Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas. Last night we celebrated Christmas Eve with two special worship services. I rejoiced to be a part of the St. Paul's fellowship, being given the opportunity to worship together. it lifted the soul to sing the familiar Christmas hymns, hear the Christmas Gospel and share in the Christmas joy.

We rose this morning and opened our presents from one another. Then we went to church and opened the greatest gift of all - the gift of a Savior.

I wonder to myself how many people celebrated Christmas today and don't really believe in Jesus as their Savior. Is that possible? Is it possible that there are people in the world today who don't believe "For unto you is born today in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord"? Is it possible that there are people who don't know that the meaning of Christmas is not the presents under the tree, the ham on the table or the decorations on the house? Is that really possible in today's world?

Yes! Not all people celebrate Christmas because it is the birth of their Savior. They just like the celebration that takes place with the family and the gifts that they will receive. And when the day is over, they still do not believe and therefore will actually be on their way to hell. Ouch! That isn't possible is it? People are going to hell today, Christmas Day?

When you and I finally believe that fact, we will start to pay attention to the role that the shepherds played in the Christmas story. They saw the baby in the cradle and then they began to tell others. Everywhere they went, they told others about the Savior who was born. They wanted the world to know all about the precious gift that had been given to them, to the world.

That is what you and I are to do. We finished the service today with the hymn, "Go Tell It On The Mountain." Go tell the good news. Go let people know that there is hope to be found in the Son of God, the Savior of the world. I feel that need to share the good news. Do you?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's Almost Christmas

There is an either/or about Christmas. You hear preachers talking about it. You hear well-meaning Christians discussing it. You hear mothers and fathers wondering about it. In fact, the movie "The Miracle on 34th Street" puts it out in front of us. What I am talking about is the decision as to whether or not a Christian can have Santa Claus. Should a Christian parent tell his/her child that there is a Santa Claus, when Santa is not the real reason for the season? Jesus is the reason for the season. Christmas is all about the birth of Christ and not about some guy in a red suit. And if you tell your child about Santa, allowing them to have Santa in their lives, then you are turning your back upon Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.

After all, Christmas is about the birth of the Savior. That is what we learn on "A Charlie Brown Christmas." When Charlie Brown asks, "Can anyone tell me the true meaning of Christmas?" Linus does not answer, "It's about Santa Claus and his giving of presents to good little boys and girls." No, he quotes Luke 2. (To me that is the best part of the movie, and seeing that scene gives me the joy of Christmas. It is all about, "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son...") There is absolutely no way that a Christian can have Santa and still celebrate Christmas.

We live in a time when it is one or the other - Christ or Santa.

But is that the truth? Is it really one or the other? Do we have to make a choice? I would like to say that there is another option. It was the very option that we opted to follow. A Christian can have Santa Claus while celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. We did that very thing. We taught our children the true meaning of Christmas. they understood that Christmas was about the birth of the Savior of the world, the Son of God. They celebrated year after year that Jesus was born. They rejoiced at the wonder of the Child in the manger. Their eyes sparkled as they took part in the Christmas program each year. They sang with gusto (well, Rachael sang with gusto, Matthew just took part since he didn't like to sing in front of people). Celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, our children had the fullness of Christmas.

And yet they also had Santa Claus. They went to bed on Christmas Eve in wonder that somehow Santa Claus would come to our house and leave them presents. They were wide-eyed when they got up early on Christmas morning and there were presents there where there was only empty space the night before. They were sure that they heard Santa on the roof. They were certain that Santa ate their cookies and drank their milk. They were convinced that the reindeer indeed ate the special food that we left out for them.

Santa was real to them. And when all was said and done, if you asked them what Christmas was all about, they would tell you, "Jesus' birth." Santa was real to them but the real meaning of Christmas was about the birth of their personal Savior, the Son of God. Our children are a living example that a Christian can remember the full meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior. And at the same time, they were able to have the fun part of Santa Claus and the wonder that held for a few years. Santa lives only for a couple years in the lives of the children. Jesus lives forever in the heart of the Christian.

Jesus is the reason for the season. Santa Claus will even tell you that fact.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

John the Baptist

The last two Sundays the Gospel reading from Luke has brought us face to face with the forerunner of the Messiah - John the Baptist. I guess he knew what he was going to be when he grew up, after all his parents named him in such a way that they wanted the world to know what he was going to do. He was called John "the Baptist." (LOL - think that one through. It is like I knew I was going to be a pastor when my parents named me "pastor" Mitchel Schuessler. At least that is what children might think.)

John had one message to proclaim - "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." I thought about what it means to repent. Do we really know what it means? I thought about it, I thought back to the "beer summit" at the White House. Pres Obama, the firefighter and the professor (I can't remember their names), sat down at the White House, had a beer and worked out their problems. Oh wait a minute, they didn't work out their problems. In fact, it was reported that they didn't even talk about the issues that they had between them. The president didn't apologize to the firefighter for "dissing" his work. The professor didn't apologize for his ridiculous charge of racism when he was the one that was causing issues. And the firefighter was not supposed to bring those things up, so in the end, no one had to "repent" of the situation. Drink a beer and it will be all right. Is that what John was saying?

No way! John would say that each one should repent of their sins. Don't go blaming the other person, some other event. Each one of us should look into our hearts, see where we have been wrong and repent of it. That is foreign to people today. We live in an age that doesn't want to take responsibility for ones actions. Instead we want to go on like nothing happened.

But we can't. If we allow sin to continue to fill our hearts, to eat away at us, there is absolutely no way that we can heal from the situation. Just the opposite is true. We will only slip further and further into sinful actions. We will continue to hurt one another.

So what am I saying? Take a look at yourself, your actions, your words. Honestly look at what you have done today or this last week. If you have hurt someone by what you have said or done, the repent of it. Ask God to forgive you for Christ's sake. Then go to your brother, sister or to the person you have offended and ask them to forgive you. If you have been talking behind someones back, stop it! Why are you doing it? If you have something to say, and can't say it to them or in front of them, then why are you saying it? Are you looking out only for yourself? Or are you looking for what is good for others? Then talk to them. If you can't, then don't talk about it at all. It is just wrong!

Will it be easy? No way. But that is the message that John the Baptist was proclaiming. Live in Christ. Live for Him alone, not for yourself and your sinful desires. Repent! And bear the fruit worthy of repentance. Listen to John.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Cold Wind Blows

Who would have thought that the day would go like it did? We watched the news reports of the snows in other places. We rose this morning (Wednesday) knowing that it would be a cold day. The wind was blowing outside. The temperature was dropping. But we would be inside. It would not matter what it was like outside. We could get around. We could enjoy the day in the warmth of our houses, our offices and our schools.

Went off to church to have a normal Wednesday. Sitting at the desk, putting finishing touches on my thoughts for chapel, the lights begin to flicker. "Of course they will flicker," I thought, "it is terribly windy out." But they kept flickering. Getting up to see what the problem might be, I see the rest of the lights flickering, almost strobe light like, making one dizzy if you stood too long under them. Walking down the short hall through the offices to the schools I wondered if the kids were all right.

Power was out. Some areas had power. Some didn't. Then Penny calls. Power is out at home too. Oh no, she has 2 babies there. What will we do. Chapel? In the church. Check the power there. No power there. Day Care in the dark too. Small amount of power but not enough.

Phone calls made - checking to see what the problem was. There is power for some of the lights in the gym. Chapel goes as planned, sort of. It is in the gym. Sam plays well. The children listen. Yes, everything will be all right. But it is getting a little chilly in the gym.

Chapel over. Kids back in rooms. Power won't be on till 6 p.m. What to do? No power for heat, for lunch, for water - going to get chilly as the temp outside dips to low 20's with strong winds. Decision time - send the kids home. No heat at all. Calling the parents. Getting things ready.

Now the question - church tonight - yes or no? No heat. No power. Not sure when it will be back on. Ameren now says 9 p.m. Cold, windy, and that means? Calling the service off. Hate to do it but what can you do? You can't sit in the dark. You can' have service with no heat. Sigh. I hate calling service off. I always think, "What if we did have it..." I know, shouldn't think that. Have to think about the good for the people. Can't have them out in the cold with no heat or light. So no service.

Then at noon the power comes back on. GRRRR. What happened? They figured it out. Got it fixed. We could have had service. Now what? Stay with what we have. We have told people it was cancelled so it stays that way. So now, guilt sets in. What if we would have waited? Would the power have come on? We didn't know. We made the best decision possible.

And our Lord says to us, "Fear not my children. You cannot tell the future. Only I can do that. You did what you thought was best. I still love you. Calling a service off doesn't mean you don't love Me. It means you were thinking of others more than yourself. Go in peace. And live in My love." Thank you Lord. For those words were ones I needed to hear right now because I do feel guilt and frustration. Please take it from my shoulders. Please.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This last Sunday (the 2nd Sunday in Advent) the OT reading came from the book of Malachi. Not too much is known about Malachi (I'm talking about you and me, not the theologians). He was the last prophet before those 400 years of silence when no word of God came to the prophets. He was the last one that said, "Thus says the Lord." That is, until John came on the scene. That was something else. But that isn't what we are going to talk about.

