Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30th

Only one more day until 2012 draws to a close. It has been an amazing year. One thing that is amazing is how fast this year has gone. It seems like only a short time ago we were saying goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. I have been told by those who are older than I am that as you grow older the years go faster. I reached 51 years of age this year and it appears that those ones who have said that to me were correct. The year is going much faster than I could have ever imagined. (Is that because I am so busy? Is it because I am older? Is it a matter of perspective? I can't answer that question.)

This year has also been amazing for the church life. There have been a few naysayers who have stated that St. Paul's hasn't been growing. I would counter with the facts. Average worship attendance has been on a steady increase over the past 4 years. Point of fact is that it has increased to the point where we are nearing an average of 250 per weekend. Yes, we have released a large number of members over the year but that hasn't affected our attendance. Many of those we have released are ones who haven't been active in worship life for many years. At the same time, we have continued to bring in new members, both adults and children. It is exciting to be a part of the work of the Lord in reaching out into the Troy community.

Then there was the celebration in June of the 25th anniversary of my ordination into the pastoral ministry. That was a great weekend. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to celebrate with my brothers and sisters of St. Paul's. The members put together a wonderful day - the morning worship with Rev. Dr. John Oberdeck preaching, the afternoon spent with family, the dinner and program in the evening. The gifts that were given to me, one of those gifts being the special quilt that had quilt blocks signed by a large number of the members. That quilt now hangs in our basement here in the parsonage. It truly is a thing of beauty. I had a great day.

Things at St. Paul's school have been going very well. This is the 1st year that we have made the concerted effort to connect the preschool with the day school. In the past years the two had been in the same building but had really been separate. We can be thankful that they have joined together into one school instead of two. Too many families came to preschool without being aware of the day school, which meant that we missed the opportunity to bring more children into kindergarten. And we see the outcome of this change with 20 children coming into our kindergarten this year. That was a tremendous growth for St. Paul's school. The preschool classes continue to be a strong asset to our school with nearly 40 in the preschool 4's and 25 the 1st half of the year in the preschool 3's with another class beginning here with the new year beginning. All we can say is, "Thank You Lord, for blessing our school in such a wonderful way."

And I bring to the end my thoughts on this day, December 30, 2012. I have other things to ramble about but for the moment, this is the end of my ramblings.

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World

I waited. I watched. I wondered. And I realized it wasn't going to happen. The world wasn't going to end today, December 21, 2012. This is the day when the famed Mayan calendar told the world that time and being was going to come to an end.

It did cause me to think. It caused me to wonder what it would really be like to have the world come to an end. I am talking about the day when Jesus will come again. We talk about it many times. We confess it in the Apostles' Creed (...sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead. "). Jesus' return is inevitable, something that is going to happen.

And I thought about it, I wondered. People will be going about their daily lives; They will be going to work, buying and selling, preparing and eating meals, coughing and sneezing, in the hospital and at home, sitting at the window watching the window blow the leaves across the parking lot, sleeping in the bedroom, showering, shaving, changing clothes, and doing a whole host of other mundane things that are done over and over again each day. It will be just like it was in the days of Noah. People didn't know what was taking place when the first drops of rain began to fall and as the water burst out of the springs in the ground. Daily events were taking place.

I walked through the church building and thought, "Is it time? If it is, what will it really be like?" That is a good question, what will it really be like? Loud? Trumpets? Angels? Clouds with light? Bright light? Will I see Him when I sit inside a building? Will the buildings collapse? Will they disappear? What will it be like to suddenly see Jesus?

That last question is really hard to imagine. What will it be like to see Jesus? Hearts leaping with joy! Knees bending in honor of the King of kings. Believers rejoicing. Unbelievers moaning in terror. It will be an amazing event.

Jesus coming on the clouds. What would it really be like? I read Matthew's gospel, Paul's letter to the Thessalonians and the Revelation of St. John. All of them tell us that Jesus will come again. But obviously it wasn't meant to be today.

I still sit and wonder...what will it really be like?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Church Ornament

St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Troy, IL will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the current church building on February 10, 2013. To go along with this celebration, the youth group of St. Paul's has commissioned a commemorative 50th anniversary ornament.

These brass ornaments show the likeness of the church building. They come in a special perma-suede folder. There are only 300 of these ornaments made, each numbered consecutively.

The cost of these ornaments is $15. They make great gifts for those who are members of St. Paul's, were baptized, confirmed or married at St. Paul's, or have some connection with St. Paul's.

If you would like more information can contact the church office (667-6681) or Debbie Wittenberg (call the church office for information on how to contact her).

Thursday, December 6, 2012


This last Sunday, Dec. 2nd, brought the beginning of Advent. During this season, Christians say, "Come, Lord Jesus!" I often think we misunderstand what we are saying there. For most people, it is only a season that gets you ready for Christmas. In this season you start to rev up the motor, getting the gift giving warmed up and the party mode primed. It's all about Christmas. Advent is just the pre-Christmas season in which we have expanded the 12 days of Christmas to encompass all of December.

What we forget is that there is a three-fold emphasis in this season of Advent. First is one that we have started to speak of - it is a season in which we say, "Come, Lord Jesus" as we prepare to remember His 1st coming as a babe in Bethlehem. We do prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas. It isn't about the parties and the gifts. It is all about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14). We prepare for the greatest event in human history - the incarnation of the Son of God.

Second, we say "Come, Lord Jesus" in Your Word and Sacraments. Come into our hearts and lives right now, right here, where we live, breath, work and play. Come to us, abide with us. Be with us daily Emmanuel. And He does! He comes to us as we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God. He comes to us in His body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine in the Sacrament of the Altar. He comes to us, abides us with and strengthens us. Advent is about His coming into our lives.

Third, we say, "Come, Lord Jesus" as we prepare our hearts and lives for His second coming. He is coming again, only this time not as a babe born in a stable but as the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He will come upon the clouds for all eyes to see Him, for every knee to bow before Him and for every tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Yes, He is coming again! (On Dec. 21st? Who knows? It might be when He returns. But don't hold your breath. Instead share the message of the Gospel with others so that they Spirit can work in their hearts and bring them into a relationship with Jesus as their Savior.)

Advent is about the coming of the Lord. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Only 21 days!

Can you believe it? We have only 21 days! That's it? Only 21 shopping days, 21 working days, 21 days of fun and frivolity.

Wait a minute...don't you mean 25 days? It is 25 days till Christmas. That is true. Today is Nov. 30th which means tomorrow we begin December with 25 days till Christmas. But I was talked about 21 days till the end of the world. According to the Mayan calendar, the world ends on Dec. 21, 2012. (Unless you take into account leap years and then the world would have already ended but that is another story.)

So I have a question. If the world is going to end on Dec. 21st, why should I go to work today? Why should I pay my bills? Why should I obey the law? Why should I live a moral life? Why should I worry about any of the things that guide me through my days? There are only 21 more days until the world ends and I might as well live it up. I might as well quit taking my heart medicine. And the really big one - I might as well not buy any Christmas presents.

Why? Because the world will not end on Dec. 21st (unless the Lord decides for it to end then and then, we won't have any warning!). We are told in this last Sunday's Gospel (were you there to hear it?), "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:32 ESV) That means the Mayans didn't know either.

