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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, October 2, 2013

State of the Congregation

It has been suggested that congregations which are struggling financially have financial problems. I know you have heard me say it before, and you will hear me say it again, but this time I want to say it with an explanation; congregations do not have financial problems, they have spiritual problems. How can I make that statement, and how can that be true? Let me explain.

First, let me ask you to look around on any given Sunday morning at St. Matthew. Are our pews filled with one hundred percent of our members? Or do we see that sixty to seventy-five percent of our members absent themselves from Divine Service attendance? The natural desire of a Christian is to be where the Word of God is preached and the sacraments are distributed. As we heard in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the lost sheep and coin do not realize they are lost and do not go looking for their owner. Very often, in our lostness, we go looking for those who would confirm our lostness. Rather than confess our placing something or someone else before God (first commandment), we hang out with those who also refuse and reject the gifts God gives. We fail to take God’s Word seriously and so we absent ourselves from Divine Service, from Bible Class, from personal and family devotions and reading God’s Word, and we do it with many good excuses, which is what they are, excuses. We do have a spiritual problem. But there is more.

What are our offerings? Are our offerings simply a collection of what is left in our pockets after we have paid our bills and had our fun? Or are our offerings our first fruits, our tithes offered in response to and in recognition of the fact that everything we have has first been given to us as a gift from God? Interestingly enough, the only place in the Bible that I read of God telling us to test Him is in our giving (Malachi 3:10). The whole passage reads, “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” (Mal. 3:8-10). And yet, we fail to trust that as God has so provided for us to this point in our lives that He will continue to provide. Personally, I believe that if our whole congregation were tithing their first fruits, we would have more finances than we would know what to do with; although, I am sure we could find something on which to spend the gifts that would be brought in. Again, we see this is a spiritual problem. Do we take God seriously?

Finally, let me get a bit more personal. How are we doing as parents and grandparents in teaching and encouraging our own children and grandchildren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Are our children and grandchildren baptized? Are they attending Divine Service and Bible Class, or Sunday School? Are they hearing the Word of God, or do we take God seriously that there is one and only one way to eternal life?

Unfortunately, and I do not say this to let us off the hook, but we are not alone. Our whole society has continued to take a downward spiral concerning our spiritual well-being. We have and continue to fail in standing up for our Lord and our faith. Abortion runs rampant. The homosexual community is running roughshod over our culture; and we sit idly by and do and say nothing. Again I ask, “Do we take God seriously?”

God has taken us and our sin seriously. He has sent His Son to live perfectly for us in our place because we do not and cannot. Jesus lived perfectly obeying all of God’s laws and commands perfectly. Jesus took our sin and paid the price, suffering the complete punishment of eternal spiritual death in hell for us. He died and rose. He ascended and now He is seated at the right hand of the Father where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. His desire is to love us and to give us the gifts He has to give. He does not force nor coerce us to be given His gifts and when we refuse and reject He continues to seek us to give to us. God has so much He wants to give to us. Brothers and sisters, come and be given the gifts!

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