Tag Archives: encouragement

Encouragement, wow what a relief it is!

I just want to add that I have received such genuine encouragement from this blog and that it seems that this is a very felt need with a lot of people. Always seems to be plenty of people to tear down and I’m not saying we shouldn’t push on people, challenge, I’m not saying it’s like most of society today, tell everyone they’re wonderful. It is strange for so many they just hear the down side, the criticism, and for others they’re enabled in their negative and destructive lives. Anyway, I appreciate the positive feedback I’ve received from some very genuine people, their encouragement was very much appreciated.

We who write these Christian blogs often seem to be writing to or for ourselves. That’s actually a good thing, we aren’t going to have the world patting us on the back. But when I put out a signal for encouragement and I got it. People like Wally Fry is a regular encourager, it’s almost like he looks for the opportunities and I try to look to encourage too. Real nice note from anitvan, that there are lay people out there who do have a ministry of encouragement. Please give your input, and when I deserve it let me know where I could improve, I have no doubt I need a lot of improvement. And I’m not saying there will be times when you shouldn’t ask “what were you thinking? Or that’s not the way to do that!” I appreciate that too, if someone’s willing to take the time to make me better, I am very thankful. Thanks to all who take time to read these blogs and I hope that I can encourage many of you as much as you’ve done for me. In the meantime let’s keep talking to each other and building each other in Jesus.  Continue reading

Relationships, strength, encouragement, shared joy, on and on, only come through the smaller, Bible believing Christian church

Another blogger opined that since the millenials (ages from about 18 years old to 30 years old), don’t go to church and use their computers, almost exclusively, for socializing, that we should have “on-line” church.

I’m not opposed to putting worship on-line. We have plans for doing that here at First St Johns. Sure there are people out there who we should be reaching and need to be included in church and, for whatever reason, cannot attend brick and mortar churches. I get it.

The problem is this, how much do you really encourage this growing dependence on using a computer for “fellowship”. A great deal of being in church is to fellowship, is to show support and be a part of something bigger. We already have way too many people who huddle away in some part of their house, all by themselves and genuinely think they have a lot of “friends”, that is the Face Book, Twitter, Snapchat, type friends. Sorry but this is, in no way, shape or form a healthy trend. How do you baptize someone on line? How do they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus? On-line confession and absolution? No, that’s just a phoney way out. How do you really build relationships on line? You don’t!

Being a part of the Body of Christ is being with a group of people who have shared beliefs and shared doctrine in Jesus. Please don’t hand me the lame line that it’s all about “love”, first off, how do you really “love” on-line? Ya, there are those who do. Look me in the face and tell me that’s healthy.

You need that contact with people, we encourage each other, strengthen each other, learn from each other, often help in material ways. Sorry, but I’m not going to jump through hoops for someone who can’t even schlep down to worship on a regular basis, who could otherwise. I’ve had people try it on me. Ya, no! Go to the big-box churches, if you will settle for the illusion of worship and fellowship. Otherwise drag yourself down to First St Johns.

In some ways it’s like saying that it’s the same as being at Fenway Park, being part of the crowd, having it all in front of you, being able to personally booh the Yankees. You can sit at home and listen on the radio, but who you going to fuss at when Papi grounds out in the shift?

But really, being in, sharing with, showing support of worship has always been what is a fundamental part of being a Christian. It’s not just what you benefit from, but often what you do in order to help others. How about the elderly man or woman in the pew in front of you. Quite often, their only genuine human contact is church. To those of you who are children, young man or woman, the 20 something family with the little boy and girl. I really want you to realize that you give real joy and encouragement to others around you who have very little contact with younger people, who often only see people in their own age group. Are you away from your family, but you’d still like your children to have a whole bunch of spiritual grandparents, aunts, uncles? Take ’em to church, your cup will overfloweth.

The person who is going through some kind of crisis and who comes to church to share, maybe he’s led there by the Holy Spirit in order to be in front of you who can readily help. Seriously where is that in the rest of our society?

