SERVICE or SERVE US?

Do you have a “service mentality,” or a “serve us mentality”? While the dichotomy is simple to understand, because of our sinful nature, living the Christian lifestyle and being a true servant is hard to do. Still, we are called to serve, not to be served.

There are some genuinely generous people, truly gifted in hospitality, in giving, in serving others. Sadly, and perhaps somewhat cynically, more of what I see in people is that they have a desire to be served more than to serve others.

When this “serve us mentality” infects the minds of the individuals, it also infects the church which is made up of these people. It’s the same principle we deal with in people saying they come to church to “be fed”. It’s rather obvious that people get out of things from that which they put in (kind of like a church potluck). If a church member comes with a bitter attitude, more than likely they will leave with bitterness multiplied in their heart. If someone comes lacking the desire to forgive another they will be prone to leave not only feeling the same, but possibly having even less forgiveness in their heart as they see and hear that others are being called forgiven who have done far worse things (at least in their minds).

People most often see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. They take with them only what fits their personally molded mentality. It infiltrates every aspect of people’s spiritual life. Some people put $20 a month in the offerings and expect the church to maintain a certain standard of appearance, comfort and certainly service to them in times of need. They scoot in and out of church hardly saying a word to anyone and then claim the church is unfriendly and unwelcoming.

Praise God that there are many in the church who do love the Lord and it’s genuinely observed because they show it in their love and respect for other children of God. Matthew 13 speaks about how Jesus was rejected in his own hometown and that there were no miracles performed there because of their lack of faith. It’s sorrowful that they missed out on the blessings of Jesus because they were too focused on themselves, on being served rather than serving.

There’s a series of commercials that have played over and over for years from a credit card company asking “What’s in Your Wallet?” The direction they want you thinking is that if you have their card, you’ll have all you need. We could ask in the church, “What’s in Your Heart?” and understand that question may reveal you have all you need, or it may show an ugliness that is in need of repentance and being left at the foot of the Cross.

If the church is to be right and healthy, then we as her members need to be right and healthy. If the church is to be faithful, then we as God’s individual people need to be faithful and faith filled. If the church is to be a place of “service” to others, the we need to rid ourselves of the “serve us” mentality and instead return to the Lord and the example He is in His service to us. Are you faithfully coming to the weekly family reunion or missing out to serve yourself? What are you bringing to the Sunday family gathering? It’ll be reflective of what you take home.

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:19

Don’t be in it for yourself, that you might be served. Live for the opportunity to be of service for others.

Pastor Bill

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Seasons Change, Do You?

YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS!

Easter marks the beginning of a new season in the church year. The Gospel readings shift to both post-resurrection stories about Jesus, and also His care for us as the Good Shepherd, the nourishing Vine, and the Christ who offers prayers on our behalf.

IT’S TIME TO/FOR SPRING

As there is a shift in the readings and focus of worship in new Easter season, there is a shift in the season around us as we say farewell to Winter and welcome Spring (or as we see it in Texas, just a brief walk up to Summer). With those changes, perhaps now would be a good time to consider changes of our own. Better than the old hat idea of New Year’s resolutions, how about looking for a new level of faithfulness to the Lord. How about asking the Spirit to Spring up within us and energize us anew for service in God’s Name? What if everyone of us looked to make a truly new and positive impact on behalf of Christ, remembering as we do not just at Easter, but always, that His death and resurrection are the reason we have life, hope and our very being? Some things to Consider might be…

  • A renewed faithful participation in Bible Study, both for the knowledge and for the fellowship with the family of believers.
  • Pledging to invite someone to church at least once a month. (Whether they come or not, we need to be active in asking people.)
  • Finding one new ministry to get involved with at church. We can look for new ways to use our talents and bless the congregation as well as our own spirits.
  • Tithe, or make a commitment to increase your offerings, by even 1% more of your income. The church is how we are both nourished and how we reach out to others in caring for them in so many ways. We have to fund the ministry to both the Body of Christ in each place as well as planning for the future.
  • Read the Bible regularly, every day. If you already do this, then increase the amount of time you spend in the Scriptures by another 5 or 10 minutes each day.
  • Pray, pray, pray. Every church, always has several folks you know from the family that need prayers. Most publish lists of those folks. You can also make your own daily list of folks that need prayer. (As a pastor, I am always appreciative of prayers that I remain faithful and serve well.)

