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September 18, 2014

You never know...

I went to our circuit's winkle on Tuesday.  For those who don't know, a winkle is our monthly meeting where the circuit pastors get together, have a short service with communion, have a theological presentation, have some other kind of presentation, have lunch, and have a business meeting.  (I am told that winkle is the German name for the tool we call a square.  Thus, we get together to 'square ' things away.')

During the service, Pastor Knobloch talked about how we faithfully serve in the ministry and the impact it has on people.  It is easy to question if our ministry has any impact, and it's easy to get discouraged.  Yet there are moments that the Holy Spirit lets you know that He is in fact working through you and those moments are both exhilarating and humbling.

This past Sunday, I preached on forgiveness.  (The sermon is posted on the 'Sermons' tab.)  I preached about how as a sinner it is impossible for us to truly forgive because forgiveness brings life and as such belongs to the workings of the Holy Spirit, but at the end of Jesus's parable He tells us to forgive or we too, like the unmerciful servant, will be condemned.

So what are we to do?  Since forgiveness is of the Spirit and not of us, for us to 'forgive' is for us to yield to the Holy Spirit and let the forgiveness we receive as sinners flow through us and out to others.  When we refuse to forgive we are refusing to let the life giving water flow through us and thus bring condemnation down upon ourselves.

Often we refuse to forgive simply because we don't understand what forgiveness means.  We think it means that we must forget about what had happened to us and pretend it never happened.  Not so.  Forgiveness is letting go of another's throat and releasing them to God.  Refusing to forgive is insisting that you are the judge and that you are the one who gets to bring down condemnation.

I made one thing clear though, struggling to forgive is not the same as refusing to forgive.  We all struggle to forgive because our struggle comes from the Holy Spirit within working against our sinful flesh.  Yet when we yield to the Holy Spirit and let go of the other person's neck, we allow the Holy Spirit to kill the sin that is choking the life out of us, and by doing so we find the healing and peace that we really need.

Anyway, it was a sermon that I enjoyed preaching and a topic that has been on my heart for some time.  As a preacher, you never know how your words are going to be received.  After service, I had several people tell me that my words struck home, one or two even with tears in their eyes.  My wife told me that she heard several more around church commenting on, "Do you ever feel like the preacher is talking specifically to you?"  And throughout this week I have heard from others on how my sermon impacted them.

As a preacher, you rarely ever know what happens to your words once they leave your lips.  You hope and pray that the Holy Spirit uses them to work in peoples lives, but most of the time you are left in the dark.  There are moments though where the Holy Spirit really lets you know He is active and that He is using you, and it is those moments that trump every discouraging thing and every doubt and reminds you why you are doing what you are doing.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving me the words to speak, and thank you for empowering those words to touch people's hearts and work in their lives.  Amen.

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