It’s tough enough being a Christian in today’s world. For the people who are out in the work force and hardly ever encounter a fellow Christian. For the mom at home who often has little adult contact and also, not often with another Christian. Children who need real contact with other kids their age who are Christians. The world is not a friendly place to Christians. Where are you going to get that contact, that encouragement, that strength to carry on? On-line? No! You’re just not and you know it. It’s truly sad to imagine how many people thought they could see the world through their computer and because they had no one else, no other Christian to be there for them that they lost hope in the Holy Spirit which is only truly efficacious when they share with other Christians.They forgot about the promise of Jesus, because the guy who stands with them at the altar to receive the Lord’s Supper, isn’t beside you, because you’re not there.

The writer of Hebrews directs: “ESV Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Bibleworks) Certainly we see “the Day drawing near.” How can you show brotherly love over the computer, really? How can you show Christian hospitality. All the virtues that are being lived out in Christian worship, will simply not be obvious.

I have this posted on First St Johns FB page: “WORSHIP – Rekindles our hope, reenlists us for service, renews our confidence, restores our perspective, restores our joy, releases our anxieties, reconnects us with God.”  I would add that sitting at home, simply reminds us how sad our life has become and not only does not equip us with those benefits, but reminds us how far away we are. That is not going to give us the hope and promise of Jesus, but sink us into further despair and make us feel even more distant from Jesus.

And since I’m riding this hobby horse, I would also like to point out that the opposite is true. You can sit at home and be isolated, and you can also sit in a big crowd and be isolated. Want to talk to the pastor? Yea, good luck with that. These “big box” pastors have more important things to do than make house calls or hospital calls to give you personal attention. Everybody around you, they’re there for the same reason you are, to hide in the open. They’re not interested in you, they’re only interested in what they want. Jesus did the first two plus years of ministry among groups and very much in the public. He didn’t hide away, he was right there in the middle of people. Not some new-age big screen television, talk about “Big Brother”. In a smaller congregation you build those relationships, I’ve only been a pastor for just less than five years. In my first twenty or so years as a Christian I probably have, at least, a half dozen each spiritual mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and pastors that I have had the opportunity to grow in Christian love with. Ya, tell me you’re going to get that at home on the computer or at the “big box”. Find a smaller, vibrant, liturgical, Bible believing, truly Christian church. You want growth, encouragement, strength for the journey, joy, service, confidence, connections, being in God’s presence with serious believers. It’s churches like First St Johns that will provide it. The “millenials” are all hung up on authenticity, being genuine and then hide at home instead of being where it’s at? And that goes for more than just the twenty-somethings. Try really being genuine and authentic. Put the phones and ipads etc away and get with real people. Otherwise, you should just put a cork in it, because you have no clue what genuine authenticity it.

Prayer, prayer, prayer da, de, da

Da, de, da, love, love, love, the Beatles tune. How about Prayer, Prayer, prayer da,de, da?

Is there a greater way to show love then through prayer? No… Yet we in the church, given the opportunity to prayer for others often just pass, or make a perfunctory attempt. I’m not saying you have to wax eloquence, not at all, simple sincere prayer is much more effective. Just make it sincere.

That prayer is the the greatest weapon of the church is quite plain and I can speak to that from personal experience, as well as from what is taught, what we know from the Bible, and learned others who have written profoundly about prayer.

I’ve seen some crazy answers to prayer and often did not know how to deal with those answers. Often it took prayer to understand what I was dealing with.

Why do we as a church and faithful individuals give such short shrift, a nod to prayer? “Sure prayer is important, but then we have to do something “real”, afterwards!” Yea, there’s some genuine faith for you. The important part is done, the next important part, God’s answer and action, usually requires that you wait, for the real important part.

There is corporate prayer, the whole church body, a small group, two or three, more than one person raising their prayer concerns and the concerns of each other. Their is individual prayer, what we do in our prayer closets. Often the time we struggle over the deepest concerns in our souls.

I had really been pouring over a problem that I just did not know how to deal with. My inaction could have been perceived as procrastination. But while being in personal prayer, it was as if the Holy Spirit just knocked me across the head and said: ‘OK, pay attention this is what you’re going to do, bang, bang, bang, bullet point, bullet point. As things resulted, I have no doubt it was in His time and in His way.

I do wonder if some of the people who just like to carry on, how they really quench another’s spirit. I get it, sometimes there are issues where someone really does need some space and to let it out. I’m not criticizing that, I have a problem with the person that often just carries on and doesn’t realize how much another person’s spirit is being doused.