The reading was from Malachi 3:1-7. The sermon focused on 3:1 "See, i will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me." We know now that was John the Baptist. But the people of Malachi's day didn't. They didn't know that they would hold onto that promise for the next 400 years, passing it down from one generation to the next. That promise would buoy them up when things were tough - such as when they struggled to rebuild the Temple which was the central focus of their worship. No Temple, no worship. When will that change? When the Messiah comes. When will He come? We will know when the forerunner comes. The messenger will come and then, everything will be all right.

Think of the excitement of looking forward to that messenger/forerunner. Has he come yet? When the rabbi starts to become something of a local celebrity by virtue of his teaching, the question would be asked, "Is this him? Could it be?" Waiting. Watching. Wondering. Three words that encompassed the lives of the people. They were waiting for that one to arrive. They were watching expectantly. They were wondering if it was time.

What about you? Do those 3 words describe you? Are you waiting? Are you watching? Are you wondering? Waiting for the Savior. Watching for His return. Wondering when it will be. Filled with a sense of wonder, are you excited that He could comes at any moment? (Advent = Come) Does Advent fill your heart will the excitement of the coming Savior? Are you watching expectantly for the moment when the clouds will part, the trumpet will sound and the Son of Man will come upon the clouds? Are you wondering when He will come (and making the best use of that time till He does come?)?

Get ready! He is coming! The forerunner tells us that. Who is that forerunner? John already came and did his thing. So why look for someone else? There is one that is preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah, the Savior. That one is right in front of you - quite literally. It is the pastor that God has given to you and your congregation. He is calling you to prepare your heart, prepare the way for the Lord to come to you.

He is coming! Don't doubt. Don't wait. Don't think you have another day. The ax is already laid at the root of the tree. Repent! Turn from your sins and bear fruit fitting repentance! He will come and you had better be ready. You are being called out of your life to follow the Lord. Ask yourself, are you ready?

Actually, I wasn't going to write any of that. More on Malachi tomorrow.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Turkey day! Gobble till you wobble! Dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce (jellied not whole berry). Looking forward to it.

As I think about Thanksgiving I realize how much I have to be thankful for. I asked my Facebook friends to state what they were thankful for in their lives. Some have been stating what they are thankful for. Most of the time they have been thankful for the blessings of life. Many of them have talked about their families, their friends, etc.

I am very thankful for my family - Penny my wife who is such a blessing to me. She has seen me through good times and bad times. She has truly been what God has asked of her - she has been a helpmate for me. Without her I would be overwhelmed with many things. I thank God for the 25 years of marriage, the 5 years of dating and the fact that He gave her life and brought me to her. What a blessing!

I thank God for my children, Rachael and Matthew. I can remember when the Lord brought them to us. Penny was pregnant with Rach and boy it was amazing to go through the time of pregnancy. It was also a miracle. The whole gift of life was a miracle. Rachael has turned into quite a young lady that I am very proud of. She has a strong faith and follows it through out her life.

When Matthew came along, I didn't think I could share the love God had given me for my first child. Then He gave me a second child and what was I to do? Then Matthew came along and God did an amazing thing - He multiplied the love I had for my children. And Matthew has turned into an amazing young man. College life has really been good to him. He has grown and matured beyond what I could have imagined.

Thank you Lord for my wife and my children. Thank you for them even when we have our struggles. That is something I have learned. We should be thankful in good time and in bad times, in plenty and in want. Too often we are only thankful when things go well. We forget to be thankful when we are challenged. We should thank God for those times when the days seem dark and dreary. I thought about that in the recent rains, and saw how frustrated we become when it doesn't quite raining. We forgot to thank God for the rain, the dreary days, the grayness, and all the other things that go with it. I know I forgot to thank God when the water came into the basement. I got frustrated and forgot to tell the Lord how much I appreciated the house He gave us to live in.

This Thanksgiving, stop and thank God for all things - no matter what they are. Learn to be thankful even when you are struggling with many things. Thank Him for sunshine and flowers, for rain and mud, for dry basements and wet basements.

Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good and His love endures forever.

Hard to Imagine

I was reading the paper today (heard this on the news last night too) about a man who was arrested on a failure to appear on a traffic ticket. He was in the Shiloh jail. He picked the lock and escaped! Can you imagine. A modern day escape. He was arrested about a half hour later. What was he thinking? All right. He missed his court appointment. that is workable. So he gets a fine or a slap on the wrist. He is out the door in no time. But now, he is facing escape from jail charges. That will carry more time, more fines and more problems. What was he thinking?

He wasn't. that is the problem that we run into. People don't think. They live for the moment. They do what they think is necessary for the moment and figure they will work out the problems later. Now that isn't true either. Most people figure that they will get away with whatever they are doing. Why is that? Why do we think we can do something wrong and no one will notice? And we won't have to pay the price for the action?

I can remember growing up. Mom and Cecil were out for the evening. We were hanging with the friends of the neighborhood (all guys) and having a good time. One of us were trying to get someones attention outside by knocking on the small window in the door. They weren't paying attention so the knocking got harder. Guess what happened next! The window broke. What did we do? We freaked for a few moments and then went into self-preservation mode. We did what every bunch of young guys did. We tried to figure out how to fix it so that mom wouldn't find out. Yeah right, she wouldn't know. What were we thinking? We weren't. Just like the guy leaving the jail - he wasn't thinking.

We really do need to learn how to face the music. When we do wrong, we need to admit it. We need to face the consequences and then go on. There is a price to pay for our actions. But face it, we need to own up to what we do and face the music, like it or not.

That my cyber friends, is a hard thing to teach to people. It is also a harder thing to learn. Good luck to all of us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Christians and Ramadan

I was reading this week an article entitled "Should Christians Fast During Ramadan With Muslims?" It was a thought provoking article. There were comments on both sides of the issue. As I read, one writer said, "I would say it's absolutely appropriate, particularly if one does it for spiritual reasons..." I thought to myself, "What spiritual reasons would I fast with a person of the Islam faith?" How can I in good conscience participate in the fasting of Ramadan since I do not believe as a Muslim believes. Would that not put me in the realm of breaking the 1st Commandment, the 2nd Commandment and the 3rd Commandment? (Get out your catechism and see what is written in those sections. It is enlightening.)

Another writer says, "The idea of Ramadan and the feast of Eid (which I don't know what that feast is to be honest) is Muslims are asking that they would encounter God more...that's something we can agree with, that we pray and get to know God more." Excuse me? Get to know God more? Is the God of Islam the same God of Christianity? Look at Scripture. Jesus says that there is only one way to salvation, through faith in Him. The Muslim does not believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior. Instead, Jesus is a prophet. Allah is god and Mohammad in his prophet. That, my friends, is wrong. Allah is not God (even if the Arabic for God is "Allah" that doesn't mean we are talking about the same God. I remember Ozzie Osbourne telling someone "God bless you" and I wondered, "What God does he mean?") This is a 1st Commandment problem. Can we actually join the Muslim in finding God? The Muslim is finding a false god while we are searching for the true God. You cannot find the Triune God in Islam. Sorry, it can't be done.

One writer said, "The form of fasting during Ramadan is so filled with Islamic meaning that you can't separate the two. I think some Christians today think they're separating the meaning - the form is good, fasting is good, and they're extracting meaning from it. I don't think that's possible, because the form and the meaning are so closely connected." I agree with the writer. Why would a Christian want to bring into their faith and their practice that which is so ant-Christian (which Islam is). Not that fasting wrong. Fasting is a practice in the Christian faith. There are those who fast regularly in order to assist them in focusing in on the walk of faith, to help them draw closer to the Triune God (not Allah) and it is a good outward practice. But to fast along with the Muslim in order to show solidarity or cordiality with them is wrong. Our Lord does not accept us following a false practice (which is what fasting is within Islam. Islam is a false religion and therefore its practices are false.). He tell us to avoid all such falsehood.

I fully agree with one writer who says, "It is not appropriate to fast alongside Muslims...They're observing Ramadan in the service of a false God and a false gospel, and we shouldn't be trying to express our solidarity with that." Makes me think of what Paul writes, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.!" (Galatians 1:8-9 NIV) Christians and Muslims worship two different Gods, even if they have the same base in the Old Testament. Why would we, as Christians, be willing to swallow something that is so false? Why do we so willingly give away our faith to other religions when in reality, they will not give up their faith for us?

(All quotes come from Christianity Today magazine, dated November 2009)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Born Again - faith in Christ alone!

The question is often raised, "What does it mean to be born again"? This question arises from different understandings concerning the passage from John where Jesus and Nicodemus are talking and Jesus tells him, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:5-6 NIV) And add to the mix the whole gifts of the Spirit thing and you get a real confusing situation. What does it mean to be born again? Does it mean that a person must have something beyond faith in Jesus Christ? Is not faith in Him enough to save? Or must you do something to be sure that you are saved?

Put bluntly, does a person have to speak in tongues in order to be born again? Does a person have to have certain date and time when he can say that he was "born again" in order to be saved? I often ran into this when I was in prison ministry. The "marks" of a true Christian included being able to speak in tongue. (We will deal with that in another blog.) And those who didn't speak in tongues was looked down upon as though you were a "second class" Christian.