What does this mean? (A good Lutheran question.) It means that we live each day as the Lord would have us live it - going about the things as life, all in service to Him. At the same time, we watch and wait, longing for Him to return but going about our days as though He isn't coming back at the moment. We plant the tree. We buy the Christmas presents. We go to work. We take the medicine. We live the moral life. Why? Because that is how the Lord would have us live each day. We live for Christ each and every day, living as He would have us live. And when He comes (surprise!), He will take us to be with Him in heaven. Why will He take us? Not because of the way we are living but because of the condition of our hearts. Salvation comes through faith in Him alone! The life we live is a reflection, the fruit, of that faith.

So live today - for Christ! Live as though it is your last day on earth while at the same time live as though you have another day ahead of you. That is the tension of being a Christian. We long for Christ to return. We long to enter into heaven to spend eternity with Him. Yet we live each day as a faithful Christian, caring for the environment, for our fellow man, for our families and for ourselves.

21 days till the end of the world? Your guess is as good as mine. As for me and my house, during these next 21 days (and beyond), we will follow and serve the Lord.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Darkness and Light

It's that time of the year - when it starts to get dark earlier and stay dark later. I know that there is a logical explanation for it. It is the winter season and the sun is sinking lower in the southern sky. We have set the clocks back one hour to standard time. All of that is part of this time of the year. Knowing that doesn't make it any easier to take. When I go to teach confirmation on Wednesdays, it is already getting dark as the class begins. It wasn't that long ago that the class was getting out and it was still light outside. Saturday night worship begins in the dark. Wasn't long ago it ended and it was still light out.

This is a dark time of the year. November will soon give way to December in which the days will continue to get shorter (until the day when the world ends or winter solstice comes - I am betting on winter solstice). Then the days will begin to lengthen once again. And we move towards a time of more daylight (it might go slowly but at least we know we are going in the "right" direction).

That doesn't change the fact that it is dark at this time of the year. It is dark. have I said that enough? But that is exactly my point. It is dark. I think about that in spiritual terms and know that it is always dark. Sin is always there. Satan is always trying to find someone to devour. Temptation is always going to be at the door, seeking to have us. It is dark spiritually. The world in darkness lay. The world, the people of the world, all creation is lost in the darkness of sin and death. What is the color of "death"? Black. People would think you had stripped a gear if you wore a bright white or light blue outfit to a funeral. You are supposed to be in black because funerals are dark, sad events. You don't sit around and laugh and joke at the funeral of a young man. You are filled with sadness and darkness.

"Thanks Pastor, " I can hear you say. "You have just brought darkness in my day. I was hoping for a good, bright day but you bring all this talk of 'dark' into it and now I find myself down and depressed because life is so dark." You are welcome. Why would I say that?

Because it is precisely at this time of the year, when it is getting so dark and staying so dark that we do something amazing. We bring out the lights! The Christmas lights! We take the dark yard and put lights all around it and suddenly, into that darkness, comes light! Bright light! Colorful light! It is glorious. It is the time of the year when every night you go somewhere (or come from somewhere), you see more lights. The dark landscape is transformed into a the colorful, fun, bright world of Christmas.

Hurrah! The light has come, or should I say, the Light has come! That is precisely the meaning behind Christmas. Into this dark world the Light of lights has come. The Son of God is incarnate and light and life comes into the world. As the Christmas lights brighten the night around us, the Jesus light brightens the darkness of our world of sins and death. We rejoice that true Light, a Light that cannot be put out, has come to us.

As you look around at the Christmas lights, think about how the meaning of Christmas is really so important. Jesus, the Light of the world, is come! He comes to save. He comes to lighten the darkness of our lives of sin and death. He comes to bring us light and life, hope and peace, forgiveness and salvation. Celebrate! Your Light has come!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks Thoughts

"Mister Turkey, Mister Turkey, Run away! Run away! If you don't be careful, you will be a mouthful, run away! Run away!" Rachael came home from preschool (years ago by the way) with that song. I have sang it every year (either out loud for all to suffer through or to myself when others have gotten tired of hearing me). It is almost time for Thanksgiving Day with all the food - the turkey and so on. The turkey that we will eat did not run away. It will be on the table for all the family to eat.

I share a picture from yesterday, Monday, Nov. 20th. It shows a turkey who was not going to run away.
I was on the Troy-Scott Road when traffic was brought to a stand still by this turkey who refused to run away! He would stand in front of each car and dare them to hit him. You could honk all you wanted and he wouldn't move. I found it terribly ironic and wonderfully funny that this took place. There is no real point to this thought, but I just found it funny.

Another thought that I have is that we are to give thanks to God with a grateful heart for all the blessings he has given to us. He has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams. We live in a country of great affluence. We have more "stuff" than we can imagine. And the "stuff" that we have costs a pretty penny to purchase. Take a look around your house and tell me that God hasn't blessed you.

Then go and read Malachi 3 and then let's talk about how we all are as Christian stewards of the blessings that God has given us. He says to us, "Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me." And like Israel, we say, "How are we robbing God? How is it that He could say such a thing to us?" And the Lord responds to us, "In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house." (Malachi 3:8-9 ESV) Look at yourself. Look at your giving. Look at how you use the gifts that God has given to you. Are you a faithful Christian steward? Or are you a fearful Christian steward - afraid that if you were to actually give to God of your time, your talents and your treasure - that you would run out?

The Lord says to you, "Put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing until there is no more need." (Malachi 3:10 ESV) Is this why our nation is struggling so much? We have lost sight of trusting in the Lord with our whole heart? We are a nation that has been setting God aside, not following Him, not serving Him, not being good stewards of all that He has given to us, not supporting the work that He has given to our local congregations to do (the sharing of the full gospel of Jesus Christ, not tearing it apart and doubting that His Word is true and right). Why would He continue to bless us when we rob Him - of His glory and in our giving?

Give thanks. While you do that, revisit your own personal stewardship life. Ask yourself if you are truly being a good, faithful, Christian steward. And know this, you can fool yourself. You can fool others. You can be dishonest in your assessment of yourself and your stewardship life. But you cannot fool God. He knows the heart. He knows the truth. (Thank God He sent His Son to pay for our sins! As we face these questions, we see our failure. We confess our sins. And we know that He HAS forgiven us for Jesus' sake! Hurrah! Thank You God!)

Have a great Thanksgiving Day. I plan on following the phrase: Gobble till you wobble. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your feast. Enjoy your football. Enjoy the shopping. Enjoy yourself! God does want you to enjoy life to the fullest. As you do so, be a thankful steward.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving is Fast Approaching

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the turkey! I can't wait for Thanksgiving Day to arrive. There will be family sitting around the table, enjoying one each other, celebrating the life they have together and eating the wondrous Thanksgiving meal - turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rolls, veggies (lots of different types), cranberry sauce and (wait for it) PIE! Of course there will be pie. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Blackberry pie. And the ever present cheesecake (made from Aunt Emily's recipe of course). It doesn't get much better than that.

There is one thing missing - spending time with the family in worship. Getting together with them, gathering around God's Word, receiving the Sacrament and celebrating the life that God has given to us. I long to spend time with family in worship.

That is one thing that I would encourage you to do this year (even if you haven't in the years gone by). Start a new tradition. Invite your family to join you in attending worship so that you have the opportunity to give thanks to God for His love shown in sending His only-begotten Son to be the Savior, to suffer and die upon the cross for your sins and the sins of all people. To thank Him for the blessings of family that you love - family that might drive you crazy at times but they are still a blessing to you and are a gift to you from the Almighty. To thank Him for the place you live in, the country you are blessed with, the leaders who are over us, the friends you are surrounded by and the job that you have.