Those kind of people usually don’t offer any kind of encouragement, nothing uplifting, mostly just pointless, not creative, but often heartlessly critical. They always find the negative, never the upside.

It’s as if they are saying: “I know this is important to you, but I really don’t care. All I care is that I carry on about it and everyone knows where I am at. I am going to discourage you, not do anything constructive and actually feel like I’ve done something and that it’s really you who are clueless.”

Hmmmm, how about, “you know what? We really need to hit our knees and pray together and you’re going to do it without thoughtless comments, or just trying to indulge me. We are going to pray in genuine faith, put all the negative blah-blah behind us and trust God’s will.” How do you think prayer would help the person who needs encouragement? How would it help the person whose critical spirit maybe needs to be quenched?

Prayer is powerful in so many ways. Jesus told us to pray to the Father “…Our Father who art in heaven…” He wants us to lift our prayers to Him, He wants us to help and encourage others. Let’s pray a lot, let’s spend meaningful time in our own prayer closet, time with others and time in worship for real prayer. Prayer! Got it?!

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

The following is from christianpost.com dated March 4, 2015

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

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BY SAMUEL SMITH , CP REPORTER
March 4, 2015|4:49 pm
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.(PHOTO: EAG SPORTS MANAGEMENT)

Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

Outspoken Christian NFL player Benjamin Watson recently issued a powerful Facebook post writing about the Islamic State and the rise of Christian persecution throughout the world, asserting that all Christians should be ready to die for upholding their faith in Jesus Christ.

“The images keep flooding our timelines and news feeds. Men being burned alive or beheaded by masked assassins. Stories of families on the run, fleeing their homes while they are pillaged and burned,” Watson’s Saturday Facebook post explained. “Their testimonies hold a familiar chord: ‘Convert, Pay or Die!'”

Watson, an 11-year NFL veteran who’s a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, wrote that although extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in Nigeria have risen to prominence and are out to destroy Christianity, believers should never deny Christ in order to save their lives.

Watson cited Luke 12:8 and further explained that Jesus specifically told his followers that those who deny Him in in the face of death will be punished.

“‘And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God’ Luke 12:8,” Watson wrote.

Although Watson admits that the idea of being killed over his faith in Jesus is a frightening thought, he wrote that it’s important to remember that some of the bravest followers of Christ were killed for refusing to denounce Jesus.

“The persecution of Christians is not a new concept. As early as the first century we read about the Spirit-filled boldness of Christians, like Stephen and Paul, who proclaimed the Gospel through beatings and imprisonment, torture and death,” Watson wrote. “We remember Christ’s disciples, most of whom were killed just like their master. Roman emperors like Nero executed Christians in the most ghastly ways, using them as torches to light the evening sky.”

Although Christians have been beaten, killed and tortured for thousands of years over their faith, Watson further emphasized that the light of Christ continued to spread because of the brave followers who stood firm in their faith.

“In spite of all this adversity, Christianity continued to spread because men and woman, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stood strong in the face of certain death; some being delivered and others falling,” Watson wrote. “As I sit here in a 21st century United States, I can’t help but wonder when we, too, will face martyrdom for our faith. On this very day nearly 50 countries have laws that restrict or outlaw Christianity, leading to the harassment, imprisonment and death of those who follow Christ.”

The post continued by listing the number of countries today that prevent Christians from practicing their faith, such as North Korea and China.

“On this day, in countries like North Korea and China, Christians gather for church underground to avoid being arrested by police. On this day, in Nigeria thousands mourn the deaths of their loved ones killed by Boko Haram in their quest to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. On this day, in Cuba, Christian ministries continue to risk their freedom as the country continues to feel the effects of Communist rule,” Watson continued. “BUT, on this day, Jesus’ words in Luke still ring true.”

Although many Christians live safe, well-protected lives in America and other countries that protect religious freedoms, Watson contends that persecution of Christians in America will come sooner or later.

“Rest assured, fellow Americans, if it hasn’t already, our day WILL COME,” Watson asserted. “My only hope in such trying times is the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the X factor. He will give us the strength, words, and vision when our backs are against the wall. Jesus promised the believer many things. Eternal life, abundant life, peace, purpose and forgiveness to name a few. He also promises that they, like him, WILL be betrayed, hated and persecuted, even to death. (Luke 21:12-19).”