So do you need to be born again? Yes. But before you gnash your teeth or jump up in joy or anger, hear me out. You do need to born again just as Jesus told Nicodemus. But this isn't an action on your part. It is the work of the Holy Spirit when He brings you to faith in Jesus. This happen through those precious Means of Grace (the means or things that the Holy Spirit uses to bring us to faith and keep us in faith, Word, Baptism and Lord's Supper). The Holy Spirit works to bring us to faith in Jesus through the Word, which is a common way an adult comes to faith as he is able to hear the Word, study it and the Spirit works through that Word. Then there is Baptism, often the means that the Holy Spirit uses to bring an infant or a child into a faith-filled relationship with Jesus. Either way, through Word or Baptism, a person is born again. (Baptism gives you both water and Spirit.)

Why do we need to be born again? Because we are born sinful (Psalm 51:5). Lost, sinners that we are, we cannot save ourselves. We cannot make that decision for Christ because "every inclination of the heart is evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5) The only decision we can make of ourselves is to sin, to turn away from Christ, to have nothing to do with God. The Spirit works in our hearts to change us, to make us new, to give us a new life. Paul writes, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) He writes of being made new in various other places as well. So we are made new, born again, through the Spirit, when we are brought into faith in Jesus Christ.

That begs the question, do you need to be "born again" in the sense of how it is used for those who have an "extra measure" of the Spirit, making them "true" Christians and others who aren't "born again" aren't true Christians? The answer is no you do not need that to be saved.

Jesus says, "Whoever believes in Him (the Son of God, Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever doe snot believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18 NIV) It is faith in Jesus that saves, not being "born again" so that you can speak in tongues or have other gifts of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are never meant to tear someone down or make a believer doubt his/her salvation. That would not be the work of the Holy Spirit (remember we are told to test the spirits to see where they are from).

Do in answer to the question, "Can I be saved without being 'born again'?" The answer is a definite yes. For if I understand the question correct, you are asking if you are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. And that is the only way we are saved - through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Don't let anyone make you feel as though you are not a "true" Christian just because you cannot point to a day or time when you were brought to faith or make you doubt your faith because you haven't had one of the "special" gifts of the Spirit. Those gifts are from the Spirit as He desires to give them not as we desire to receive them.

Faith in Jesus Christ, and faith alone saves. Read Ephesians 2:1-10 for more help in understanding this. God bless!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I was preparing for the sermon for this week and part of the Gospel (Mark 10:23-31) stuck in my mind. I won't be preaching on this part of the text so I thought I would add my thoughts here.
Jesus says, "No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundreds times as much in this present age and in the age to come - eternal life." (Mk. 10:29-30 NIV) As I thought of this, I realized that is what is taking place in family after family. The Gospel comes to the person, they are saved, they begin to live as a child of God and the family turns against them. They are treated differently because of trying to follow the Lord. They are scorned by family because they don't give in to the thinking of the world. And it is difficult on them.

It is hard to not have family with you. It is difficult to stand firm on your belief when your brother or sisters makes fun of you, looks down their nose at you or treats you differently because of your faith in Jesus. They want to party, you don't, so they don't invite you to spend time with them. Ouch. They like to be involved in sexual relationships outside of their marriage or with someone that they are not married to, so they don't want you around them. Sigh. They prefer to be backhanded in their dealings with others, lie to people, sneak around and then, when you speak the truth in love, they tear you down for being honest and open. It hurts.

Satan uses that to try to get the Christian to change their stand. He doesn't use it to try to get the non-Christian or non-practicing Christian (which almost is a misnomer since how can you be a Christian and not practice your faith?) to change and do what is right. The pressure is on the Christian. Are you going to stand strong? Are you going to continue to live your faith? Or will you give it up for the family? That, my dear ones, is a hard choice, almost unfair to the Christian. But it isn't unfair. It is what Christ lays before us time and again. How are you going to live? For Christ or for the world?

All I can say to you if you are facing this situation is, "Stay firm in faith." Remember not to take your eyes off the real goal - eternal life. I know that you aren't thinking eternal life when your family is pressuring you, but that is part of the package. Don't give up your walk of faith for a few moments of peace with the family. They will not give up their life for you, why are they asking you to give up yours for them? It is a struggle.

I am not going to tell you that it will be all right. It won't be. You will hurt. You will feel alone. You will think that maybe you are wrong in your beliefs and your walk. All those things will take place. At those times remember the promise of Christ, "I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20 NIV) That promise transcends all that you are facing right now in your life. The Lord promises help and strength. You are not alone. I know, you will feel like it. But the Lord will bring someone into your life to give you encouragement and strength.

It is a hard walk - the life of faith. But the outcome, the end is worth every step. Remember that. That is what Jesus is telling you in this reading. (OK, so there is more to it than that, but there needs to be something left for the sermon.) Hang in there.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I am amazed at how self-centered people can be. (Is that a self-centered statement? Am I assuming too much in that I am able to make the decision that someone else is self-centered? If so, then I am wrong too.) I mean that most people are all about themselves. It seems that the thought goes like this, "If I want it, think it or focus on it, then is it is what is right. No one can tell me that I am wrong."

But they are wrong. It isn't about me. It isn't about what I want. It is about what God wants. Perhaps therein lies the problem - too many people do not focus on what God wants. In fact, many people today, though they might say they are Christians, don't even think about what God wants. It is what they want. I want this - so it must happen. I want that - so it must happen. I think thus - therefore all must agree with me and if you don't, you are wrong. God is not part of the picture. (That must be what Jesus meant when He said, "Not everyone that says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven. Your heart must be right - set upon Him in faith.)

God needs to be placed back at the center of life, not relegated to the corner of life, used only when needed, thought about only in hard time, spoken of only in curse words. Too many are not committed to a life of following the Lord. That, too, is self-centered. that too is all about me not about Him.

Am I cynical? No I am not. I am being honest. Yes there are times when He is not the center of my thoughts. For that, I am sorry. I was wrong. Our world today is becoming less and less about Christian faith and more about secular, self-centered, all "about me" life. And in doing so, we are raising a generation of people who feel they don't need or even know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

That is scary - not for me, for I do believe in Jesus and try to follow Him daily. It is scary for all those that are not going to know Jesus and therefore are going to be lost for an eternity. Christians, we need to wake up and begin to focus again. Not on feelings but on need - the need for Jesus Christ, the need for faith, the need for His love to guide life.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Noah's Ark

It has rained buckets today. There were times when I was in the Ministry Center of St. Paul's, and you could hear the rain pounding down upon the roof of the building. Most rains we don't hear. But today we heard the rain. Water. Pouring. Pounding. Lightning. Thunder. It was quite the day. From what they say, it will be quite the night too. More rain coming. More storms.

Did anyone see Noah's ark today? All right. I will cut you some slack if you don't live in Troy. I will also cut you some slack if you have nothing to do with St. Paul's during the school day. But, if you were observant, you would have seen Noah's ark. How? On a tie, that was being worn, by yours truly.

I wore it because of the forecast. Thought it might be a good teaching tool. But we missed the opportunity. No one noticed Noah or his ark. It slipped by, silently, like a ship passing in the night. (All right, so I am getting carried away with the boat imagery.)

When you see the rain, think of the promise of God. Think of the rainbow. Think of His love. Then thank Him that He won't destroy the world by a flood ever again. And then, think about how He will bring about the end. And when you think about that - set your mind on things above. Think of Jesus. Believe in Jesus. Confess Jesus. Share Jesus. And be ready - the end is coming.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stretching through the fence

South of Troy on the Troy-Scott Road, is a farm that has sheep. I love to watch sheep. Little lambs are so cuddly and fun. They run and jump and enjoy life. The older sheep stand back and watch the little ones. I often think that it looks like a playground. The kids playing. The adults watching. And most of the time, the adults just watch. They don't join in. Why not? Why don't we join the children in sliding down the slide or climbing up the ladder? Why don't we play tag around the big old tree? Adults just don't. Neither do the adult sheep.

But that isn't what I was thinking about as I drove by the sheep. It was early in the day, mid-morning, on the way to teacher's conference. (The committee did a great job with the conference. Thanks! Carol Aebel was on the committee. We are proud of you Carol.)
So there I was driving to the conference, past the sheep farm, and saw something that made me think.

There were the sheep, standing at the fence, stretching their necks through the fence, reaching as far as they could to get that tasty piece of grass on the other side of the fence. It wasn't just one sheep, but several of them. And they were pushing against the fence, stretching their necks, reaching as far as they could. (And I remembered the Lueking farm in Hoffman, and the way their sheep always seemed to find a way out of the fence. How many mornings was it that we drove past only to see one or more sheep wandering outside the fence?)

And I thought, "Those sheep must curse that fence." They must think to themselves, "If only we didn't have this fence, we could get that grass out there that looks so green, fresh and tender. Why did this stupid farmer have to put up this fence? He is limiting our lives. He is not letting us have the good things in life." If only the fence wasn't there, they could have the grass they wanted without the pains of stretching their necks, getting their fleece caught on the fence and pulled out. What a terrible farmer he really must be.

