Jesus – when we know Jesus… then we know that we have a forever and secure home… But not only that

Because the comfort we receive from Jesus when we ask him for it, and when we receive the blessings that come from God, we want everyone else to know Jesus too.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life—the only way, the only truth, and the only life—knowing Jesus is the only way to the only true home where there is forever life. God has poured his love into our hearts, like a mother feeding a child! And we want to share that—we can’t hold it back—We do not want anyone to go to their grave without knowing the Lord.

How sad, how tragic—how sad that anyone would live and die without knowing the Lord… and there are so many who are in that predicament. Like we heard last week in that sermon from Pastor Mark Larson:

It's still RAINING. . . Raining the souls of those being lost from our Heavenly Father's tender care to a hopeless, despairing eternity. So Jesus—in our gospel from last week—from the end of Luke 9—Jesus says, "Follow Me. Right Now! Don't look back!"

So many! The harvest is plentiful. It needs to be gathered before it perishes. And the time is now.

Yesterday I talked with one of the youth who was coming back from the mission trip. The mission trip took our youth to Crow River Montana. I asked how it was there and he said “different.” And I said, what do you mean, and he said: The people there are really poor. They have so many needs. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The Crow River Reservation has 65% unemployment. Lots of depression and despair. Truly a place for serving like Jesus and helping people know Jesus. When people know Jesus they are knit together with him in a worldwide community… and we will stand beside one another and extend that kingdom to all who do not yet believe.

But how can we do that?

A once a year mission trip – we can handle that.

BUT—to help people know they are really loved by Jesus—to serve them and help them know the Lord deeply—that’s a much longer commitment… it takes not just “moving from house to house…” as Jesus tells the seventy in Luke 10… It means not just being in a place for a little while… not being temporarily in a place, but staying there… or, for most of us… serving where we live…

To really see the harvest of lost souls come to faith and trust and new life in Jesus, it means loving where we live in the name of Jesus—telling everyone always where we get our hope, where we find our forever home, praying and expecting God to drive the devil out.

But how can we serve day in and day out? How can we love like Jesus when we’re just empty—when there’s nothing in our spoons but air? And how do we avoid taking every little offense as an excuse to shake the dust off our feet and leave?
The harvest is plentiful, says Jesus. There are so many who are ready to receive the Lord when He comes to them consistently through love and truth—extreme love and extreme truth… And lots of generosity. Much serving.

The harvest is plentiful. Many will come to Jesus if we use the tools the Lord has given.

But, if you’re like me, you’re tired. You’re wounded. You’re dry. And inexperienced in bringing Jesus to the world.  Usually we only talk about Jesus when we're with people who we already think are believers--with people who we think already believe.

What do we do?

Ask. Ask God.
  (I made a reference here to the sermon by Gemechis Buba about how Americans run ahead before praying to send people.)

The harvest is plentiful—many need Jesus—and the laborers—those who are willing to give their lives whole heartedly and unreservedly to the Lord, without worrying about security or popularity—the laborers are few.

What do we do? We ask. We pray. We come to the Lord on our knees and BEG God to do the sending, to do the commissioning, to do the inspiring. 

We can’t do it. It needs to be done by God.

It begins as we crawl up into the lap of God, to receive his Word, to bring our requests, to be comforted—and then, strengthened by Jesus, we find ourselves pushed out into the world with a word that we cannot keep inside.

The harvest is plentiful—the laborers are few—pray, ask, beg the LORD of the harvest—the harvest, the success, the victory—it belongs to God, not to us… Beg the Lord of the harvest to send out the laborers.

We cannot depend on our own strength.

We must ask.  And depend on the Lord.


* I had intended to include verses 12-15 in my reading but forgot to do so.  I just read out of the big lectionary book which omitted those verses.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

As Is

I got down to Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp for two days this week -- our sixteenth summer of going to Family Camp there. The main presenters were Tim Hatt and Peder Eide, both associated with Hosanna! Lutheran Church in Lakeville.

One highlight for me was seeing Peder Eide perform his song entitled "AS IS." I liked it so much I bought a t-shirt with the lyrics on the back.

God does use us as is--as we are--with all our faults and failings. This isn't the whole story, because God does confront and transform us too, as you can see by looking at any of the Bible stories Peder mentions in his song. If I get a chance later on I'll link to those stories.

Go to for more on Peder.  I would LOVE IT if we could get him, or Tim, to come to Cokato sometime soon! 

I asked Peder if he was on Rhapsody, which Toni and I subscribe to, but I only found two of his albums on there. Go to for one of them. This is advertising, pure and simple, for a top notch local Christian artist. ;-)

The video below is at

Moses was a stutterer
David was a murderer
Jeremiah suicidal
Naked in the street
Paul, he had a problem
The specifics left unsaid
Timothy had stomach aches
And Lazarus was dead

Samson was a long-haired, Arrogant womanizer
Rahab was scarlet corded, Lady of the street
John the baptist eatin' bugs and honey on his bread
Gideon a scaredy cat, And Lazarus was dead

As is
As is
He chooses us as his
As his
As his
Infuses us as is
With never ending
Love transcending
All our weakness
No excuses
He uses us as is

Noah was a drunk man, Abraham an old man
Jacob was a liar man, Leah second best
Jonah should have followed God, but ran away instead
Martha was a worry wart, and Lazarus was dead

Jesus said to stay awake, they went to bed instead
Peter turned and ran away, Jesus hung and bled.
Copyright 2006 Ya Sure! Music