Pray His blessing and guidance for those who don't have work, whose homes have been wrecked or destroyed by recent disasters. Pray for strength for those who lives have been destroyed by abuse, drugs and other addiction. Pray that He would show His presence to the lonely, the sick, and the suffering. Pray for those you know who need to know of His mighty presence and then pray for those you don't know that need His mighty presence as well.

And pray for the message of the Gospel to be proclaimed to all people. Without the wondrous Gospel, the word that tells us that Jesus is the one and only Savior and that there is no way to enter into eternal life except by faith in Him, there is no hope. So pray that the Gospel will be proclaimed clearly and faithfully. Pray that the Holy Spirit will use you to share the message of life and hope. And then do it. Share it. Live it. Proclaim it. Make that powerful message of salvation the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving celebration.

Go now. Purchase your turkey. Get it thawing. Prepare all the dishes. And give thanks!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election day

Vote for....I am not going to tell you who to vote for. That isn't my position in life. We have heard enough of that over the past year, getting especially overwhelmed with such advertising over the past couple weeks. We have had enough mud and muck slung around to make a pig happy for a lifetime. It doesn't matter which party you support, that party was just as bad as the other one. very few candidates actually avoided such muck-slinging. It seems that we are working to reach an all time low in how we run campaigns.

So if I am not telling you how to vote on this election day, what am I writing about? May God's will be done. That, my friends, is a tough thing to say. May God's will be done. When you have two main candidates for president of the USA and neither of them are Christians (Romney is Mormon which isn't Christian and Obama is nothing unless it suits to get him votes), how can we say "May God's will be done"?

The Lord has worked through out the years without Christian leaders. He has been lead the history of this world without people acknowledging Him or following Him. Look at the Assyrians, whom He used to discipline the people of Israel. Or take a look at the Babylonians or the Persians, whom He used in the course of history. What about the Romans? And you can look at the history of the world and see that while there are many that do not love or follow the Lord, He still guided the course of history.

And He still guides it. His will shall be done. Do we know what that will is? No we do not. Will we understand it after the election is over? Probably not. But as we trust in the Lord and let Him be the One who holds the course of history in His hands, we learn the true meaning of the 3rd petition of the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also. How is God's will done? God's will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God's name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will." (Luther's Small Catechism)

So we pray that the Lord's will is done. Who do I want to see elected? That, my friends, is what I will let be known when I go to the voting booth and place my vote. I will do so, praying that I am doing the Lord's will by voting for the man that I believe God wants leading our country.

Lord, may Your will be done!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints Day

"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV) That, my friends, is All Saints Day. We look not to ourselves and what we feel. We don't try to figure things out and wonder how does all this work. We look to the throne of God and the Lamb, the One who saves, and we rejoice!

Sing praise! Christ Jesus saves! Sing praise! The grave is not victorious! Sing praise! Satan scowls fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he's judged, the deed is done; on little word can fell him! That word! Christ! CHRIST! Satan trembles with fear at that word. The grave gives up its dead at that word! Salvation comes in that word! Jesus Christ is the Lord of all, the Messiah, the Promised One, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Great I AM!

And all those who believed in Jesus as their Lord and Savior in this life, all who died believing in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, are in that great, countless (for us but not for God) throng who stand before the throne and sing those wondrous praises! There is your loved one, your father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandfather, grandmother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, cousin, friend, neighbor, classmate - all who believed in Jesus and have passed from life to death to life, those are the ones from every language, peoples, tribes and nations.

With great rejoicing we sing praise today! Life is given through faith in Jesus Christ! Believe in His name, believe in Him as your Lord and Savior, hold fast to that faith through the power of the Spirit resting upon you, and this wondrous gift of eternal life is yours!

Why celebrate All Saints Day? 3 reasons: 1) It gives all glory to God for salvation given through Christ Jesus; 2) It gives comfort to the heart that is touched with grief over the loss of a loved one (who is a believer in Christ); and 3) It gives courage to those of us who are still alive, so that we will face the struggles of these days with assurance that this sinful, painful world that is wracked with death and destruction, is not all there is but there is more, much more found in Jesus Christ.

"For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy name O Jesus, be forever blest! Alleluia! Alleluia!" Sing praise! Jesus is the Savior and He gives life to all who believe in Him. All Saints Day is a grand and glorious celebration - taking place feebly here on earth but roaring with life in heaven!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reformation Continued

So what does it matter that Martin Luther began the reformation of the Church back in 1517? We live in 2012 and are facing the effects of Hurricane Sandy as it devastates the northeastern part of this country. Who cares about a little known monk that lived in the 16th century? What does it matter for us today - for we don't worry about indulgences, the buying of salvation, etc. We live in the Gospel time, a time when we know that salvation is a free gift given to us entirely by faith in Jesus Christ.

The fact is that we still try to make our works the important thing for salvation. We need to go to church more in order to grow stronger in faith. We need to support the work of social ministry more in order to further our faith. We need to...wait a minute! If we need to do those things, then our faith hinges on our actions and what we do. If that is the case, then our salvation is based partly on our actions and we have something in which we can boast! All right! Look at us! We are strong Christians! We are able to help God out in our lives by doing these things.

Wrong! That is moving back into works righteousness. The moment we are helping out our faith, then we are doing the same as back in Luther's day. We may not be buying an indulgence but we are buying something with our works.

But don't we have to do to worship? Aren't we supposed to help our fellow man? Of course we are. But that doesn't further our standing with God. It doesn't strengthen our faith. Those flow from our faith that is entirely a gift to us from God. He is the One that strengthens our faith through Word and Sacrament. He is the One who gives us the power we need to help our fellow man. He is the One who brings us to worship, feeds us in worship and strengthens our faith in worship. We receive from His gracious hand!

That is the message of the Reformation. God gives. We receive. As we live out our faith, we are doing just that,living it out. We are not giving ourselves faith, blessing ourselves, strengthening ourselves by our actions. God does that. The faith He gives to us is what leads us to help out those who are facing destruction on the east coast. The faith He gives us is what leads us to work in the soup kitchen or give to the local food bank. We do it because of all He has done for us. That action flows from God to us and through us to our fellow man.

No works righteousness. It is a life of sanctification that flows from the justification that comes from the grace of God. So help out others - not to grow your faith but because God is growing your faith. Be a blessing to those around you - not because you are trying to further yourself but because God is alive and active in your heart and He is empowering you to do so.

The reformation continues. Why? Because we keep trying to make it about us. It isn't. It is all about God working in us.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reformation 2012

It was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther strolled up to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany (watch the movie "Luther" and he marches up with a purpose) and taking the paper that he had in his hand, a hammer and a nail, he mailed the 95 Theses to the door. Not a metal or glass door but a wooden door - the bulletin board, the Facebook of the day. He wanted to discuss some issues with indulgences, the buying and selling of forgiveness. As his theology continued to develop (not from his desires but as he continued to study the Word of God), he realized that forgiveness is not something that you earn but something that is given to you freely by the grace of God.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it s the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets beat witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." Romans 3:21-24, 27-28 (ESV)

We cannot and will not ever be able to work our our salvation by the things that we do. And I can hear some saying, "AMEN!" While others are saying, "But..." We thank God that Martin Luther worked so hard to bring the message of salvation by grace through faith back to the forefront. We rejoice that faithful pastors and teachers through the ages have held firmly to this teaching and made it the center of all that they teach. We rejoice that God has raised up faithful men to serve as pastors and men and women to serve as teachers and leaders in our churches. We rejoice that God's Word is our great heritage. We rejoice over the teaching of justification by grace through faith. There is no other doctrine that is central to the message of the Bible, that touches every aspect of our lives and gives hope and peace to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Questions on the Christian in the Public Square

A while back I asked if anyone had any topics they would like to have blogged about. One of the topics was the Christian in the Public Square. All right, so that wasn't how it was really said. I was asked about the way a Christian should approach things going on in the world of politics, especially with the elections coming up.