When that day arrives, Watson encourages Christians not to tremble in fear when in the face of persecution because it’s a sign of the nearing return of the Messiah.

“[W]e must WAKE UP from our slumber, be on guard and stand firm. A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Watson added. “Spiritual unity in the body will help us weather the coming storms. We must REMEMBER that as terrible as things are and will become, they are simply signs pointing to one thing; His imminent return.”

Teaching, walking as a disciple of Jesus

For the audio version of this sermon, click on the above link.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know it’s about what God does and His Word said … AMEN! We are going to have a little spring training today. The Patriots win the Super Bowl today, the Red Sox report to Florida in a couple of weeks, a few weeks of fundamental baseball in Florida and all is right with the world. The subject is this, what are the fundamentals? What issues do we as Christians need to deal with, what is important for us to remember? There are way too many Christians who make other issues their top priorities; social issues, political issues, how much or how little sin, end times, making worship entertainment the Sabbath and in this case fussing over what kind of food we should/shouldn’t be eating. In today’s epistle lesson Paul is trying to get people to focus on what’s important. What are they focused on? Eating food that was offered to idols? As part of that discussion Paul’s saying; “We can all be smarty pants and get into these secondary issues with people. Try to look like we’re theologians, “oh heavens, we must talk about the seriousness of this vital issue. I saw brother Thomas over at the temple meat market and he was buying a prime rib that was sacrificed to a pagan ‘god’! That’s horrible! We can’t allow that! This must stop. I don’t care if the temple meat market has the best prime rib, if we buy prime rib at all, it better not be from something that was not sacrificed to some pagan ‘god’.” Yea, OK, in this context is that cool? No, it’s not! But on the other hand, for a Christian, is that something that really speaks to our eternal salvation or any other Christian’s eternal salvation? No, it’s not. We have a whole lot better things to discuss and frankly it takes away from those issues that are much more compelling. For example; ‘ok, brother Aurelius, we shouldn’t eat meat sacrificed to a pagan “god”. I’m not going to say right, wrong or indifferent. But Aurelius, when was the last time that you took a pagan or a new Christian and really sat down with them about the real issues of being a Christian? How’s your prayer life? How’s your relationship with Jesus? Do you feel the Holy Spirit moving you to serve someone and you didn’t? Let’s go back to the “Solas”. What are the solas? Sola Fide – by faith alone. It is His faith that God the Father gives Christians that we trust in Him, we trust His will and we follow His will. There are way too many people out there who try to make it out to be all about us, what we want, that God needs to get on our agenda. That’s not going to happen and God will lead us where he wants us and it is far better than anything we can do. Sola Gratia – By grace alone. This gets into the whole issue about how we are saved. Is it about what we do? Maybe even a little? Or is it about what God does? He saves us! It is through His grace that we are saved. We don’t earn it. The Father gives us His grace because in his sovereignty, He chooses those who are saved and they are saved because He brings them into relationship with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved only through Him and His righteousness. Even if we live the “perfect” life, did everything right or avoided the things we shouldn’t do, we’re not saved. It’s not about what we do, it’s what He did! We may have obeyed the Law, but the Law does not save you, we are only saved through the righteousness of Jesus and that becomes our righteousness when he brings us to Him and saves us. Sola Scriptura – Only through Scripture, only through what is in the Bible. We have a lot of “teachers” out there whose attitude is, “well, this isn’t in the Bible, but it should be and ‘my’ God would have put it in the Bible.” No! I am a Lutheran pastor, I am charged with teaching you what is in Scripture and helping you to understand that Scripture is what you need to grow in Jesus and serve Him. It’s not up to me to make up things and today there is way too much that is made up. Moving on, we believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. There are, again, way too many teachers who are teaching to the effect “oh well, that really couldn’t have happened, that’s not rational, and it really doesn’t matter, because