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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why Am I Here?

Newsletter Article - December 2012
 
God gives us His Word which speaks truth, gives gifts and is efficacious, that is it does what it says. God speaks to us concerning our care for others as we read:
 
17“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 20Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:17-21 (ESV))
 
I have quoted the above Bible text, because I have a concern for the members of this congregation, St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield. The following may be offensive, especially to those who find themselves convicted by these words, which is how the Law of God works. Indeed, the Word of God is offensive to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). Yet it is only as the Law lays the foundation in our hearts that the Good News of the Gospel will have fertile soil in which to be planted.
 
On Sunday, November 18, 2012 the attendance at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield was 65. You read that correctly, there were only 65 members of our congregation who gathered in attendance to be given the gifts God gives through His external means of Word and Sacrament. This means the 76% of our members stayed away from Divine Service refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give. On Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 21, 2012 the attendance at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield was 26. Again, you read that correctly, there were 26 members of our congregation who gathered in attendance to give thanks to the Lord and to be given the gifts God gives through His external Word. This means that 90% of our members stayed away from Divine Service refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give (Certainly God understands those who cannot physically attend).
 
At first I began to think that this rejection was a rejection of me as the pastor. And yes, I know there are a handful of people who do reject the pastor God has called to serve in this congregation and so are truly rejecting God and the gifts He gives, but everyone who absents themselves from Divine Service is truly rejecting God and the gifts He has to give.
 
We have a spiritual problem in our congregation, as we do in our world today. What is it that I am constantly preaching? Is it not that we are to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, and we do that by being in Divine Service (and Bible Class) as often as it is offered? Thus, if we are hearing God’s Word and if we are hearing His Word through the man, the servant, the pastor He has called and placed in our midst, should not our attendance every Sunday be a majority of our members? Otherwise, are we not then guilty of refusing and rejecting God’s Word and the gifts He gives through His Word and His Sacraments. If we refuse and reject God’s Word and His Word as spoken by His called servant, then why do we bother having a pastor?
 
How or why would we expect God to bless us if and when we fail to be where His gifts are given out? If you fail to go to the grocery store, would you not expect to not have groceries? When we fail to be in Divine Service, when we refuse and reject the good gifts and blessings God has to give, how can we then ask for God to bless us? He has blessed us with so much, more than we need and more than we could possibly want.
 
As I have told people, “I do not go looking for trouble, it finds me.” There are times I hear people say such things as, “Don’t tell the pastor, he would not approve.” If the pastor would not approve, would God approve? Do we not believe the words our pastor is speaking, which from the pulpit, should be God’s Word, thus we do not believe God? Someone once suggested that we think about and determine the things we do by asking the question, “Would I want to be caught doing what I am doing by Jesus?” If I would not want to be caught doing something by Jesus, then should I be doing it at all?
God loves you so very much. He has given you all that you have and need and even much of what you may want. He wants you, and He has you when He has all of you. I would urge you, be given the gifts!    God has given us so much. He has given us life at conception. He has given us faith and new life through Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness of sins through Confession and Absolution. He gives us forgiveness and strengthening of faith through His Word and Sacrament. He gives and gives and gives. God gives first, and God gives all we need. How is it that we expect even more from Him when we fail, first to recognize Him as the giver of all and second as we refuse and reject the gifts He has to give? We fail to recognize Him by failing to offer to Him the first fruits of what He has given to us. We refuse and reject His gifts by absenting ourselves from where the gifts are given out.
 
I am a sinner whom God has called to be the pastor of this congregation and so I lead in a sinful manner. Yet, my life stands before this congregation, as it has for the past ten years, as an example and the example I and my family live is that our custom is that we are in Divine Service every Sunday and whenever offered. And even when we are away on vacation, we find a church in which to be in Divine Service. Even on Sundays when we are at scouting events, either I lead a service for the scouts and/or we are in a church near our scouting event. When it comes to giving of our time, my family gives as much time as we can to attend other congregational events. When it comes to giving, we give our first fruits. I have only owned one new vehicle in my lifetime. We live in a modest house. We do not all have smart phones, as a matter of fact, my wife and I simply have cell phones that make phone calls. Yes, we do have some other amenities in our home, but only what we can afford after giving our first fruits. And God continues to bless us. God gives and we are given to and as we are given to we respond in thanks by returning to the Lord our first fruits of our time, our talents and our treasure know that as He has given to us and as we return, in faith, to Him, He will shower us we even more blessings. No one can out give God.
 
7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need (Malachi 3:7-10).
 
And so I get back to the question, “Why am I here?” I have been proclaiming God’s Word, encouraging making regular and diligent us of the means of grace and first fruits giving as a response of faith and yet our actions, our giving and our attendance seem to indicate that either I am not actually proclaiming the Gospel, or it is being rejected and not believed. Truly I see these things as a sign that we are in the end times as our Lord tells us that, as the day of judgment approaches people will fall away, people will seek to hear what their itching ears want to hear, people will refuse and reject Him.
 
There are several articles include in this newsletter that I hope you will read. Two are from the November issue of the “Lutheran Witness,” and speak about our pastor, one is from a pastor in Arizona who asks if we are ready to die. These articles and this one are intended to get you to stop and think about your spiritual well-being and to encourage you in your spiritual life.
 
God loves you so very much. He has given you all that you have and need and even much of what you may want. He wants you, and He has you when He has all of you. I would urge you, be given the gifts!

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