Don’t let the weather be the only thing that “Springs” around you. Spring into action in your faith as well.

Pastor Bill

Christians Who Conceal and Carry

I know everyone already has a strong opinion on this one way or the other. I also realize that nothing I write will likely change a single person’s opinion or actions. But, I ask you to read this with as open a mind as you possibly can. And please, try not to draw a conclusion or evaluate this epistle sentence by sentence until you have read the entire document.

On my part I can honestly say, that I have grown to have a great concern over many of those who choose to conceal and carry. That may come as a surprise to some, but most people will understand my perspective, even if they don’t share it. However, I also have a greater concern over those who choose not to carry at all. which may sound like a conflict, but I do not believe that is the case.

In this day and age it is clear to me that if ever there was a time for people to be bold enough to carry it is now. I do realize that there are some who cannot be trusted. But, it is all the more important that because there are some who will do the wrong thing, that we need to have good and godly people who will carry and do the right thing. Christians need to have a firm understanding that this is really a responsibility, not just a right

Will we give our country over to people who lead us astray from what is our God given and God ordained right? Over the years that’s what has happened. We have allowed ourselves to be shamed because of other people actions and beliefs. This has led to a point where we are no longer given much of a say. Fingers are pointed and blame is ascribed before anything takes place, even though folks are behaving peaceably. Will we surrender to those who say that what we stand for has no place in society any longer? Will we be judged by the actions of a few? Why should we be attacked so readily when we only want to help others?

Through ages past, people were once bolder. More people knew that they had a right to speak out and speak up for what is right. This is a matter of life and death and if we are truly concerned about protecting the lives of those around us, those we know, those we love, and yes, even those that may just cross our paths, the time to rise up and take a stand is now. There are too many lives at stake if we do not make a conscious choice to carry. I carry! I have one in the glove box of my pickup, several at home and even quite a few in my office. I even encourage people at church to bring theirs with them so they can get some practice in, using them.

Do you carry your Bible? Is it where you can use it at a moment’s notice? Is it there for you to pull out in time of need for your sake or for the sake of another? Some Christians have their Bibles with them but conceal them so others may never know they exist or carry them around at all. Other Christians don’t bother to carry them at all. This Word save lives! How can we say we are committed Christians if we don’t carry Bibles and regularly use them for our protection and the protection and salvation of others.

I carry, I want you to carry too. Take a stand not to let the world around continue to tell us to sit down. Carry, read and show it freely and frequently to others. Use it and remind people that you do so because you care about them. Don’t conceal it, openly show it and openly share it.

Pastor Bill

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

It can be a stretching of the truth, a little “white” lie, a fib expressed to gain attention or increase one’s popularity, all the way through a great story, a whopper of untruth, that intends to besmirch and destroy another’s character. Lately, there is a serious 8th Commandment issue that far too many people seem to be O.K. with. Instead of the old legal standard of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” we have become a people who currently live under a code of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.”

Please keep in mind, I am not speaking about attacking those who have truly been victimized. They have every right to come forward and speak out against injustice, abuse, inappropriate overtures. etc… They need support and help though the traumatic experiences they have endured. And, those who have perpetrated these offenses should be held fully accountable for their sinful actions.

However, what about the falsely accused? No defense will work, no correction of details or facts are accepted. If you are accused in today’s climate, you are guilty. No jury, court or even witness is needed. The one who speaks out first is believed and trusted as speaking the full truth, even though they themselves may be lying. This is currently the way of the world. Believe it or not, even your closest friend can lie to you and you will believe them out of blind loyalty.

This is life in the public and political arena. In the church it’s more of a been there-done that reality. It is nothing new in respect to people in the church. There have been many divisions in congregations throughout the ages that are due to this perception.

I know many pastors and a few other church workers who have been accused of serious indiscretions. I also know that some of the stories were not true. With this I’ve seen reputations destroyed, pastor’s families wrongly vilified and even congregations experience splits all because a person lied to make themselves appear as a victim. To compound their sin, the lies became realities in the minds of those who repeated their false accusation so often, they began to believe themselves. Over the years I have even been the victim of such lies, but you can’t speak out against them or it becomes like Prov 26:4 “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.”

The Bible has a lot to say about this subject:
Col 3:9 “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices”
Prov 12:22 “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”
Prov 13:5 “The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.”
Eph 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

We are supposed to be above all this in the church, we should live remembering Phil 1:21 “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Don’t believe everything you hear but, test the spirits. Remember, Christ is about forgiveness, not accusations. Let your speech build the church, not tear her down. And if it’s not true, don’t repeat it.