Understand that I am not going to tell you how to vote. You will not hear me using my position as pastor to make a statement that you should do this or should do that. I do believe in keeping the two kingdoms separate (the kingdom of state and the kingdom of church). Yet at the same time, there are times when topics and issues cross the boundary between the two and as a Christian and as a pastor, I do have to speak up and let my voice be heard.

If you are looking for a place to go where you could find resources while dealing with some of the issues that we are facing in this election (and not just this election, but in elections in the years past as well as in the ongoing political sphere), you could go to and do a search there. I also would recommend going to and you would find some great resources on the two kingdoms as well as many other important issues.

What issues are important? I am sure that you can make a list of important issues for you as you approach this election. what are important to me? Life issues - abortion and euthanasia top those lists. Health care - and the imposition of the government on religious organizations to provide birth control to women despite their theological and spiritual reasons to not provide said birth control. Support of traditional marriage between one man and one woman - not same sex marriage or partnerships, etc.

Why are these important to me? Because they are important to God. He is pro-life. I can hear the outcry right now that God wouldn't want anyone that is less than perfect born in this world. The problem with that statement is that no one is born perfect - sinful, yes, More than that, physically we all have ailments and imperfections. Why is it that one person can decide whose imperfection is worth having and another is not. The child with Downs Syndrome is just as valuable and special to God as the person who seems "healthy" and "normal." I see no reason to argue for abortion just in case of rape or incest as abortions done for those reasons are less than 1%. The tests done by doctors on the unborn child are in order to give the parents the opportunity to abort the child if it carries a gene or a defect that they don't want to hassle with in their lives. Really? Who made you God to decide that the child with a defect is less than human or less than worth having around. We are called to speak up for the unborn, for those who cannot speak for themselves. My voice says "NO" to abortion and to those who support abortion as a viable option to life.

Same sex marriage - really? God did not create us to have sexual relations with those of the same sex - period. It is wrong and an abomination to God. To say that just because I have feelings of "love" for a person of the same sex means I should be able to "marry" that person and live in harmony, doesn't change what the Lord has said. Those who support same sex marriage do not get my vote nor do they get the blessing of God. How can I say that? It is because God Himself has spoken on this issue. If you don't like it, too bad. You aren't the Creator of the universe or the Maker of the rules. Then again, when you throw out creation and accept evolution, then you don't need to answer to a Creator. But evolution itself speaks against same-sex relationships. They would have failed to "evolve." Same sex relationships would have ended after one generation according to evolution. Both Creation and evolution speak against same sex relationships. What does that leave - people in their sinful, self-centered desires, doing what they want and leaving behind the wisdom of God and the wonder of biology.  "No" is my vote to those who support same sex relationships.

Can I be any clearer on these issues? I am sure that some might find me far right, too dogmatic and very unloving. That's all right with me. Those on the other side are doing their absolute best (or worst) to impose their dogma on me and upon other Christians, and they have no qualms about doing so. I am forced to "accept" abortion because it is the law of the land - even if it against the law of God. I am having homosexuality forced down my throat by the media and there is no apology. Nor do I apologize for standing firm on the teaching of the Lord.

Am I telling you how to vote? No. I am saying what I will vote on the issues that I see before me. I am saying what God's Word has said all along. You are welcome to vote your conscience. My prayer is that the conscience of the majority of the voters in the USA will not be so calloused and immune to the Word of the Lord.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Look at the last 10+ days

I made it through! It has been a long haul over the last 2 weeks. It all started with the Resident Field Education Supervisor's conference on Thursday Sept. 27th and has been nonstop since. I am looking forward to being back in good old parish ministry in the congregation, in the office, in the classroom, in the homes of the members and in the meetings (yes, even in the meetings!). The list of the "outside" things that were done over the past days is this: RFE Supervisor's conference (9-27), SID LWML Convention at Metro East Lutheran High School (9-29), SID Pastor's Conference at Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton (10-1/2), SID/CID Teacher's Conference in Decatur, IL (10-4/5), SID Junior High Retreat, Camp Wartburg (10-6/8). Sigh!

The question you might ask is: "Did you have to go to all those?" The answer is no. I was only required to go to 2 of them (the RFE meeting and pastor's conference). "Could I have gotten out of going to those?" Yes. I could have skipped them, coming up with a reason that I needed to stay around Troy. Did I need to go to the LWML Convention or the Teacher's Conference? No.

Then why did I go? The answer to that is easy yet complicated. I went for myself (to grow in my abilities as a pastor and in my personal walk of faith) and also to grow in my relationship with the teachers and the members of St. Paul's, as well as to make contact with people that I have ministered to and worked with over the past 25 years.

I went to build relationships. At the LWML Convention, I enjoyed spending the day with the women of St. Paul's who are a part of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League while hearing a great Bible study on Jonah and all about what was taking place in the SID LWML and the National LWML.
This is the group that attended the LWML Convention. I greatly enjoyed the time that I spend with them in worship (I was privileged to help with distribution Communion), in study, in fellowship and in learning. It was worth the day that was spent at MELHS.
Then there was the Pastor's Conference. It was 2 days spent with my colleagues in the ministry learning and growing. The topic: Youth Ministry. Rev. John Oberdeck was the main speaker and gave a great topic on the youth of today. Yes, I learned some of that at the National 12 in San Antonio, TX but learned even more this time. I enjoyed spending time reconnecting with fellow pastors around the district, men I have worked with and been associated with over the last 25 years and men I just began to get to know as they are new in the SID. Was it worth it? Yes it was.
Then there is the Teacher's Conference. Why do I go? I want to support the teaching staff of St. Paul's and learn and grow with them. Spending 2 days with them is a great way to connect with them and let them know that I support them in their ministry as teachers. They are extremely important people and I desire to be a part of their lives. We have a great staff at St. Paul's and as their pastor, I feel that it is important for me to support them, get to know them and be a part of their lives. We see each other every day at school but we are all often so busy with our things that we don't have time to talk and enjoy one anothers company. So was the conference worth the time and money spent? Yes it was!
Finally there is the Junior High Retreat. 3 days at Camp Wartburg in the cold with 10 junior high youth and another 25 youth from around the district. We spent time with one another in song, in food, in work, in play, in study, in growth, in the Light! We walked, we talked, we got to know each other and grow with each other in ways that don't happen in the classroom. Those 3 days were long. They were cold. They were fun. They were tiring. They were uplifting. They were wonderful.

Was the time spent at the Junior High Retreat worth it? Most definitely YES! It was worth the time, the energy and the money.
Thus ends the long stretch of things that took place away from the congregation but all directly impacted the congregation. Relationships were built. Love was shared. Learning took place. And most of all - I grew in my relationship with many different parts of St. Paul's congregation. As the pastor, the shepherd of this congregation, this was the greatest thing that took place.
Now, back into the daily routine. All I can say is I look forward to today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Give me some ideas

Friends, I am sorry I haven't written lately. Been busy. But will be back shortly. There are thoughts rattling around in this little mind of mine. Amazing how every day average things make me think of God's grace and mercy. I would challenge you to post comments on things that you might want to hear more about. If I feel moved, I will write about them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Which Tie Do I Wear?