Really? Is he that bad of a farmer? The sheep were safe inside their fence. There was plenty of grass. Plenty of water (a pond). They were safe from the coyote and the fox. They were kept safe from wandering out on the busy road. He watched out for them. The problem wasn't the fence, it was the desire of the sheep to have that which they couldn't have. The farmer was doing that which was best for them. While they cursed the fence, it was that very fence that kept them from many more problems in their lives - many of which were life threatening.

How often have you stretched your neck your the fence to get that which is on the other side? When was the last time that you desired that which was just out of your reach? And you did whatever you could to get it? The coveting, the desire to have something that wasn't yours, that you really shouldn't have at all. Stretching through the fence - the man begins to lust after a woman who is not his wife, the woman begins to desire the younger man that isn't hers to have, the worker desires more money and takes what is not his, the tax person hedges the tax return a little to get a little more money, and the list of stretching is limited only by the number of people who are reading this blog.

God puts a fence up and we curse it. That dreaded Law. It stops us from having what we desire, from getting that succulent piece of something on the other side. Why did God stop us? He is mean. He is unloving. I want and can't have it. Wait, I will find a way to slip through the fence. I will find a way to escape His unloving restriction on my life. And so, the coveting leads us to action.

And action leads to - pain and suffering. Maybe not immediately but in the long term. The wife is destroyed to find her husband looking at porn on the computer. The young man is crushed as he spends the night in jail after drinking too much, getting pulled over and arrested. The woman is fired from her job that she desperately needs to pay the bills, only because she is caught doing that which she shouldn't be. The list goes on. Sheep stretching through the fence, tearing a hole in it, to fulfill the desires of the heart, sure that God is keeping them from something wonderful.

The outcome is always not what we expect. The divorce tears apart lives, man, woman and children. Counseling, anger, hatred, lack of trust, fear of commitment, a life alone and a future that is empty. Why? Because of that piece of grass outside the fence that we just had to have. bills unpaid, house foreclosed, no food on table, care breaking down, unable to go on. Why? Loss of job because of that one piece of grass that was on the other side of the fence that we think that we just have to have.

What are you stretching through the fence for? Is it really worth it? Where will it lead you? Are you cursing God for the fence? Or are you praising His name for that wonderful fence that protects you from the myriad of painful events that could happen because of that one piece of grass? Stretching through the fence? Why?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can You Believe It?

Here I am, sitting here, looking at the computer, and I don't know what to write. Hmmmm. What can I write about tonight? I watch Jay Leno talk with Rush Limbaugh and nothing comes to mind. I look on Facebook and all that is going on there, and nothing comes to mind. And so what do I write - nothing. OK, maybe maybe I am writing something but it is really meaningless. So would I read it if I was you? Not really.

But then that made me think of something. Isn't that really how many things are in this world? Does baseball really make a difference in the world? Yes it makes an economic impact but in reality, it doesn't matter if the Cards clinch their division tonight or not. Yet we will spend how much news time talking about baseball. We will go to games and sit there and watch a game, cheer for a player that gets a hit, and forget that he makes a few million dollars a year to hit that ball once in a while. We sit there watching, spending our hard earned money, making loads less than him in a job that actually makes a difference in the world (as a teacher, nurse, janitor, etc.).

Does much of what we hear on the news make a difference in the world? Not really. We just like to listen to it. And listen we do. We spend countless hours a day watching the news - Fox, CNN, MSNBC, all the local channels. Is it worthwhile? I don't know.

I guess I didn't really have much to say. So tonight, I pray that God will bless you, strengthen you and guide you in your life. That, my friend, is something that makes a difference in your life. Without Jesus in your life, all is lost. With Jesus, there is a future and hope. Hold onto Him. That is all I have to say.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aerosmith Revisited

I wrote the other day about something being wrong in the world today. I feel even more strongly about that this morning. Last night Penny and I went to the Cub/Card game in St. Louis. (Thanks Giudeon.) It is always a good rivalry between the two teams. And there is always good fun to be had by the fans ribbing each other. That is to be expected. If it didn't happen, you would think something was really wrong in the world today. The game had its good moments and it also had it boring ones. Normal game.

What got me thinking again was the 4 people that sat behind us. They were Card fans. You would expect some ribbing from them. But these people were just plain obnoxious. They were not ribbing another fan for the love of the game. They were doing it just be plain old nasty. The more they drank. The worse they became. They weren't even cheering on the Cards. All they could do was sit there and say derogatory things about the Cubs and their fans. They picked on one person after another, just being mean about what they were saying. When Mrs. Price (Rev. Price's wife) and I told them to stop, they did for a half inning. Then they started in again, this time even worse.

Why were they doing it? Because they could. We live in a world that says it is all right to express yourself and it doesn't matter if you are hurting someone else or not. It doesn't matter if you are offensive as long as you express yourself.

I was raised differently than that. I was raised to respect the other person no matter what. My folks taught me that the Christian way to live is to hold your tongue, even if you want to tell someone off. Why? Because it isn't right to let your sinful nature run your life.

But in today's world, we are taught that it is all right to say things that are mean, nasty, and down right self-centered. In fact if you don't, then you might be "harming" yourself. So go ahead, be obnoxious, be mean, be nasty, it is the way that we are told to live.

My friends, that is wrong. There is something wrong in the world today and unless we return to a world with Christ at the center, it will get worse. People will abuse others because they feel like it, and for no other reason. They will say things that hurt, because they can and feel like it. They will attack others, hurt others and be unkind to others for no reason at all other than their sinful nature is running their lives.

It will only change through Christ. Then again that is the only way anything changes. So in a way, I am not saying anything new. I just hope that we wake up before it is too late. In truth, I don't think we will.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

There is something wrong in the world today...

Listening to Sirius (satellite radio) tonight, I heard the song from Aerosmith "Living on the Edge." The line in the song goes, "There's something wrong in the world today..." And then it goes on to explain all the things that are wrong. All I can say is that for a change, Aerosmith got it right.

There is something wrong in the world today - the same thing that has been wrong through out the years. It is called "sin". I know that it isn't PC to talk of sin today for it might make someone feel bad about themselves. But perhaps we need to call sin - sin. It is a sin when a person of authority is not shown respect. It is a sin when a person in authority doesn't show respect. It is a sin to be a racist. It is also a sin to label something "racism" when it isn't. It is a sin to hate someone just because. It is also a sin to show disrespect to parents, to siblings, to neighbors and to complete strangers. It is a sin to openly shout out at someone when you should be silent. It is also a sin to be hypocritical and say that the person should be rebuked when you yourself has done it.

There is something wrong in the world today - it doesn't want Jesus Christ. It claims it can live without Him. Remove true Christian prayer from school and then wonder why a boy is beaten by two others on a school bus on the way to Belleville West. Try to remove "In God we trust" from money and "One nation under God" from the pledge and then wonder why the president and the congress are doing wrong so often. They are serving their god and not the God. Can we expect anything else (from both sides of the aisle!).

How do you correct things? Confess your sin, believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, follow Him only and live at true peace and in true love with one another. Sounds simple. It is - except that there is something wrong in the world today...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


What can a person say about life? There are ups and there are downs. There are highs and there are lows. There is hope and there is despair. There is love and there is hate. There are so many things that can go on in life - good and bad, joyful and sorrowful. So what do you make of all of life? How do you face life?

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28 NIV) How does that help me in all of those things that I face in life? Remember that - nothing in all creation can stop that love of God.

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (2 Corinthians 4:8-12 NIV) Hard pressed but not crushed! How? Through the death and life of Jesus Christ! He died and rose again for us, to strength us to help us and to carry us through our daily life.

That, my dear friends, is true life - found only in Christ Jesus. Without Him, we would be crushed. With Him, we are not crushed. Which do you prefer? Crushed or not crushed? the choice, my friends, is up to you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why would I be surprised?

"I've seen women who cross their legs before they sit down to the table." (line from REO Speedwagon's "Like You Do") I thought of that this morning as I thought about life in general. I have seen a lot of things, done a lot of things and experienced many things. I have met people of all walks of life, from the street wise junky to the high brow executive. I have faced murderers, rapists and bangers. I have talked with theologians and politicians. And when all is said and done, I guess I am still naive and hopeful.

I still believe that true life and happiness is only found in Jesus Christ. No matter what happens in this world, and I will guarantee that it will be an awful world to live in, there is still hope found in Jesus. The world cannot give that hope. Drugs can't. Alcohol can't. Sex can't. Pres. Obama can't. Congress can't. The doctor can't. Food can't. Power can't. Money can't. Family can't. The only One that can give real, lasting hope that doesn't disappoint is Christ Jesus Himself.

So why am I still surprised that people refuse Him? Why do I still find myself hopeful when I talk to someone that they will respond to the love of Christ and turn from their self-centered, self-serving life of destruction? It is because I know the hope and life in Christ. I know the peace it brings, even when others don't want to let you have that peace. I know that even if family turns its back on you, you have Christ. You may lose for a time, but you gain for an eternity.

