Spring has Sprung!

FlowersThat’s a saying that may or may not be grammatically correct. As a matter of fact, Spell Check on my computer took a second look at it, with a squiggly frown on its electronic face.

Many in our land have been inundated with an unusually brutal winter. Records have fallen in numerous categories, particularly total snowfall in the Northeast. But not in Texas.

Here in central Texas winter was more messy than record breaking, with many misty and chilly but not frigid days of drizzle and dreariness. At least for the moment those things have given way to sunshine and warmth, the stuff we’re accustomed to experiencing here at this time of year.

Another sign of spring in Texas is the eruption of colors in the landscape. Earlier this week I was traveling along a road that provides a multi-mile view of rolling hills and valleys. I saw beautiful shades of green, provided by newly-leafed trees awaking from their winter hibernation.

In addition, I saw some of my favorite wildflowers—bluebonnets—which seem to have appeared overnight. Some of the uninformed mistakenly call them bluebells. That’s the ice cream company. The flower is a bluebonnet. But I digress.

Along with spring comes the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord. In many ways the things I’ve just described about spring are subtle seasonal reminders of the awakening, the eruption, the appearance of our Lord Jesus from his time in the tomb. Thankfully, his season of embalmed hibernation was brief and temporary. Unlike spring, his reappearance and reemergence are not seasonal but eternal.

Remember that reality as you walk next week with billions of Christians around the world the path of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It’s the week we Christians call Holy.

Many blessings to each of you! Spring has sprung!

Important Questions

QuestionThis past week I spent a few days with 19 other fellow pastors. Some are retired; others are still active in parish ministry. All are wonderfully gifted and talented men.

During one of our sessions, the leader asked those of us who are no longer active in congregational ministry a number of important questions:

  1. What’s a Bible passage that means a lot you?
  2. What attribute of God is most important to you?
  3. What’s going on in your life that is significant?
  4. What’s a question you would like to ask the rest of us or anyone else, perhaps even God?
  5. What’s an insight you would like to share with the group or with someone else?

The ensuing conversation was awesome! The seven of us in that group had a combined total of 317 years in ministerial leadership of one kind or another. That’s an average of over 45 years each! We all shared heartfelt matters, not the least of which is the desire “to finish well.”

In a subsequent conversation it was clear that finishing well referred not simply to vocational retirement per se. It was mostly about doing whatever it takes to influence for Christ as many people as possible, especially family members and non-believers, as long as we’re alive.

Regardless of your current age, vocation, experience, personal or family circumstances, I encourage you to contemplate those same important questions. They very well might have the same impact on you that they had on seven chronologically mature clergymen last week!

Preaching and Praying

Pulpit 1Having attended many worship services in my lifetime, I’ve come to appreciate the challenge of planning and leading meaningful worship. Combining elements of worship in a spiritually stimulating manner, week in and week out, is not as easy as some might think. Two specific elements of worship come to mind—preaching and praying.

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the awesome task of preaching. It’s not easy to find and to fashion a timely topic based on a biblical text that truly touches the hearts of the vastly diverse audience in most Christian congregations every Sunday.

Public prayers in worship bring to Almighty God the praises, thanksgivings, confessions, needs, thoughts, longings, hopes, doubts and fears of young and old alike. What a blessing it is for a pastor to pray for, with and on behalf of his people!

Most preachers and other people have a few pet peeves when it comes to preaching and praying. So do I. Here are a few bothersome matters and mannerisms that can be very distracting:

  • Failing to translate theological concepts and truths into practical life application.
  • Saying “Uh” and “Um” unnecessarily and habitually in sermons and prayers.
  • Repeatedly and predictably using colloquial expressions when praying and preaching.
  • Praying in a manner that sounds more like a speech than a conversation with God.

There are many more, but this short list is enough for now. Suffice it to say that the work of those who are called to preach and to pray is not only very important but also quite difficult. I have great respect for those called by God to this noble task!

To those on the pulpit side of the sanctuary I offer encouragement to continue to take seriously and endeavor faithfully to accomplish the monumental task to which you have been called.

To those on the pew side of the sanctuary I encourage praying for and supporting your pastor, freely and frequently offering positive encouragement for his most significant responsibilities.

The desired result is pastor and people working together to the glory of God in fulfilling his purpose of making known the love of Christ in our churches, communities and world!

God’s Presence in Your Life

FloodOne of the most profound questions I frequently hear people asking goes something like this: “If there is a God, does he really know who I am and does he really care about my life?”

As a Christian person, husband, father, grandfather, pastor, theologian, ecclesiastical supervisor, former regional and national church body leader and current Concordia University presidential ambassador, my answer is this: Absolutely yes!

It may seem God is absent from our lives in times of personal difficulty or national disaster. But the Bible says God is always with us. He knows how many hairs we have on our head (Matt. 10:30). Nothing in all creation can separate us from his love, not even death (Rom. 8:35-39).

A few years ago LCMS Eastern District President Chris Wicher shared with me a story that some might dismiss as mere coincidence. I think it illustrates God’s presence and activity in our lives.

Chris and a few pastors and other men were driving around the flooded area of Pittston, Penn., looking for people who needed help in cleaning up their flooded homes. They came to a couple standing in front of their home, simply staring at the damage. The car stopped and one of the pastors asked if they needed help.

The people responded “No, not really. We don’t know where to begin and besides the house does not yet have electricity restored.”

The would-be helpers told who they were and that they were driving around to see if they could be of help. They told the couple, “We have a generator, pump, mops, buckets and Clorox.”

Quite moved by this generous offer, the homeowners accepted the help and in a few hours the cleanup was completed. But that’s not all. Not five minutes before the carload of generous helpers offered their assistance, the couple had prayed to the Lord for direction and help! I would submit that God answered their prayer by sending some very good-hearted men to their door.

The love of Jesus moves people to acts of kindness. Such kindness demonstrates, in this and in many other circumstances, the presence and care of God in the lives of his people.