I was in a dilemma this morning. I was facing an important decision, one that I believed impacted the entire day. What is the dilemma? Which tie do I wear today? I know that you are thinking that it really isn't that earth shattering. And it really wasn't (and i suppose "isn't") except, and there is always that except, that I feel that the tie that I wear will make a statement for the day.

You see, today is September 11th. Today is the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America. It was on this day that 4 planes were hijacked by terrorists and 3 of the planes were flown into important buildings. Two were flown into the 2 towers of the World Trade Center and 1 was flown into the Pentagon. The 4th was meant for the capital or some other building in Washington D.C. but was brought down by the passengers before any damage could be done. I remember watching in shock as the World Trade towers came crashing to the ground.

Today we will have a remembrance of that event at school. So which tie do I wear? My first thought was to wear a patriotic tie. Show my support for the good ole' US of A. Let's stand up and be proud to be an American. Make a statement. I am not ashamed to be an American. I want everyone to know that I am an American. There will be many speeches today that state that very thing. And I wanted to be one of those who made the statement as well. Let the children of St. Paul's know that I am proud to be an American.

But then I thought of this: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes." (Psalm 118:8-9 ESV) When we put our trust in man, princes, people in the government, and world leaders, we are on shaky ground. So I thought to myself, "You should wear a tie that reminds the children where we put our trust - in the Lord." We need to keep our eyes focused on the place that brings true comfort and safety - even when the U.S.A. is in under attack. We need to have our hearts firmly set on the One that carried us through those scary post 9/11 days. It is in the Lord that we trust not our president or congress. It is in the Lord of Host that we trust not in power of our army or air force. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Rock that cannot be shaken or moved. "In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o'er the wrecks of time."

So you can see my dilemma. Make a patriotic statement or make a faith statement. (No I do not have a tie that is both patriotic and Christian. That would be the best answer.) What will I do? Which direction will I go? Which tie will I wear? There is only one way to know - come out to the remembrance today at 8:15 a.m.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Reflections on 9/11

Tuesday is the 11th anniversary of the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. For me, that was a day like any other day that I have lived through (even though I have faced some tragic days in their own way and for me and my family were probably just as devastating personally though they did not have a national impact). 9/11 impacted the entire nation and changed the way that we live. After those events took place, our nation and our lives have never been the same.

Air travel changed. TSA requirements can be overwhelming. Our youth that are going to the NLYG in San Antonio, TX July 1-5, 2013 will face those restrictions. The nations economy changed. The way we viewed other people changed. A war on terror began. (one which will continue on for years because terrorism will not cease. It will continue to morph and change, moving from one place to another.)

For the first time as a nation (with the exception of the events following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of WW 2) we no longer felt safe within our borders. We came to realize that we are just as vulnerable as any other nation. It was disconcerting, unnerving and a feeling that we didn't like. We were the United States of America. Everyone looked to us for safety and security. They looked to us to lead the free world forward in peace and harmony. This attack, this act of terrorism, did exactly what it was intended to do - cause us to doubt our security, our leaders and our ability to lead the world as a nation.

In reality, all that it really did was bring to the front the reality that was there all along. We had built a false sense of security in that which has no security at all. We were certain in ourselves. And we realized that there was no certainty to be found there. Where could we turn?

As a nation, we turned to God (and I prayed that it was to the Triune God rather than some other god that couldn't help). In Psalm 46 we read, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountain tremble at its swelling." And boy did it feel like the mountains were moving and falling (the Twin Towers were taller than any of the hills in our area) and the earth did shake (as they came tumbling down). "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns." God was the one place we turned. Prayer. Lifting up our hearts and lives to the God of our fathers, the God who sent His only-begotten Son into the world, the God who loves us and cares for us each and every day of our lives. This tragedy caused us to turn back from ourselves to the Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"Be still and know that I am God. i will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" At that moment, our nation said "Amen!" We proclaimed out trust and faith in this God. We turned to Him and He healed the brokenness of our nation.

"The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Soon we had forgotten this lesson. Soon we forgot about our God. He is still with us. He is still our fortress. As we prepare to remember 9/11 tomorrow, we need to return to that faith, that trust in our God. We need to bow our heads in humility and proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!" Let us not forget the lessons learned on September 11, 2001, the lessons that taught us that we are not in control nor are we all powerful. Only God is in control. Only He is all powerful. He is our fortress and our strength. Only in Him can we say, "We shall not be moved."

As a nation, let us return to our knees in faith - faith in the true God, faith in Jesus Christ as our only Savior. Let us trust once again, not in the arm of man or the promises of our leaders, but in the Triune God alone.

(All quotes are from Psalm 46, English Standard Version.)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Waiting for Isaac

It is Friday morning, August 31, 2012. Not a significant date to most people. Really not all that significant to me. Except that I sit here this morning, looking out the window and ask myself, "When will Isaac get here? And when it does, what will it be like for us? Will we have a lot of rain? Or will it fizzle out and give us a few brief showers and then move on?" In case you don't know, Isaac was the category 1 hurricane that just came ashore at New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 7 years after Katrina came with a strong storm surge that broke through the levees and caused significant flooding, loss of life and damage to billions of dollars worth of property. Anxiety ran high as Isaac slowly pushed ashore, dumped bunches of rain and then continued on its path. But the levees held, some people had to be rescued even though evacuation was mandatory (which could be a whole different blog), and the area breathed a soggy sigh of relief.

But now, sitting here in southern Illinois, they are telling us that Isaac is going to move up through central Missouri and as such, we will be on the right-hand side or the eastern side of the low pressure, which means we could get a a whole bunch of rain. The forecast was such that there were high schools that rescheduled their sacred football games from Friday night to (gasp) Thursday night so that they would be able to play and not have to worry about the large amount of rain we are supposed to receive.

Where did this lead me? To the Word of God, to an event that had a worldwide impact - to Genesis 7. It says, "And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood." (Genesis 7:7 ESV) As they went into the ark, I often imagined that it was already dripping rain. That the skies were growing dark and forbidding. That lightning was flashing all around. The ground was already getting muddy and Noah was hurrying the animals into the ark with , "Come on, hurry up. We don't want to get wet now, do we? Let's move, the water is already rising and we need to get everyone in."  But no, that isn't what happened. We are told, "And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth." (Genesis 7:10 ESV)

Can you imagine? I sit here waiting for the rain of Isaac to begin. I am watching the skies, seeing the clouds coming. I get online to check the radar to see how close the rain might be at this time. I have all these things at my finger tips but I must still wait for the Lord to sent the rain. Noah didn't have all that. Sitting in the ark with his family and all those critters, they waited. The Lord had shut them in, sealed up the door, made it impossible for them to leave. And they waited. (In vs. 11 it states, "on the very same day Noah and his sons...entered the ark..." which makes me wonder if my musings are wrong. But I am going with them anyway.)

If they waited 7 days for the rains to get going and the waters to begin to rise, can you imagine what it was like? Mrs. Noah says to her husband, "Where is this rain you said was coming?" Shem mutters, "All this work for nothing. What is wrong with dad anyway?" Ham muses, "My friends already think my dad's crazy. What are they going to think now as they stand outside this big ol' boat and laugh at us?" Noah himself might have thought, "Hey God? Where is this water you were talking about?" The first day wouldn't be so bad. But day 2, then 3 and day 4, oh my! How impossible it must have been to wait for the rains and the flood waters. Day 5 and 6 - ugh! I can't imagine. Then finally the 7th day comes. And the rains come. The deep breaks forth with its waters. The heavens open up. And water comes in buckets and buckets. Soon the ark shifts on its blocks. And then...the rest is history.