we’re saved by our own agenda.” Every Sunday we recite the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is God the Son and could only have been born by the will of God. Not by any man. Jesus was born the perfect man and God the Son. Jesus is God! God the Son. There is only one God, and there are three persons who make up the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. We cannot become “gods” as some teach. Jesus isn’t some sort of secondary “god” and He wasn’t the brother of Satan. There are no other “gods” and we trust Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus died for our sins. He is the perfect sacrifice and He took on himself the sin of all the world. That doesn’t mean that everyone is saved, because not everyone is baptized and lives in Christ. Most everyone lives in themselves and tries to justify themselves by what they do. We know that isn’t possible because we can never live the life that will save us, only Jesus saves us. Jesus rose, he was resurrected to give us the promise of eternal life. Through His resurrection we have the promise of our resurrection and eternal physical life in the new world that will come when this world is destroyed. We are saved through baptism. Almost the rest of Christianity teaches that baptism doesn’t save us. They teach we are saved because we make a decision to “accept Jesus”. No! Jesus accepts us and saves us through the washing of our sins in the water of baptism. Having said all that, we as Christians have what Dr Luther called “Christian Freedom”. Can we sin and be forgiven and still be saved? Yes! Jesus died for all sins. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me the sin they’ve committed that Jesus didn’t die for. I’m never going to hear it, but there are people who insist they are too sinful to be saved in Jesus. That’s wrong! When they are baptized, when they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, when they confess their sins in repentance and hear the preached Word of God they are saved! Game, set and match, they have eternal salvation in Jesus. Paul is dealing with a bunch of people, the Corinthians, yea them again, who are way too caught up in other rules. When they did that, when we do that, we forget what really is important. They are all snarked up about people who go to the meat market of a pagan “god” and buy their meat there. Well this goes back to the Old Testament teaching that some animals are innately unclean and can’t be eaten. God said that in Leviticus 11. He listed out animals that He didn’t want His people to eat. OK, fair enough. But then Jesus came and with Him, we are again taught, it’s not about the secondary stuff like right or wrong animals. It is about Him, He died for our sins and our diet doesn’t change that. In Acts 10, God tells Peter, these things are clean, eating these things doesn’t mess up your relationship with Jesus. But now, we get into an issue where we do serve our brothers and sister. There are things that we can do, eat certain things, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco. Some of these things we probably shouldn’t do, but that doesn’t cut us off from God. But weaker brothers and sisters may have a problem with it. They may start to question whether this Christian thing saves them. They might look around and decide “well these people are doing these messed up things so I think they’re wrong and Jesus really doesn’t save us. We, as Christians, do have to be aware of how we affect other people. Can we do certain things? Yes, they might be sinful and we need to confess and repent, but we’re still saved. But if we do these things without any concern of how they affect others, then we are not serving those around us. We are called to be faithful servants and to do, or not to do, things for others so that we can disciple them and help them to grow and mature as a Christian. When we give power to silly things, like eating sacrificed animals to idols, we give that idol power that it just doesn’t have. We make it out to be something when it’s actually nothing. So we don’t get caught up in that. But if we make it tougher for a brother or sister in Jesus, then we aren’t faithfully serving and we should sacrifice for the better of someone else’s conscience. We should follow Jesus’ example, His sacrifice for us. We don’t, as Dr Luther said, want to create discord and contempt. We want to act in a way, in many issues, that others will be built up and strengthened in their relationship with Jesus. For this week, read all of 1 Corinthians 8 and read Romans 13, which is a lot of the same discussion. Are there things that you are doing in your life, that may be making it tough for non-believers or immature Christians? The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