I have seen so much but I still want to cry each time I see someone reject the hope found in Christ. Why do we trust in men so much? Why do we hate so often? Why is it that we cannot live in the peace of Christ? It is because we are still in this world. The Prince of Darkness rules this world. He is the Father of Lies. In the end, he has convinced so many that Jesus cannot help, bring peace or hope. And so, I am saddened as another person shows that they want nothing to do with Jesus. It brings tears to the eyes and causes the heart to break.

It makes no sense. But that is what sin does. It corrupts the perfect in Christ and destroys the hope that comes from Him. He gives peace that passes human understanding and yet so many spit on Him, turn from Him and follow the emptiness that they are offered. If only...

Friday, September 11, 2009


The sky was blue, O so blue. It was a wonderful fall day, the kind of day you wait all summer for - a touch of cool in the air, the sun rising in the east, a bit of a morning mist in the air. Life was good. The fires were going. The folks were cooking apple butter. The apples had been peeled. The fires had been stoked. The large copper pots were in place. Filled with the apples, they were waiting to bubble. Young and old stood around, taking turns on the paddles. There is a buzz in the air. Apple butter cooking sets the tone for the day. It will be a good day.

Then the news. One plane. One tower. And shock. What is going on? Smoke from the building. It can't be. What a terrible accident. Those poor people. God be with them. What is that? A second plane? A second tower? What is going on? What about the Pentagon? A plane there too? What is this? What happened to the day? Where is the joy? And then, they collapsed. they just came tumbling down. Those monuments to the strength and power of mankind, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center that marked the skyline of New York City were nothing but a pile of rubble. Smoke, paper, terror filled the air.

Back at Ferrin, the kettles bubbled away, being stirred by the same people, only there was little talk. The sky was still blue but it was empty. No planes. No travel. No hope. No future. We had been attacked. Where would it lead? What would happen now? Were we safe? Would we be at war? As the kettles bubbled, the hearts were wondering who was in control.

Sitting here today, September 11, 2009, the sky is blue. The sun is rising. There is a morning mist in the air. It is a glorious fall day. And the answer to the questions have come. Yes, there would be war. The economy would be trashed. Lives would be changed. Security would be questioned. People had changed.

And the same One is in control. On that day, 9/11/01, the Lord was in control. Today, 9/11/09, the Lord is in control. that day showed us that we are not gods. We are not invincible. We are ones that are in need, need of His strength, His control, His love, His mercy. There is strength in that knowledge. There is peace that passes human understanding. Standing in the presence of our Lord, we knew that we were safe, no matter what man tried to do to us. We were safe in the Lord. Towers might fall. Terrorists might attack. But the Lord is the Lord of all. His will, His power, His love wins in the end.

Did we learn the lesson? For a few short days, weeks, or months, people focused on God and what He would have us do. Then, the fear faded. We returned to our lives. We focused on our thoughts. We let sin begin to lead us again. At one time it was about God and how He would have us live. And then we returned to pre-9/11. We became self-centered, self-righteous, self-serving and we forgot about God. We remember 9/11. But do we remember what is truly important? Do we remember that our lives belong to God?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Moody Blues

Last night (Saturday) Penny and I had the pleasure of going to the Fox theater in St. Louis in order to see the Moody Blues. They are one of my favorite musical groups, having been a following since my brother Bub returned from Germany with several of the groups albums. They were on vinyl at the time. I was enthralled with the music that they made and soon became an avid listener to the Moody Blues. Penny and I have had the opportunity to see them several times - at the Muny, at Riverport and at Alpine Valley (WI). Up till now I would say that the best concert they put on was at Alpine Valley.

That was until last night. The show they put on at the Fox was tremendous. They really did seem to be hitting on all cylinders. I was a little wary as Ray Thomas had retired and was no longer with them. Who would play the flute? And what about the songs "Legend of the Mind" and "Veteran Cosmic Rocker"? Who would hit those melodic sounds and play the tambourine? It might not be the same.

The pre-show music was great. It was like having the Moodies warm up for the Moodies. They played song after song from different albums. And for a person like me, letting the sound wash over them, it was wonderful.

The show started 10 minutes late but was worth the wait. From the opening notes you knew that you were in for something special. Justin and John played and sang right on track. Graeme Edge lead nicely on the drums. Adding to the sounds were Norda Mullen on flute (doing an excellent job), Bernie Barlow backing vocals, Gordon Marshall on percussion and Paul Bliss on keyboards.

As the Moodies wound through their musical selections, you knew it was going to be a musically sound and wonderful evening. I would love to say that I remember the set list but I don't. Like most concerts that I go to, I find myself lost in the music and while I tell myself to remember the set, I don't. the beauty of the music washed over me and I was enthralled.

Norda did beautiful on the flute. The set list included many songs that we had never heard them play live and I think it was because ray was unable to hit the notes on the flute like he used to. Norda hit the notes wonderfully and I could tell that Penny thoroughly enjoyed it, and was impressed as she used to play the flute herself (always loved to listen to her play).

What was wonderful is that the Moodies played an hour, took a set break and were back for another hour. It was by far, the best concert I have attended of the Moody Blues. It was the last night of the Summer Nights 2009 tour and they really seemed to pull out all the stops. They hit 3 different songs from the 1978 "Octive" album which tends to be one of my favorites. They also played "Peak Hour" from Days of the Future Past which really showed their range in musical abilities.

Yes, we were able to see the Moody Blues once again. And I can say that even though the Moody Blues have been around for over 40 years, they are still bringing a new dimension to their music. It truly was "Lovely to See You." Will they be back, I get the feeling that it might have been the last time that I will see the Moody Blues with Justin Haywood, John Lodge and Graeme Edge. Ray Thomas has retired. Mike Pinder left long ago (so did Patrick Moraz). Who will be next. My guess would be Graeme Edge though I think he really enjoys the crowd and being out in front of the people.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How long?

How long should worship be? As a pastor, that is a question that I ask myself each week. that is the question many laity ask themselves - often after having to endure a service that has lasted longer than they would like. How long is too long? How short is too short? What is the perfect length of time? 1 hour? 1.15 hours? 2 hours? 45 minutes? You probably have your own idea as to what makes the perfect service.

We could point to the past, the history of the Lutheran Church. Luther was one that never went short. Read some of his sermons and you will find that he probably preached close to an hour, perhaps even longer, depending on the topic. It is doubtful that he preached a sermon the length of what we get at this time - 12-15 minutes. He would just be getting warmed up at that time. Then there was always communion attached to the service, the liturgy would be used in all it's fullness. Put that all together and you would probably have a 2 hour service. Remember this, most of the time they would stand for this service instead of sitting on padded pews!

Then the seminary and others tell us that a sermon should never last more than 12 minutes, because people's attention span is not that long. We live in a world of sound bytes - blips of sound, parts of video and a few fast paced minutes of intense "God words" and then you are done. The service includes numerous songs to begin, a few brief words of welcome and encouragement, music and then the message. Non-Lutheran and non-Sacramental churches often don't worry about the Lord's Supper since it means much less to them than it does to the Lutherans and voila - you have a ready made service of 45 minutes of fun, excitement and out the door so we can pack in the next service which starts promptly 15 minutes after the previous one concludes.

What is one to do? Preach the word. The people need the word. They need to hear the word. Give them word in the Scripture readings, offer up the liturgy, offer them the Lord's Supper, and still get them out in 1 hour, maybe only 5 minutes over. How do you offer communion? Does it take 15 minutes to distribute? Maybe more? Then the other parts of the service that we consider "important" and "necessary" for a Lutheran service and it leaves you only about 12 minutes, perhaps 15 for the message, but as we know, the service should last only 1 hour. Period. No more, possibly less.

So that means what? Cut the sermon short. Offer the necessary words that need to be said - and then say "amen." Get it going, get it done. People can't pay attention more than that. Be short. Be sweet. Make them feel good. Pump them up. And then send them out into the world.

What is my thought on this? I have a hard time cutting back on the sermon. There are two things important in the service - Word and Sacrament. I do not believe in dropping the Sacrament. Neither do I believe in shortening the sermon. Why? I believe that a good sermon (which I strive for each week) will touch the hearts of the people, but that is not done with the Cliff Notes of sermons. So what can be done? That is the real question.

Do I have the answer? No. Yes. Maybe. Stay tuned. More will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Darkness fills the land

It is ominous. Darkness is coming - no, that is not true. Darkness is already here. So often in our lives we think that the darkness of Satan is taking over. The reality is that Satan's darkness has filled the world since the Fall. When Adam and Eve disobeyed in the Garden, darkness came into the world and surrounded all that God had created as good. All creation fell at that time.

Since then, Satan has been the prince of this world. He is the prince of darkness and the prince of the world. When people ask why something terrible happens, they like to blame God. It is God's fault that something bad happens. They have it all wrong. It is Satan who has control of this world and it is because of the falleness of this world that those things take place.

Is God in control? Of course. But I am not dealing with that right now. God is the One who is control of all things - but He allows thins to take place. Just read through the book of Job and you will see what I mean. There is much more to it than the way we deal with it.

Don't blame God. Put the blame squarely where it belongs - in the lap of sin and the devil. This world is his playground. He is not above destroying your life just to make your miserable. He is not above destroying other's lives in order to destroy someones trust and love for the Lord. He will cause the death of a child if he thinks it will shake the parent's trust in the Lord. He does not love you. He does not love me. He is darkness. He is deep darkness. He is out to destroy all that is good, all that comes from God.