Waiting for the Lord to fulfill His word. It is a hard thing to do. I find waiting for Isaac to be difficult. Someone who is ill finds it even more challenging to wait for the Lord to bring healing or relief from the suffering. Someone looking for job finds it hard to listen to the promise that the Lord will take care of them. The person whose family life is in shambles finds it almost impossible to listen to the word that the Lord will help him work through the seemingly impossible time. is difficult at best, impossible at worst.

Waiting for the Lord takes faith that He will fulfill His word. It challenges each of us to trust that when the Lord gives a promise, it will be fulfilled. When the Lord speaks it will be so. The timing of it is in His time and not our time. Isaac is coming. I have been told that by the weathermen and the radar. So I believe it. The Lord is my Rock and my Salvation. The Lord tells me He is with me every day. He promises His love, His grace, His mercy, His power, and His presence. That is more sure, more certain, more true than any weather forecast.

I have learned to trust in the word of the Lord (once again!) as I wait for Isaac. Noah teaches that to me. The Flood teaches that to me. The faith which the Holy Spirit gives to me, teaches that to me. Now the challenge is to hold onto it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where can we turn?

I was reading about Lance Armstrong this morning. The issue of doping to win has been haunting him for a while. Thursday he decided he wasn't going to fight any longer. As he put it, "I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair," So he quit fighting. I am not going to address the issue of doping (which is wrong) or Lance Armstrong's innocence/guilt. But what struck me was this paragraph (taken from Lance Carpenter's report on Yahoo Sports this morning):

"In a matter of months we have learned that college football’s winningest coach enabled a pedophile, the MVP of baseball's All-Star Game used testosterone and cycling's biggest star chose to no longer hold back the mountain of doping allegations against him. It's a sad few weeks when Joe Paterno's statue goes into storage and Melky Cabrara disappears from the pennant race and Lance Armstrong says "no mas." Suddenly, nothing seems sacred anymore."

Suddenly nothing seems sacred anymore. That shouldn't surprise you - it didn't me. We live in a world that is filled with fallen human beings. When we place any one of them on a pedestal and hold them up as the hope of the world, they will soon disappoint. It won't be long before they will fall from the pedestal upon which they have been placed - all because they are frail, fallen, sinful humans who disappoint time and again. To pin our hopes of the goodness of mankind on Lance Armstrong because he was a 7 time winner of the Tour de France and had beaten cancer in his life, is to set up a false sense of hope in mankind. Lance is a sinner. He isn't perfect. He will give in to the pressures of temptation.

But then again, so will you and I. Fallen people that we are, we try to live the "good" life. We do our best to do what is "right." In school our teachers show the children how they are to live, only to fall short themselves of living that way. We are "Baptized to Serve" and yet we fail to serve. No matter how hard we try the words of Psalm 14 come back at us: "They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." (Psalm 14:3 ESV) Our teachers will disappoint us. Our students will disappoint us. We will disappoint ourselves. We are fallen creatures in a fallen world. Nothing seems sacred anymore.

Except - this is the great news that we have! Except there is One that will never disappoint. There is One who will never fail us. There is One who is perfect. That One is none other than Jesus Christ! Rejoice! We are not left alone in our failures. The heavenly Father sent His one and only Son into this world to be our Savior. (John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.") We have One that we can follow in our lives, One who has not fallen short or fallen into sin. One who was not born into sin like you and me. I was reading in the book of Hebrews and was amazed once again at the wonders of Jesus as the great high priest who did not have to offer sacrifices for Himself. Instead, He offered Himself as the once for all sacrifice upon the cross. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8 ESV) Powerful words.

Where can we turn? Not to Lance Armstrong. Not to our teachers. Not to this pastor. We can turn to Jesus. He is still sacred. He will not be found to be doping. Nor will He be found to be a fraud (though the world continues to try to prove He was a fraud - to no avail).

I end with the word of the writer of Hebrews: "Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working is us that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reflecting on the beginning of school

School opened last Wednesday (as I write this, it is Monday evening). It was nice to see the children returning to school. The building had been quiet for too long. When school ended last May, I rejoiced! It was time for the school year to be over. But then, as the summer progressed through the weeks, I began to long for the children to be back. With Vacation Bible School during the 3rd week of June, I had a taste of being around the children again. Their vitality, their joy, their energy - and I wasn't quite ready for school to begin. I still needed to spend the time growing in my faith, enjoying the quiet of the building and the peace of what the summer schedule brings.

But then August arrived. After a quick, brief trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (if you have never been there or have never seen Lake Superior, I would encourage you to make the trip up there to enjoy the wonders that the Lord has made), I came to realize, it was time. It was time!

Time for the children to come back into the building. Time to enjoy their energy. Time to be involved in their daily life again. Time to spend time with the school staff (I missed the regular contact with each of our teachers). Time to have that part of the ministry return.

What you need to understand is that while the students were off school, the ministry of the congregation continued on. I rejoiced that I was given the opportunity to preach each week (3 times!), lead Bible study, call on the members, offer comfort and strength to the hurting, proclaiming the wonderful message of the Gospel to each and every one that I was in contact with - for that is what my summer entailed. So the summer was still busy. The ministry of the congregation was extremely vital and growing through out the summer months. St. Paul's Lutheran Church has been so blessed!

And here they were - the children. They arrived with bright, shiny faces. They were excited to be back at school. I was also excited to see them back. As I watched them, I thanked God for each and every child that came into our school. I prayed for each child. I thanked God for each of our teachers, praying for God to guide them and strengthen them as they began this new school year.

I would encourage each one of you to spend time in prayer as well. Pray for the teachers. Pray for the students. Pray for the school. Pray for the families of our school. Pray for the School Board. And don't stop praying for all these people. Day after day, week after week continue to lift up the school in your prayers. And I will continue to pray for you!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A New Day Dawns

I sit here and look at the sun. It is just peeking over the tops of the houses and trees that can be seen outside my front room windows. It shines right into the living room and dining room - I sit in the dining room. As it slowly lifts its bright yellow head over the trees, I think of the new day dawning. I know it brings new opportunities, new challenges and new experiences for as the sun rises today, another school year begins.

St. Paul's Lutheran School in Troy, IL has its first day of school for the 2012-2013 school year. There are many excited children out there. Last night as I trolled Facebook posts, I noted how many parents were talking of their children being overly excited for the start of the school year. They had been talking about it for the past couple days, perhaps even the last week. New backpacks, new uniforms, new pencils and pens, new erasers, new notebooks, new classrooms, new teachers - new experiences.

As I watched the sun become fully visible through the trees, I thought that there are so many new opportunities for us as teachers and pastors to share with the children the wonders of this world - the knowledge that needs to be taught in many and various ways. More than that, and this is where I believe that the parochial school has the advantage in education, we have the opportunity to share the message of life and hope found ONLY in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is there that I begin to get excited about the new school year. I will have the opportunity to share Christ with the children in this school, their parents and families and with the staff. Not only do I get to put the message forward each day, I am compelled to speak of the Gospel of Jesus Christ each day. Christ is the heart and center of our lives.