Get real! You want real worship? It’s right there, churches like First St Johns

The evidence keeps rolling in, while people don’t seem to actively express the desire, more and more it seems that people want worship that is serious.

The common rap is that “liturgical” worship is “boring”, it’s not fun, it’s not entertaining. Who said that worship was suitable for any of this. No it isn’t entertainment. But when you actively participate, when you genuinely try to understand versus this odd idea that most come into worship with: “I’m an empty vessel fill me”. These same people have been going to worship for years, decades, yet two, maybe three times a month, they go to worship and say “fill me, I haven’t done anything, you need to do it for me.” OK, sure, I’m there “to do”, to lead in worship. But folks, this is the “Body of Christ”. If you come in with the attitude that it’s all about me and you need to do for me, it’s not going to work and I submit that is becoming more evident in all these “churches” that do everything but worship.

People are looking to be connected to God, we are connected to the Father, because of the Son, by the Holy Spirit. As I said, this is “the Body of Christ.” What does that mean? The head does all the work and everything else just hibernates. That’s not going to work in human biology, why would it work as a Christian. If the heart stops beating, the head isn’t going to be of much use. You can sit there with head and heart, but if nothing else works, you’re simply not going to get it. Christian worship is participatory, not passive taking in. The issue becomes who is worship for? Well yes, it is for you, it is for those around you, it is for those out in a dark, cold world. It’s not for God. He wants us to worship and through our worship He feeds us, He builds us up, but you need to genuinely be heart and soul in worship, passively sitting back doesn’t work for you, brothers and sisters in Jesus or God. The church is there to serve, to equip you in order to grow in Jesus, but my philosophy is that if there is 5, 50 or 500 it’s still the same. If 5 have shown up, I’m not going to get all bitter with the others who didn’t. Five people, plus me, showed up to worship. I have 5 faithful brothers and/or sisters (it’s only 5 it could be all guys…) Anyway, they are there for me, I am there for them, we’re all there before God, that’s all that matters.

In a Leadership Journal article Marian Liautaud likes to pat herself on the back as to how millenials have become so critical in their thinking. (Make Room for Me Fall 2014 pp 55-57)They haven’t found genuine worship in churches, so they don’t go to worship. I’d like to assure them genuine worship is very much alive, if you haven’t found it, you haven’t looked to hard. Now, I have to wonder, is this just an excuse to avoid worship or a lack of effort to truly look. My answer is “yes”. Everyone likes to pat themselves on the back as to their critical thinking and discernment, but they frankly still want to sit back and just be an empty vessel. Frankly, I don’t even get the title. I assure you Marian, 100%, you show up with a genuine willingness to be a part, I will do back flips for you to be a part. But frankly in that generation I get this sort of “arms-length” attitude, they really don’t want to make an effort, they want someone to read their mind and they then still continue to dissemble.

Heather Stevens, a junior in college, writes “If you are a church leader, this data should stop you in your tracks. It should make you think, ‘What the heck am I doing wrong?'”

Wow, isn’t that just precious, her go to position is someone else is doing something wrong. I would agree to an extent, there is a lot of “wrong” “worship” out there. Seems to me Heather is more concerned about changing the places she thinks are wrong to fit her profile, versus finding the places that will meet her questions. This is another indication that people today, and frankly it’s any age group, are not very critical in their thinking. ‘Something’s wrong, so it must be someone else’s fault.” Instead of, I need to keep an open mind to the other possibilities out there, that do offer genuine worship and are eager to share that, to disciple others. I would jump through flaming hoops to have such a group together, but they won’t, they’re not really looking for answers, they’re just about airing out their lungs, letting everyone else know what their uninformed opinion is.

However, and I’ve said this before, the church has messed itself up too, The church has tried, for at least, the last three generations, to cater to this attitude that Heather expresses. So it’s not just millenials, it goes back to at least to people in the Depression Era. The church hasn’t stood up and said “this is what’s important”, it’s kind of groveled and said “tell us what you want, just try to make it in a Christian context.”

Just expressing what any contemporary American could/would say Taylor Snodgrass says: “Our generation has been advertised at our whole life and even now on social media,’… Consequently, if a church isn’t giving you the whole story, if it’s sugarcoated or they’re onstage putting on an act 20s see through this. It causes us to leave. We’re good at seeing when people are lying.” Well bless your heart Taylor, you have part of it, but it’s still a copout, an excuse. Great, if you think that, but be as honest as you claim to be. You don’t really want the truth, I feel like Jack Nicholson here, “You can’t handle the truth.” You want to avoid and you’re using someone else’s failure to drop out. Believe me, if people were genuine in these assertions, the church I pastor would be heaving at the seams, instead it’s excuse after excuse.

Ya, maybe my candor, might be a little intimidating, but that’s what all these “get real” types want, isn’t it? No, they want nice, they want sugar coated, just their way, not their parents. I’m not saying beat people, pummel them with truth, that’s not my style either. But my style is to be upfront, to challenge, to deal with the real issues. Come on, let’s deal with them together, I’d love it!

To wit, let’s look at the rest of what millennials want and a church like First St Johns has. “Visual clarity: ‘Millennials want to be able to answer the questions ‘Where am I?’ and ‘What’s expected of me?” This is according to David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group….”