This world is darkness. Into this darkness has come the Light. read John 1. You will get the real understanding of the impact of the coming of the Son of God into this world. It shook Satan to the core. He fought against the Son of God. He did all he could to stop Him from carrying out the work of salvation. He even went so far as to turn the people of God against the Lord and lead them to send Him to His death - upon a cross. Satan laughed with glee as the Son of God hung upon the tree. He danced when that final cry went up. And he rejoiced in victory when He breathed His last. Satan had won!!!!!!

NOT! Satan had lost at that moment. 3 days later, as the grave burst open and the Son of God stepped forth, Satan ran in terror. God had won! Sin was defeated. Satan was now a chained dog (still the prince of this world). And death and the grave - no longer that terrible enemy that we must fear. Our Lord has overcome all. He has won!

We live in a dark world. We live in a world that is filled with hate. We live in the midst of the realm of that chained dog. We face struggles. We face pain. But we do so with a sure and certain hope that comes to us through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. the Light of lights has come into the world, brought light into the darkness and sheds light on our lives.

Will it continue to be dark in this world? Yes. Can we overcome the darkness? No. Only the Lord can overcome the darkness. He then uses us to share that light with those who are filled with pain and suffering. The message we are given, the message we share, is the most powerful message we can ever hope to share. It is the message of life, of salvation, of peace, and of a future. Face the darkness head on - not with fear but with the Light. And know this - through Christ, you have already won.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why? Oh, Why?

Why do we do that to ourselves? What is that, you ask. That is a good question. This evening we had the pleasure (yes it was a pleasure) to get together with the Youth from St. Paul's for an evening of softball at the park. The parents (and older folks) played against the youth. And if you ask us older folks, we won! Yes, we won! The score might not reflect that we won but the reality is we didn't get hurt, we retired the youth in each inning. We scored a few runs. So in the end, we feel as though we won. Hurrah for us oldsters! Let's hear it. Three cheers! Hip hip, hurrah! Hip, hip, hurrah! Hip, hip, hurrah!

Now we are at home taking our pain meds and wondering to ourselves, was it really worth it. My knees ache. Boy do they ache. Makes it hard to get up once I am sitting down. To get up the stairs is a challenge. And I wonder, why did I play the game like I did?

It is because I love the youth. Yes, I love them. I want the best for them. I want to help them to realize that fun can be had without the aid of drugs or alcohol. I want them to know that we oldsters will do whatever we can to help them to grow in life, to mature in thought and to enjoy life in any way. Jesus came to give life. To live in Him is to have a full, fun life. And that includes getting out there on the ball field and hit the ball, catch the ball, field the ball and take the pain meds when we get home.

Why would we do that to ourselves? For the sake of our youth. It is all about being with them, helping them and loving them. Thanks youth for letting us play. And you are well worth every moment we were out there and you are worth much more than that!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It makes me wonder

Why is it that people want nothing to do with the church until a moment of crisis? Why is it that someone will live their life as though the Lord means nothing to them and then when there is a death, suddenly they want to pastor to "preach them into heaven"? All right, so no one actually says that but that is how it feels.

I run into that regularly. The person doesn't want the Lord in their life. they want to live each day as though they are free from the Lord and having to do anything remotely "religious." they aren't into that sort of thing. "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to a barn makes you a cow." True. But at the same time, we remember that the Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21 NIV)

I don't need the Lord, His Word or the Sacraments. I don't need to be in worship. But I am still a Christian. Are you? Honestly? How can you say to the Lord, "I love You," and then turn your back on Him and thumb your nose at Him? You can't. It is only fooling yourself.

At the time of need, at the death of a loved one, families come to the church and ask for a service to be performed. When it is someone you know believed in Christ and lived that faith, it is easy to do. When someone wants nothing to do with Him in life, I think of that passage. Not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven. How can I give them any words of comfort? Would I not have to stretch the truth or even lie? Why would you want a church funeral when you didn't want a church life?

It makes me wonder, do they really think that I can preach them into heaven? I can't. They are either there in life or not. Those that believe have salvation already. "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18 NIV)

It is a hard place to be as a pastor. But I cannot give false hope to those who are still alive. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to be faithful to the Word of God and to the people of God and say I can't do it. It may be the right thing to say, but it sure does cause the heart to break. Sigh. Pray for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

School Begins

I love it when school is back in session. Some parents love it because the kids are back in school and are not sitting around the house getting bored, wondering what to do and bugging mom and dad to go to Bobby's for ice cream. All right, the last one isn't so hard to put up with, unless you eat Bobby's too often, then it takes a couple extra miles a day in order to lose the calories that were gained.

I love it when school begins because then the kids are back around the church and school. I miss them. I am always ready to have summer begin but I am just as ready to get back in the swing of things. I miss the kids. I love to see their smiling faces, to hear them say, "Pastor" and then give me a hug or a high five. There is nothing better than to have the preschool children gather around you and tell you their names. That must have been what set Jesus' heart jump with joy when the little children crawled up on His lap. I can just imagine the smile on His face, the joy in His eyes and the laugh in His voice. I can only wish that I could have been one of those children crawling up on His lap.

So they are back. The Kindergarten class has a goodly number - 9. That is so cool to see. Mrs. Thomas is a wonderful kindergarten teacher. She has such a loving way about her and I can see why she is good in that class. the 1/2nd graders are quite the group. Miss Gieseking is our new teacher and she has such an excitement about her. I think the kids will learn a lot and i feel that she is bringing something special to our school. Mrs. Tschudy in 3/4 grade has a small group, which will present challenges all its own, does a great job. Already they have memory work and are doing word problems. I love to read those problems (and sometimes I can even solve them). Mrs. Doyle in 5/6 grade finally has some girls in her class. That ought to bring some difference into the classroom after a year of nothing but boys. They are great bunch and Mrs. Doyle is a wonderful teacher and caring principal. And Mrs. Aebel has moved back to 7/8 grade. You can feel the excitement in her classroom. I am excited to be working with her in the class and I look forward to teaching the confirmation class.

I am so happy to be back in school. I would have liked a longer summer. Why? Because I would have. No real reason. Having said that I would like to tell you - welcome back to school! I love being back and the routine has returned. What a joy. And Jesus, please give us powerful, wonderful year where we are able to take the message of Christ to the children and to their children. And may our staff be blessed by each other and bless our families and students.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sick and tired

Why is it that when the homosexual community wants to bring about same sex marriage (though they are a minority), it is all right to be vocal and cause problems for those who are not supportive of same sex marriage (see what happened in California when the vote didn't go their way) and when those who are against the health care reform bill and speak up about it in a vocal way (same as the homosexual community), they are called a vocal minority and shouldn't be listened to? I really am getting frustrated with this whole debate.

The real issue is that it doesn't matter if you are republican or democrat, if you support this health care reform bill you better worry about getting re-elected. No one argues that health care needs to be reformed. But the bill that is put forward is a shame. It is socialism. It is giving our care to the government just like Canada and the United Kingdom. Go to either of those countries and you will find that government run health care doesn't work.

As far as the "death panels," what the liberal media wants us to believe is that a living will is the same thing as a panel of people who decide if you should have care or not. They are two different things. One decides for the individual what he/she wants to do in the case of extreme measures of life - ventilator, heart machine, etc. (living will). The panel will decide if you are eligible for the care or not, based on age, chance of survival, sickness, etc. We should not put forward to anyone the opportunity to decide who should have care and who shouldn't.

If you are put a 20 year old against an 80 year old, and have to decide who gets the treatment, the decision might be interesting. Of course we would say the 20 year old should get the treatment and the 80 year old should make the best of it. But would it not be better to say, both of them should receive that treatment - no matter how old they are. Life is life. Who decides who lives and who dies. But the panel won't say who dies. They will just decide who gets the care and who doesn't. If you die because you didn't get the care, that isn't the panel's fault. It just happens. Baloney. That is deciding who is to live and who isn't. Let's call a spade a spade and not try to hide behind words.

What is the problem? The real issue is who is in control of life? Man or God? This health care reform bill is saying that they should have control over life not God. This health care reform takes life out of God's hands. In the end, the whole thing deals with faith, trust and belief in the sovereignty of God. We are seeing what happens when faith in God no longer guides our actions. Lies, deceit and a desire to take over from God becomes the way that things are done. No longer does truth and God's will rule the day. Instead, selfish ambition, pride, self interest, and other sinful actions takes control.

In all that we do, let's move get one thing straight - we need to return to a life that is guided by the Lord and by His Word. Period. No matter where you fall on this issue, look at your life and see where you are in following God.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thoughts on Ephesians 4

This week's sermon covered Eph. 4:17-5:2. There is so much in this section that there is no way to preach on the whole text. Actually, I have some thought that I want to put out there, though they seem a little law oriented.