As the sun starts to shine brightly in my eyes, I know that even as the day has dawn, that is how it is in the school. It will start slow as the students begin to learn the routine of each day - when to get up, how to get dressed, what to eat, what time they will leave, what to do when they arrive at school, what happens first in the classroom, what is expected of them as they go into the classroom, etc. - it will soon ramp up and shine brightly as learning takes place, as the message is shared.

Chapel is at 9:00 a.m. I will have greeted the teachers and students (I have spent time the last mornings praying for each teacher and their students, each family and the school in general) and the time will come for the first "Good Morning!" to ring out in church with that chapel. We will learn of our theme "Baptized to Serve." We will begin to learn Psalm 100:2 "Serve the Lord with gladness; come into His presence with singing." And the message of life and hope, the message of Jesus Christ will shine brightly upon all who are there.

The new day dawns, the new year begins - and the message is the same. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

Shine brightly Son! Shine brightly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Real Issue

I have posted about the intolerance that has been shown towards Chick-fil-A by the homosexual community and the liberal media. It has been disgusting and intolerant of them. Love everyone, they say, and then they paint hate slogans on Chick-fil-A stores. Accept every one's point of view, they cry and then decry the fact that the CEO of Chick-fil-A has a different point of view on marriage. What upsets me even more is the fact that mainstream media is buying into this intolerance. This isn't the first time but it sure does make it a glaring fact. What Dan Cathy said about marriage was actually Pres. Obama's view until a few months ago. Did they tear him apart for standing on traditional marriage? Of course not. but let Dan Cathy say it, or any other Christian (and I seriously doubt the religiosity of our country's leader) say they support traditional marriage and it is a crime, a hate crime and the company needs to be boycotted because of it.

But that isn't really why I am writing today. As I have thought about this issue, I have wondered about what the "real issue" might be. And the only thing that I have come up with is this: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV) The real issue is that we, sinful men and women, do not want to follow the Lord in our lives. We want to do what we want to do and if someone tells us that we are wrong, we get upset and go on the attack. We attack those who point out our sin. We attack the institutions that point out our sin. We attack the One who made all the rules.

Why is it that Christians are under attack? It is because Christians are standing up for what God teaches in His Word. (Those churches that don't make a stand or don't accept the Word of God, give in to the ways of the world, give in and accept sinful actions, making them acceptable and no longer sinful.) To stand for what is true - God's Word - is a hateful thing to do in today's world. You will be accused of being unloving, hateful, uncaring, and downright wrong if you stand for the truth of God's Word.

The goal of life is to live for God. (Before you say, "But no one can do that," let me state, that is why God sent His only Son into this world - to be the Savior of all mankind, to pay the price for the fact that all are sinners and cannot live the perfect life.) As children of God, we live in Christ. That means that we believe that God saved us, totally and completely, without our help or our merit playing a part in that salvation. Because of this salvation that we are given, we live our lives as children of God, doing as He would have us do, living as He would have us live, avoiding what He would have us avoid, and basically, bearing the fruit of faith in our lives. When we fail, we ask for forgiveness and strength to live as He would have us live. When we do live correctly for a short time (and it is always a short time) we give all glory to God for guiding us with the power of Word and Sacrament.

Having said all of that, we come back to the fact that to fear the Lord and keep His commandments is the duty of man. That is how we are to live. And sinful men and women, boys and girls, don't want to do it. They want to do as they want to do - even if it is blatantly wrong as in the case of homosexual behavior. (Understand this, it is just as wrong for heterosexuals to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage.)So when someone makes a statement that flies in the face of sinful behavior, intolerance is going to follow.

This intolerance is only going to get worse. The world we live in is intolerant of Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel. It is intolerant of God's Word being God's Word - inspired and inerrant, the only source of guidance for life. Mark my words, things are not going to get better. They are going to get worse. It will become harder and harder to remain a Christian. But that shouldn't surprise you - for those aren't really my words. Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 23. Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A is just one of many that will bear the brunt of the wrath of sinful mankind. All we can say is, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Random thoughts from Pastor Mitch: More Intolerance

Random thoughts from Pastor Mitch: More Intolerance

More Intolerance

It is amazing that intolerance continues. How in the world can one think that you should support something or someone who is intolerant? What am I talking about? The Chick-fil-A controversy that is continuing. Who is intolerant? Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago and Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston. They have both stated that they can not allow a business into their communities that do not support the values of their communities.

Really? Does that mean if the community is opposed to homosexuality, they would not allow a business that supports homosexuality to open and do business? No it doesn't. It means that if you support Christian morality and Christian marriage as the Lord has defined it, then you cannot be in their community. That is just plain wrong!

How dare they use their "power" to stand in the way of free enterprise! Because they support the homosexual agenda, they say that their whole community supports it as well. When will the Christians of Chicago and Boston stand up and say, "No we don't! We are people of God and will stand in full support what He says in His word!" Why are we so afraid to take that stand?

I for one, am disgusted by the mayor of Chicago. He is taking the fine name of the good city and smearing it into the moral filth of shame. He is making it a laughing stock for all the world to see. I pray that Christians will stand up and be counted. God did not give us a spirit of timidity but of power that comes from His Word and through the Holy Spirit.

Onward Christian Soldiers!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Random thoughts from Pastor Mitch: Tolerance and Intolerance

Random thoughts from Pastor Mitch: Tolerance and Intolerance

Tolerance and Intolerance

I was going to continue writing about our trip (which I will pick up later) but instead I feel compelled to write about tolerance, fairness and the heavy hand of Satan. What made me think about these things? It is the situation taking place with Chik-fil-A. There is a major movement going now to not only boycott Chik-fil-A but to keep it from opening stores in communities. Why? Because the CEO Dan Cathy has spoken against same-sex marriages. He is in support of traditional family values. Is that so bad?

According to the proponents of same-sex marriage, homosexual unions and those who are opposed to traditional family values it is. It is a terrible thing for him to say (though in reading reports it is hard to find that Dan Cathy actually said he opposed same-sex marriage - though I wish he would have!) according to these groups. And because he has said that, they propose not only a boycott (which they can do without any problem because that is within their right and the freedoms of the USA) but also trying to drive Chik-fil-A from towns and using government control to keep them from opening other stores (an alderman in Chicago has gone on record saying he would not allow them to open a store in his ward - what? his ward? When did it become his? When did it become his right to use his governmental power in this way?)

Where is tolerance? Same-sex proponents come down hard on Christians for standing on their convictions, proposing boycotts and working to support traditional marriage values and morals. They talk about it being "unloving" and "intolerant" to speak against same-sex marriage. We are told to be more tolerant, loving, caring, etc. But here we see the real agenda. There is no tolerance. There is no love. There is no caring. UNLESS, and this is a big unless, you agree with the same-sex, gay marriage agenda. You cannot speak against it. You cannot stand opposed to it. If you do, then you are wrong, intolerant and terrible.

And now government power is being brought to bear on Chik-fil-A to try to get it to cave and accept the same-sex agenda. Not only accept it but support it and do all it can to move it forward.

This is wrong! It turns my stomach because in the end this is an attack of Satan upon the people of God. Satan is doing all he cane to destroy the morals and values that the Lord has given to the world. Same-sex relationships are wrong. It is against that which the Lord has proclaimed. And it comes, not from God, but from the prince of this world, the devil himself.

This just another attack upon the values and morals that the Lord has given. I, for one, support Chik-fil-A and their stance on traditional family values.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beginning the Trip-Alton to Chicago.