“As part of Barna’s study on Millenials and church architecture, they brought two groups of 20-somethings to modern churches, and then to cathedral style churches. In the cathedrals, ‘they felt it was a space for serious activities such as prayer, coping with tragedy and communing with God. They sensed the spirituality of the place,’ says Kinnaman. ‘At the same time, they were concerned about how they would fit in – If I visit, do I need to wear dressy clothes? – and a few participants, especially unchurched people, felt intimidated by the spiritual intensity of the space.'”

Well! Welcome to First St Johns. First off, no, believe me “dressy clothes” are not a big priority. We have plenty of people who do the best they can, that’s all I can ask.

One of the biggest kicks I get being the pastor of such a church is showing people the church sanctuary. I don’t think it’s failed to happen yet, you hear them silently, reverently suck in a little air and say a quiet wow! You want a place that evinces true Christian spirituality? Look at the featured picture, and that really doesn’t do it justice. If you don’t know where you are, well you have problems that I can’t help you with.

I did find the point of bringing nature into a church an interesting one. . I’d like to see if we could do more of that. I will say Christmas the altar is covered with poinsettias and Easter with lillies. But it is an inner-city church and a place in the church that would be a place where we could have some plants and some kind of natural effects would have a huge benefit, so thanks for the suggestion. Let’s see some of these people who talk a good game show up and put it in motion, I’ll be right there with you.

Respite” “Millenials, perhaps more than any other generation, have a deep need for peace and quiet; they long for a sanctuary. ‘Our culture is fragmented and frenetic and there are few places to take a breather to gain much-needed perspective,’ says Kinnaman. ‘Ironically, most churches offer what they think people want: more to do, more to see. Yet that’s exactly the opposite of what many young adults crave: sacred space.,’ ”

“Our churches are places of action, not places of rest; spaces to do rather than spaces to be. The activities, of course, are designed to connect people with God and each other – and some Millennials hope for that, too – but many just want an opportunity to explore spiritual life on their own terms, free to decide when to sit quietly on the edges of a sacred space and when to enter in.”

My answer, you need sacred space at two in the morning, you call me up and I will come down and open up the church. But you better be serious, don’t be there whining, be there genuinely searching. I would love it! We have action, we are an inner-city church and we often have to deal with real issues, but our priority is always spiritual health. Dr Luther describes pastors as Seel Sorgers, ‘soul healers’ that’s what I am first and foremost, but I try to do the other things.

When we first got to First St Johns, we set up a “Prayer Room”, I also had a few, very few, people want to go into the sanctuary to pray. We have prayer groups right after worship, we have a prayer breakfast once per month, we have a “Healing Service” one per month, Matins worship Thursday mornings and Sunday morning. I’d happily do some of these much more often, but frankly, not exactly overwhelmed with response as it is now.

“Give them Jesus – building relationships and learning about Jesus are two central reasons why Millennials stay connected to church. Barna’s research shows that young adults who remain involved in a local church beyond their teen years are twice as likely as those who don’t to have a close personal friendship with an older adult in their faith community (59% vs 31%).”

For a small church, we do this pretty well, we could do better, but there has to be buy-in from everyone and again I would jump through hoops to facilitate it.

So to Marian and David, Taylor and Heather, here you go. This is it right here. Genuine worship, genuine doctrine, genuine space, genuine relationships and authenticity. Let’s sit and talk, let’s really deal with our relationship with Jesus and genuinely worship and honor Him. Does He need our worship? No, but we need to worship and we need to do it with authenticity, not sit back and fill me/entertain me. Don’t expect me to just pat you on the head, sure when it’s needed, but today, we need to get real and get back to the real church and not the happy/clappy God just wants me to be happy. No, it’s joy in Christ, won’t always be pleasant, but it is true relationship. Do you want that or not?

Holy Communion continued I

My Christian background is a little odd, although more and more it’s becoming common among younger generations and is not out of the question with in my “baby boomer” generation. I was dedicated as an American Baptist (“Baptists” don’t baptize infants. Parents “dedicate” their children, promising that they will raise their child as a Christian in the Baptist Church.) I was married by a “Congregational” minister (it’s now called United Church of Christ). I was baptized by a United Methodist Minister and ordained by a Lutheran minister. I cannot say I was “raised’ as a Christian, no less in any particular tradition. I’m not saying that based on my checkered past that I’m an expert on various traditions of the Lord’s Supper, but my experience might give me a little bit of a unique perspective.