I was studying Eph. 4:18-19 and thought it sounds just like the world today. "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (NIV) Lost in darkness, hardened in sin, the world does not see the way of Christ as the way to live. People avoid Christians because they are not able to "have fun" when a Christian is around. Life is going to be boring. When we were dating, Penny was told by one of her friends (who was trying to gain her interest) that she would not be happy marrying someone who was a pastor because it would be a boring life. She wouldn't have any fun. The thought was that as a Christian in a committed relationship, there is no hope for a full life. Then again, a "full life" means that you give yourself over to your sinful nature and indulge in every kind of sensuality, always needing more.

That is what fuels the pornography industry (and it is an industry, making billions of dollars off people's lust for more sensuality). There is money to be made by delving into the world of sex, every kind of sex imaginable and many that you would never have imagined! Women degrade themselves because they can make money posing nude and in different sex acts. People sell their bodies because they can make more in one weekend than they could in a whole month at a respectable job. And in many cases, their families and friends don't need to know what they are doing - and it gives them their jollies as well. How much better could it be? But what does it profit a man or woman to gain the world, to achieve that sexual "high" and yet lose his soul.

But I won't lose my soul just because I am involved in some sort of sexual game or business. that is the thought. A person can be lost in the sensuality of life without giving up their faith in Christ. But can they? Can you really live with your lover (male or female) and still profess faith in Christ, active, living and breathing faith?Can you truly live as the old sinful self and still claim the new Adam lives in you? Can you have this desire for sensuality outside of marriage and still follow Christ? What about the 6th Commandment? "You shall not commit adultery." But perhaps you are not married. What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in word and deed and husband and wife love and honor each other. Can you set aside the command of God for your own sinful desire and still tell God that you love and follow Him? No you can't.

My friend, the world offers you one thing. Christ offers you another. The married man cannot take a lover outside of marriage and still claim to follow God. the single person cannot pick up a good time at the bar, spend the night, take the morning after pill and still say they are following Christ. I know, there is always repentance and forgiveness. But don't abuse that. Don't fool yourself and say, "I can look at online porn, not hurt anyone, ask God to forgive me and I will be all right." You are inviting darkness into your soul at that moment. The battle is on. Darkness wants you. Light wants you. Which will you follow?

This is a tough reading. the sinful sexual self thinks it is all right. God tells us it will only hurt our lives, our minds, our emotions and our souls. The woman who lives with the guy for 8 months, thinks he is the one, only to find out that he found another woman who is "better" in bed, willing to do "other things" and leaves her high and dry. She is crushed. He was the one. She gave herself to him. Oh well, try again. Use the feminine ways to get the guy and then wonder why there is no commitment. Use the studly looks to woo the girl into bed and then wonder why there is nothing to talk about the next morning.

God is trying to spare us the emotional and spiritual agony that plays out day after day. He is encouraging us to enjoy the sensual, sexual life that He has given - but only in the course of the marriage, between a husband and wife. The world can't see it. Many Christians struggle to see it. Why? Because we are often darkened in our understanding. We are not thinking with our souls but with our old sinful self.

Turn to God. Trust in God. Follow the light. Enjoy that which God gives - in marriage.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vacation Bible School

"Polar Extreme" was our theme this year. I wasn't too sure about it as it was from the Regular Baptist Press. Had some issues with some of the theology but it was easy enough to bring into the Lutheran Church. I know that some will take offense at that statement but please don't. That is just a fact. We are not into decision theology which was a part of the VBS, but it was easy to overcome that and put the right emphasis on the working of the Spirit to bring us to faith.

I enjoy VBS. It is a wonderful time to connect with children and their family. I have always enjoyed VBS. It gives me a chance to step out of the ordinary and bring a little joy and wonder into the lives of the children. It is amazing when you step out dressed in a coat and hat, holding a penguin that played in the street and telling the children how upset you were. They look at you with wonder. Then to be able to tell them that you were wrong and needed the penguin to forgive you. And they sit there wide-eyed in wonder, hearing about the forgiveness of Jesus for you and for your penguin. That is a moment that makes all the effort, all the challenges of the ministry worthwhile. If you can touch the heart of one little child, everything that you do is worthwhile. All the frustrations, all the struggles, all your inabilities as a pastor/teacher suddenly don't matter. All that matters is that one child, seeing the wonder of the love of Christ, the sweetness of forgiveness, the joy of the Gospel and the life in Christ. There is nothing better.

And boy does it tire you out. I sit here tonight worn out. All week, I have poured out all I have to the children, the Spirit has been filling me up and I have been pouring it out to them (and to the children). While He has filled me up to overflowing, it still takes a lot of me. I am poured out for the gospel - maybe that is the spiritual talk that Paul talks about when he says he is about to be poured out. (OK, I know that he was talking about his life ending but sometimes I think it might be this as well. I pour myself out each and every time I in front of the people. The Spirit fills me. I pour it out. And when it is done, I feel like a rag that has been wrung out and hung up to dry.)

I love VBS. I look forward to it every year. Next year is coming. We have a lot of days to go through till we get there, but it will come. Thanks to everyone who worked, who taught, who gave cookies, brought children and loved each child. God bless you all. Extreme Joy, Worship, Trust, Obedience and Trust. All of me all out for God. Yes, I love Him with all my heart, body, mind and soul. Put my strength into the mix, and that is what we taught our children.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Law and Gospel

It sounds so simple - Law and Gospel. It is a fundamental teaching of the Lutheran Church, one that we take for granted in our lives. We are sinners. We are separated from god by our sin. We deserve damnation. God, in love, sent His only Son to suffer and die for us upon the cross. His sinless life, death and resurrection paid the full and complete price for our salvation. through faith in Christ, faith bestowed by the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace, we are saved. We are given forgiveness, life and the power to please God through good works. We are assured of salvation instead of damnation. Law and Gospel, foundational to the Christian faith.

But there are many who don't know these two teachings. They struggle with their lives and their theology because they do not understand the difference between them, or perhaps they don't even know them. How often do you hear someone preach the gospel only to say, "You are a sinner going to hell"? That isn't gospel, that is law. Anytime that we put our works into the mix, we are moving back into the law. We are putting forgiveness and salvation on our shoulders and it means that all is lost again.

Another teaching that we take for granted is that we are at the same time both saint and sinner. We are saint by virtue of the grace and forgiveness of God. We are sinner by virtue of our nature. We struggle with that each and every day. Just when we think we have this Christian life thing down pat, we find ourselves caught up in sin once again.

The reason I am thinking of this is that I was reading an article this morning. "We've Won the Lottery - Now What?" (BTW - It really wasn't about the lottery.) Written from the evangelical point of view, it struggled with sinful behavior on the part of people, especially high profile people who claim to be Christian. How can a person be a Christian and still find themselves in the life of sin? How can a Christian really be a Christian and be an adulterer or an embezzler? And does all those sinful people invalidate the message of the Gospel?

As a Lutheran, I do not struggle with that question at all. Sin is in this world. Sin is in the life of those high profile Christians such as George W. Bush and Billy Graham. They are not saints. they make good decisions and bad decisions. Their children, raised as Christians, will get into trouble. The pastor of the congregation will sin. The elders of the congregation will sin. The little old blue haired lady sitting in the pew shaking her head at the sins of others will sin. That, my friends, is the reality that we face. (read Romans 7)

Having said that, I also proclaim that those same ones are saints, not by their actions but by the grace of God, that forgives them for Christ's sake. They live in the state of grace (now that doesn't mean that we sin boldly so that grace may abound. That thought only comes from the sinful heart that is not following the way of the Lord. What a wicked heart we have to think that way.). Forgiveness is theirs. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Go and sin no more." Do you think she actually never sinned again? Of course not. In my mind, she didn't commit adultery ever again. Then again, maybe there is something to the saying, "Once a cheater, always a cheater." The thing is that under the forgiveness of Christ, she went away forgiven and renewed for a new life in Him. She continued to have to confess her sins and receive forgiveness, just like us.

The problem with some theology is that they have set people up for failure. They want people to think that they can be perfect here on earth. And when they fail to reach that perfection, when some famous person falls into a public sin, they are shocked, appalled and sure that they were not true Christians. That fills my heart with sadness for in the moment of greatest need, we are shaking our heads, wagging our fingers and telling that person that they were not a true Christian because of their sin. The law is already crushing the person and all we can do is heap more law upon them.

Perhaps it is time for us to get back to the teaching of law and gospel, sin and grace. It helps to know that I am at the same time saint and sinner - all under the power and love of Christ Jesus. I thank God for the forgiveness given to me. And I pray that the Spirit would strengthen me and help me to live as He would have me live. Yes, we still reach for perfection, knowing all the while that we will only attain it when we enter into heaven. Doesn't stop us from trying - but we must remember that a bruised reed he will not break.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I couldn't believe it

We were given tickets to attend the Thursday evening game at Busch stadium, a game between the Cardinals and the Dodgers. I can't say that it was all that exciting - me being a Cub fan and all. Besides, it was a slow game, at least through the 7th evening. Not much action. But that isn't what I was thinking about.