~ Pastor Bill

Repeal and Replace?

REPEAL AND REPLACE

The first thing that comes to mind for any American who hears the words “repeal and replace” (or R&R) is the Obamacare issue in the senate and their polarized views on it. But, the polarization didn’t start there (nor does it stop there), it began long before that with the great divide our country has in everything political.

I question the veracity of the word “United” concernUntitleding the States of North America. Perhaps it’s time to R&R our name. Here in the DFW area, there is much talk about changing things by which a small segment of the population is offend. It’s certainly a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” response. But, it’s being done nonetheless.

There are several things presently underway. There is a removal (or repeal) of memorials which some insist represent (the currently popular buzz phrase) “white supremacy,” they do not belong in public forums. Many of these memorials have managed to stand where they are for over 100 years without any real squabbles. Now there is a great urgency to get rid of them as soon as possible. However, their removal has certainly not calmed any racial divisions. Some people want to repeal street and city park names and replace them with something new for the same reason. Again, no less prejudice is gained. Folks have reprimanded those who had confederate flags, yet I personally know folks of many races that all appreciate the “rebel” flag.

Realistically, what monument to any person should exist? All are sinners. Every monument is in memoriam of someone who was a sinner. Since the focus has become “who cares what good things they may have done,” if all we are going to do is focus on the negative then who should have any public remembrance? There are so many things that can cause offense and apparently that is the key to changing these many things. Obamacare falls in the same area where it is becoming less the issue than it is a weapon, or at the very least a rally flag to proclaim victory or reflect defeat.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the term R&R were something that had even more meaning and value? We need to R&R the things showing that these so called United States are not really united at all. How about as Christians we R&R the things that get in the way of our faithfully attending worship every Sunday morning. There is a desperate need for God’s children to repeal and replace a host of things in their lives that interfere with their proper relationship and stewardship with and for Christ. Let’s R&R the sinful sides of politics that divide friends and family. The problems are even deep within our/my own denomination as we have a name claiming “harmony” (a synonym of a sort for being united), Concordia. Anyone who has ever been to one of our Synodical meetings knows how great the divide is, caused by all sides and beginning with the Synod President on down. We certainly have to remember the fingers pointing back at ourselves as we “preach” to others.

The Reformation was an effort to R&R corruption within the church with a right understanding of the Scriptures and God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and grace. That reformation is still underway as is a counter reformation movement that would divide us even further. So, the church is no better than the country.

Change can happen. It begins with the people who make up the church. If we will begin to R&R the sin which so easily entangles us (consider the Biblical woman who swept clean her house) and “hear the word of God and obey it,” the reformation can begin again. First in our lives, next in the church, then in our country, and finally around the world? We won’t know unless we try. Will you join me?

Pastor Bill

“The Greatest Problem?”

Recently I was asked, “what is the greatest problem facing the church today?” Certainly the inquisitor had in mind a specific issue, which was never revealed, but I shared my perception nonetheless. Luther on Works

Concerning the church at large in the world I said that I consider the way the work of Jesus has been minimized is the greatest problem. Too many churches have gone away from preaching Christ Crucified (1 Cor. 1:23). People don’t want to know about a suffering and murdered Son of God, who took their place in God’s wrath. They don’t want to believe that they are actually sinners, and that their sins are so great it would require them to be saved from them. Minimizing Christ means minimizing their own sins. If I am not such a sinful being, then there is no great sacrifice needed. If no sacrifice is needed then, I also don’t really need the forgiveness offered by God. So then, I can live a more palatable relationship with God on my terms, not His. “My terms” often become (though not always) the way of the prosperity gospel. There are so many preachers that proclaim how God wants such good things for us that the nicer we are and kinder we are in life, the more the rewards He will heap upon us.

God’s Word warns us against such charlatans (2 Tim. 4:3), but they are still sought out. They want you to feel good about yourself, and about God’s plan to heap material blessings upon you if you only give more to the church and seek to live in peace and harmony with the world around you. Of course they don’t use the term “prosperity” because then people could easily recognize them. No, these evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:13). And as the old saying goes, people “swallow it; hook, line and sinker.”