To be clear, yea, I have a firm conviction about the Lord’s Supper, I’m very serious about the Lord’s Supper. Lutherans would agree with Roman Catholics that the Bread and Wine in the Lord’s Supper is the true Body and Blood of Jesus. There’s disagreement as how that’s arrived at and dealt with, but just to give you a place to start to understand what the church’s position is. Having been a Methodist, I’ve seen the Lord’s Supper treated more like a cookie and coco break during worship, I’ve seen it treated pretty cavalierly in other traditions too, it’s offensive, it’s really offensive, it’s the Holy Body of our Lord and Savior.

I know I’m kind of stacking the discussion, but Jesus told us: “Take, eat; this is my body.”, Not this is a symbol, this is something I’m doing to be chummy, this is some weird mystical thing. No this is My Body, this is My Blood. This is what has been sacrificed for you, this is what has been given to be a part of you, this is what was given in order to assure you I paid the price for you sin and you are now forgiven, there should be no doubt in your mind about this.

OK? Don’t think there’s a lot of room to maneuver. When we treat the Body and Blood less than that, then it’s hard to take seriously those who treat His Body so lightly. For those of you who are so easily offended, this is real offense, mistreating the true Body and Blood of your Savior, the One who died to pay for your sins.

Rev Dr Peter Kurowski has written a really great book “Close Communion Conversations”, discussing issues associated with the Lord’s Supper. Since different denominations have different perspectives on the Lord’s Supper, most denominations try to specifiy with whom it is appropriate to allow to share communion with outside the denomination. For most of Protestant Christianity all you have to do is profess some acceptance of Christ and be able to fog up a mirror. Lutheran Church Missouri Synod takes our most solemn sacrament very seriously and, I feel at least, that it should be treated seriously by everyone, regardless of church or lack of church.

Therefore I refer to Dr Kurowski’s book to discuss the concepts of “Open Communion”, “Closed Communion” which are the two contrasts, and “Close Communion” which Dr Kurowski labels the middle ground.

Open Communion in the extreme is the notion that the Lord’s Supper is administered to all people who come to the altar without any due diligence on the part of the administering pastor. This is not how Jesus wants His supper distributed. (1 Corinthians 4:1; Matthew 28: 18-20) Such a position is reckless and loveless. It creates Corinthian confusion. Church bodies that run this direction invariably will lose a true gospel centeredness lapsing into lawlessness. The person of Christ is diminished and “It is finished!” is rarely heard by the famished (John 19:30).”

Closed Communion” in the extreme is the notion that the Lord’s Supper is administered only to people who are communicant members of a denomination that has publicly declared altar fellowship. Though well meaning, this brittle approach is a reproach to many a saint who comes to the Lord’s Table hungering for righteousness but is met with a stone wall rather than a cup of compassion. The damage done when one’s position is too narrow is chilling, devastating and at times causes irreparable harm turning the Church – a hospital for sinners – into a kind of “Club Christ”, or a “Christ who clubs!”

Close Communion Conversations” seeks to pursue the good golden gospel middle of genuine evangelical theology on altar fellowship issues…The guideline in service of the gospel runs this way: Although we have as a general rule closed communion we have exceptions to the rule. Both the general rule and the exceptions to the rule are for the sake of the gospel. At the same time the exceptions ought not t become the rule.”

“Because of this evangelical guideline, I prefer the term close communion. It captures the theological tensions in which evangelical Christianity must live. It brings with it a paradoxical Lutheran edge.” (pp 9-10)

This sets the discussion and I want to emphasize that when in doubt, my preference is to have “closed’ communion. I’ve written about this before, but it is not to set some sort of “more worthy Christian”, but to assure that the recipient truly understands and accepts a correct understanding of what the Lord’s Supper truly is. I often tell those who are new to the Lutheran Church that we don’t want them to feel excluded, we want them to understand how seriously we take the Lord’s Supper, that it is for their spiritual health. As a member eligible to receive the Lord’s Supper a person stands before the church that, as a part of membership, they vow to accept the true understanding of what the Lord’s Supper truly is. I want to give people the Lord’s Supper, believe me it is one of the great parts of being a pastor. But I want to do it to the recipients spiritual health and nourishment and knowing that we both understand what we are doing.

Please feel free to discuss and I plan to have more discussion.