I was surprised at the greeting that the Card fans gave to Manny Ramirez (probably spelled wrong, sorry). I am not a big Manny fan, guess I am not into the long hair and the attitude. He is a good ball player. But that day it was announced that he was named in the 2003 steroid scandal. Ooh, that is terrible. So every time that he was announced the crowd would boo him. I just sat there in surprise because I could not see the need to boo a man for that which took place in 2003. Yes I know that is the year that the Red Sox beat the Cards in the World Series. they are now able to blame their loss on the steroids instead of not playing up to their potential. Why not just admit that the Sox outplayed them? Guess that is too much to ask.

But as I sat there and listened to that booing, I thought to myself, "Why? Why boo Manny? Is he really that bad? Is it really something worth booing?" Before you answer that, give this some thought.

The very men who are booing someone for using performance enhancing drugs will turn around and drink alcohol in order to make themselves feel much stronger, more important and uninhibited. They will turn around and use Cialisor Viagra in order to enhance their "performance" in the bedroom. The woman will have breast implants in order to encourage the men to pay attention to them. There will be drugs used to make the "work" better and smarter at the office. There will be various types of drugs to help them work faster and longer. Truck drivers will take those little bottles of energy stimulants in order to drive farther than they should.

It is wrong for Manny but not for them. He should be "clean" while they can do whatever they can to "enhance" their life or performance. Talk about hypocritical. Why not boo themselves? Why not say that since Manny is wrong, they are too? Oh wait, we can't do that. Manny should be above that - not them.

I am not one that goes for that performance enhancement, no matter if it is on the ball field, the boardroom or the bedroom. It is wrong. Wrong on the ball field for Manny and for Big Mac. Wrong for the truck driver, the secretary, the office worker, the CEO, the pastor and whoever it might be.

Let's not boo Manny. Instead, let's just work at making the world right instead of continuing to tear it apart.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rereading and aroma

I don't like to reread something. I will read a book once and then probably not pick it up again. Why? Because I know how it is going to end. I know the ins and outs of the plot and I know that the good guy will win over the bad guy (unless it is a darker type of book). I am not a big fan of those dark books unless they are part of a set where the good guy wins in the final book. Star Wars is an example of that. It always seems that the dark side of the Force is winning. Even Anakin turns to the dark side. Is there no hope? Of course there is. Good wins out in the end and the universe is saved. Takes a while to get there - but good things come to those who wait. Kinda like the people of Israel who waited thousands of years for the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Many, many generations died before they saw the fulfillment of that promise. But good (translate that to GOD) always wins in the end.

But I digress (as if that is something new). The one book I will reread (and I do this often) is the Bible. Yes, I know the outcome. God wins. Good rises above evil (quite literally in Jesus' resurrection). A sure and certain hope is given to all who believe. You would think that after reading and rereading the Bible, I would not find new thoughts and new things. But I do.

I was reading this morning in 2 Corinthians. Read an interesting section. "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death and to the other, the fragrance of life." (2 Cor. 2:15-16 NIV) I didn't remember that section. What is amazing, I had read it before because I had underlined those verses. Wow!

I thought about what it was saying. We are the aroma of Christ among people. Made me think. What type of aroma am I? A good aroma or a bad aroma? To those who believe in Christ and are saved, it is a good aroma. It is pleasing. It is an aroma that you want to smell again and again. It is like lighting your favorite candle and having it fill the house with it's wonderful fragrance. The aroma that a Christian gives off to another Christian is the aroma of life, the aroma of hope, the aroma of Christ.

But to those who don't believe, the aroma we give off is a stench. It fills the person with disgust. Paul says that "we are the smell of death." Who wants to smell death? There is nothing more foul than the smell of an animal at the side of the road in the heat of the summer. Ugh! Who wants to smell that? The unbeliever sure doesn't. They want nothing to do with those who believe in Christ because it is the aroma of death and they want away from it and from us.

Makes sense, doesn't it? How often does the unbeliever fight hard to keep the believer and the message he brings away from themselves? The world, dying in sin, apart from Christ, wants nothing to do with the believer for he brings the aroma of death - not the death of the believer but the death of the unbeliever. What the unbeliever is smelling is themselves. Why? Because the believer has life.

Think of it this way: No one wears deodorant. Everyone smells. No one pays attention because everyone smells. Suddenly one person in the group showers and begins to wear deodorant. Now he doesn't smell bad. He smells good. The others begin to smell the difference. They smell bad but don't want to start wearing that "sissy" stuff. So they despise the person who smells good just to remain as they are. Who really smells bad? The people with the terrible body odor not the person who wears deodorant. Who says that the other smells bad? The ones that actually smell bad. They remain in their odor and refuse to change and in the process, blame the one who smells good for all the problems of odor.

So it is with unbelievers. The problem is not that we smell of death but that they are smelling their own death and are blaming the believer. How can you smell so good while there is such a stench of death in the air? How? Through faith in the One that brings that wonderful aroma of life - through Jesus Christ. We smell good because of the life that Christ gives. The world smells horrific because the stench of death lays heavy upon it.

Today I reread that passage and it made sense to me. Thanks God.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Psalm 33

If you haven't read this Psalm lately, please do so. I was reading it this morning and there were so many thoughts that came to me that I was blown away. Just a few thoughts about it.

"Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him." (vs. 8 NIV) Unfortunately this is not the case any longer. The people of the world do not revere God. Yes, there are many who do. There are many faithful people who hold to the Lord, follow the Lord and love the Lord. You may well be one of them. Praise the Lord for that. But does the world revere the Lord any longer? Is He really seen as the God of the universe, who made all things at His word? (The Psalmist talks of that as well.)

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." (vs. 13 NIV) Why does the US have such problems today? It is because we no longer revere the Lord nor is God the Lord of our nation. Day after day we thumb our nose at God - abortion, same-sex marriage, self-centered greed, lust for power, despicable acts (There was a poll on Facebook asking if there should be a national holiday in honor of Michael Jackson! Can you imagine? A man who was the epitome of self-centered, egocentric, pleasure driven, child molesting entertainer, and there are those who want to honor him? Where is God in that? Where is the nation that reveres the Lord? Who is greater in the minds of the nation? God or Michael Jackson? I don't even want the answer to that question for it would greatly trouble me.)

"But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." (vs. 11 NIV) Praise the Lord for that promise! No matter how the nations rage, no matter how sick people become, no matter how far we fall from the way that He would have us live, His plans stand firm. What are His plans? To save, to bring the lost and the erring to life eternal. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Gospel. Scowl fierce as they will, they can harm us none, the Kingdom ours remaineth. How can we say that when it appears the opposite in today's world? Because the plans of the Lord stand firm forever. In the end, it is the purpose of the Lord that wins because He is still God and Lord. He is the Almighty. He is the potter and we are the clay. We cannot prevail against Him (though many think they can).

"The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love." (vs. 18 NIV) That gives hope when the daughter and son stand at the bedside of their mother who dies. The Lord was watching over her. That gives comfort to the parents whose son or daughter is driving down the road in the middle of the night after having an argument with the significant other. The eyes of the Lord are upon them. They are not alone. Never alone. His love is with them. Does that mean they won't die? Does it mean they won't be hurt when the deer runs out in front of the car? No. It means that the Lord is with them even then, and that, my friends, gives comfort and peace.

Thank You Lord for Psalm 33. I needed it today. And there it was.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The need for prayer

Prayer is important. No it is not a Means of Grace (Word and Sacraments). We could get into that whole discussion but we won't. Prayer is our talking with God through word or thought. It does not move God to action as some suppose. God is not sitting in heaven waiting for us to pray before He can act in our lives. He acts according to His divine will - with or without our prayers. We can be thankful for that because there are many times we do not pray at all. If God couldn't act in our lives until we prayed to Him, then we would be in a sad state of affair. Then there are times when we don't know what we should even pray for. We are told that at those times, the Holy Spirit prays for us in words that the Father understands. Imagine what would happen if, when we are in the hospital, distraught over the emergency a loved one is going through, not knowing what to pray, and therefore God is unable to act. Eek! That would be terrible. God acts - even without our prayer.

So why pray? Because in prayer we are opening ourselves up to the Lord. We are emptying ourselves of ourselves and saying, "Lord, I am Yours. Let my will be in accord with Your will, my thoughts with Your thoughts, my ways with your ways." Prayer is for us - not for God. Prayer is our coming to Him with open, willing hearts and minds, looking for His guidance and strength. Prayer puts us in a right relationship with Him.

Perhaps that is why the body is so important in prayer. Kneeling before God in prayer says, "I come to You in faith and humility, not in arrogance. I come needing You in my life." Bowing the head in prayer is saying, "I am in need, Lord." Folding the hands or lifting them up is a way of saying, "I am not going to let other things take my life right now. You are all that matters." All right, when you are driving down the road and saying a prayer (which I do regularly), you shouldn't do any of the above. But you can do it in your heart. It is an attitude of the heart. All those outward signs are meant to show what lies inside your heart and what is guiding your soul.

What made me think of all this? In the Gospel reading yesterday, right after feeding the 5000, Jesus sends the disciples away, dismisses the crowd and then goes off by Himself to pray. He knew the importance of being one with His Father. He knew that prayer was this lifeline with the Father. He spend a lot of time in prayer, seeking the Father's will and being guided by the Father. And I thought, if Jesus is in prayer so much, doesn't that tell us something about how much we should be in prayer?