I followed up with a qualifier on the Lutheran Church, and specifically the LC-MS, since that is what I know best. I said that the problem with our churches is that we have not been diligent enough with teaching our children ‘Law and Gospel,’ which had always been our strength in the Lutheran church. Because of that our youth grow up with more influence from the world than from our faith. God clearly told us the way it should be done in multiple Scriptures such as Dt. 11:19 where He says concerning His Words, Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. In failing to be faithful to God’s teachings we leave our children to be led astray and swallowed by the lions of this world.

Look at the devaluing of the things of God. 1) Worship is a come when you feel like it activity, not a regular time of devotion and praise of God. Too many things easily take its place and without a second thought given to it, the world becomes our master. 2) Offerings, a few dollars here or there to ease the mind is enough, forget about the tithe or giving from the abundance God has already given to you. 3) Bible Study, how few of the people that attend worship stay for Bible study. Many go for breakfast or just to get on with their day. And these are only a few things on the list of our minimizing our devotion to God.

What we can do now is return to God. Return in our prayer, devotion, worship, offerings, service, witness, spirit, life. Neh. 1:9 says if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell. Where there is life, there is hope, where there is confession there is forgiveness, and where there is faith, there is salvation. No one has gotten this faith life “right.” We have all failed, but with Jesus, with you there is forgiveness, (Ps. 130:4). This is a new day and we start again. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness(Lam. 2:23-24). Give God the past. And while you are at it, give Him your present and future too. With God as our guide we have hope to face a better tomorrow in the church than we have in the past. Let’s leave the greatest problem behind and focus on the greatest opportunities ahead.

Pastor Bill

Disturbing America!

It is both disturbing and unfathomable how many actors, singers, comedians and even politicians have joked about or threatened physical violence up to and including the murder of the President of the U.S.

untitledConsider the past 8 years. When someone even criticized the previous POTUS they were accused of being racist or a fascist at the least. People were labeled as intolerant and bigoted. Folks would call for their being fired or sanctioned. But, now everything is fair game? Even the vile and evil language of people receives cheers of approval from crowds and followers.

Any and every single person who has verbally threatened violence against the POTUS should be jailed (for their Class E Felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871). Any and every person who has joked about such violence should be shunned/boycotted in their line of work. They should also seek therapy to deal with their sick/demented views.

Has American lost her civility and followed the way of so many European countries. Have we succumbed to being so ugly a people that can speak of shooting, beheading or beating with a bat the POTUS? Even blowing up the White House receives cheers and accolades. People seen as supporters of the current POTUS have be attacked and beaten, their properties vandalized. Even the people who do things such as blocking traffic because they are upset that they didn’t get things their way, need to be held accountable for the disruptions they cause to the people around them.

And the POTUS is not to be above any of this either. His ad hominem attacks of people and name-calling is unacceptable. Though many things ascribed to the President may not be true, there is enough that is true that is not only un-presidential, but also wreaks of incivility. The rudeness he displays at times is an embarrassment. He needs to stop straying from the work of being POTUS. What is said by others does not need a response via Twitter or Facebook from him for all the world to see.

Consider also that his life from 20-30 years ago should not be more significant than that of anyone else in stirring up words or actions from long ago. Let’s open everyone’s closets if we are going to keep stirring things up from the distant past. What needs to be addressed concerning the POTUS is the here and now. That is what matters. He needs to be held to a higher standard and he needs to start living up to that standard. The President needs a lesson in good manners and morality, also a little more self-control from blasting out at people would be helpful. He needs to be reminded that he is America’s President, even if some in the country want to say he is not. He needs to act more like a President.

America does need to be disturbed, but not in the ways previously addressed. We need to hold each other accountable for what we say and do in the present. We need to work together, cooperate <https://tinyurl.com/mpbre52>, respect people in their positions/professions. Perhaps we need to remember the words of Thumper’s Father from Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin at all.”

That doesn’t mean we can’t have different views and beliefs. We can oppose one another. We can be critical of things we don’t like. We also need to be disturbed (at the embarrassing words, behaviors and actions of folks around us and in our country) that we seek to make a change.

We need to work together. The meanness, the bullying and the threats need to stop. We need to be respectful even to those with whom we disagree. For the Christian, there is an extra level of accountability in this area because we know we will stand before God in the judgment. I pray God will disturb us, disturb American so that we change to be a people who expect more from each other, but also work together to be the best people we, ourselves can be.

Be disturbed, disturbed enough to make a positive change!

But don’t be disturbing!

~ Bill Lowrey