It has been a week since we returned home from our trip to San Antonio, TX. It was a great trip. On Monday July 9th, we took the train from Alton, IL to Chicago, IL. It was a half hour late arriving at Alton which made us wonder how the entire trip would be. As the axiom goes, "Late trains only get later." We were to arrive in Chicago at 12:30 but we didn't make it till 2:30. There were people on the train who were making close connections to other trains. They talked about trying to hold those trains for them (ones like the Empire Builder which was to leave out at 2 or 2:15. I don't know if they actually made their connections or not.). For us it didn't matter because we were connecting with the City of New Orleans which didn't leave out until 8:00 p.m. on that Monday.

This gave us the chance to see a little of Chicago. Being that we had a sleeper (a compartment of our own!), we were able to use the Metropolitan lounge in Union Station. This meant that we could check in and leave our luggage and carry on bags in a safe place. When we entered the lounge, there almost no one in it. That was probably because the main trains had just left - Texas Eagle, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, and Southwest Chief. Once those are gone, there aren't many left for a while. We checked in, were told to be back by 7:15 p.m. and off we went.

We decided to go for a walk to see the sights and find something to eat. We really wanted someplace where we could sit down and enjoy a meal. The gal in the lounge car on the train had told us of an Italian beef place but it turned out to be a a grab and go place so we didn't go there. We continued our sightseeing and ended up in Grant Park. We went over to Buckingham Fountain. We see it when we drive by but realized it had been quite a while since we actually had gone up to it and looked at it. Took a few pictures (one of which is now my wallpaper on the computer - Penny in front of the fountain). The Taste of Chicago was going to be starting a few days after we left so they were setting up for that.

We wandered on. We walked over to Buddy Guys'.

Buddy is a blues guitarist with a restaurant in Chicago. I had just read his autobiography so I thought it would be fun to go there, get a bite to eat and take in the atmosphere. But they weren't open yet. Didn't open till 5 and it was only a little after 4 (and we still hadn't eaten anything!). Frustrated with striking out twice, we moved on. Maybe we will go back to Buddy Guys some other time. Stomachs rumbling, thirst building, we wandered on. Looking at the sights and hearing the sounds, we enjoyed the ambiance of Chicago. It was good to be there.

We came across Tutto Italiano. As you can imagine, it was an Italian place. But it also had an old rail car (no wheels) sitting next to it. It is right on Congress in downtown. We were surprised when we walked in. It was an old town type of bar, one where you could imagine men like Capone could have come, or at least Old Blue Eyes himself when he came to Chicago. And wonder of all wonders, the place where you sat to eat was in the train car itself! Hurrah!

The meal was very good. The waiter was different but in a good way. We were told that there was a scene in the the movie "The Lake House" that was shot in that very car. That was neat to know. Now we have to watch the movie again to see if we can see the 15 second scene that took 8 hours to shoot.

After supper we wandered back to Union Station. We had taken our leftovers with us, not wanting to waste them> But we wondered how we would ever eat them. So as we walked on, we found a man looking for hand outs from the commuters scurrying to their trains to head home after a day in the office and we gave him the meal. He seemed to appreciate it. I said it was Italian, he asked if it was pizza, when I told him no it was pasta, he really got excited. Must get plenty of pizza. We watched the people rushing in, and soon joined them as we flowed down the escalators into the depths of Union Station. Leaving the rush behind, we headed for the Lounge. After getting all our bags out of storage (and remembering that now we were going to have to tip just about everyone we came in contact with), we found a quite corner and settled in. The Lounge had filled up as the evening trains would be filling soon. The Capital Limited was just loading. Sitting back, we enjoyed the relaxing time in the Lounge waiting for them to call out train for loading.

Soon it was 7:15 and they called out that those passengers with sleeper accommodations on the City of New Orleans could join them at the back gate. The gal from the desk opened the doors and we were off on our grand adventure. The sights, the sounds and the smells of Union train travel came wafting into the Lounge and with excitement (and a smile like that of a kid having the time of his life), we started out for our train.

More to come...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Orleans and the Budget

Penny and I are in New Orleans, LA. This city has a lot to offer to people - food, culture, fun, entertainment, more food, more fun - and the list could go on. There are famous restaurants. There are museums. There are shops galore. You want a trinket, you can buy one here. You want a T-shirt, you can buy one here. The Crescent City offers you just about anything you want.

We had raw oysters! I know some of you will freak out about that. You will gag and moan and wonder how could you eat such things? Let me tell you, it was wonderful! We went to an oyster house about 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday. The special was buy 18 ounce bud draft and get one free and also the 14 count raw oysters were 1/2 price. So we ordered both. We each had the beer and they brought the oysters. Yum! We finished them off and ordered another 14. And we enjoyed them. How great was that? I must say, it was worth the trip for those. I also had jambalaya at another place which was great. Penny had the fried shrimp which she enjoyed but was getting full. We have to say that they had no clue how to do mac-n-cheese. As Penny said, their poor attempt at it made her Italian blood boil. Also, ask her about her experience at their restroom. 'Nuff said.

We wandered around New Orleans till about 8 and then headed back to the hotel. We watched the NL beat up the AL for a while, and then went to bed. We were probably asleep just as most people were getting started.

As we wandered around the French Quarter, it got me thinking. I thought about the church budget and how we are trying to hammer one out that everyone will be content with. I know that there are various thoughts on this and numerous reasons why it didn't pass (lethargy on the part of many voters for not attending the meeting, a desire to close the school, anger over the splitting of the Preschool from the Daycare, not liking this person or that person who is on the payroll, not caring for what has been done in the past, and the list could go on). I don't believe it is a bloated budget nor do I believe that we are wasting money. I know that the money is there. I also know that the real problem is spiritual and that many of us don't understand or practice good Christian stewardship. But that isn't my point today.

We walked from shop to shop, watching people, avoiding people, amazed at people and I thought, "This is why it is so important for St. Paul's to have the ministry that we do in Troy. IL." What does Troy and New Orleans have in common and how does the budget of St. Paul's effect New Orleans? That is the right question.

I watched a young man, couldn't have been any more than 20, being held up by his "friends." He couldn't stand (it was 5:30 in the evening). They finally sat him down on a bench and he was unable to hold himself upright. They were trying to talk to him but it was as though no one was there. He was so stoned that nothing was working. He couldn't understand them. I saw women dressed in ways that no God-fearing, Christian woman who was trying to follow the way of the Lord should dress. I saw people drinking themselves silly (and headed into the hotel before it go really serious with drinking). I saw decadence that the people in Troy don't see or want to know about. We pretend in Troy that there is no problem with drugs (heroin kills!), drinking or sex. Here in New Orleans, there is no pretending. It is right in front of your face. And it is rubbed into your face.

How does St. Paul's budget change what is happening in New Orleans. We are teaching our children in Sunday School and at St. Paul's school that there is a right way to live your life - according to the values and will of God, not the world. Here in New Orleans, Satan and sin rule. We are teaching our children that the Lord needs to rule their lives. How would you like your daughter to come here and have to sell her body in order to live? How would you like your son to come here and drink himself sick day after day and then begin to live on the street like so many people that sit on the park benches or sleep in the doorways? Can't happen? Of course it can, especially if we in Troy don't do everything within our power to "train the child in the way he/she should go."

It is our task as Christian men and women to use our God-given gifts and resources to do everything in our power to teach the current and the next generation the will of God. Is it cheap? No it isn't. Is it worth it? Sit on a park bench in New Orleans and see the waste of life, the degradation, the sinfulness of the people and ask yourself, "How much is it worth to make sure that each of those young children of God don't end up here or in some other city, including Troy, doing the exact same thing?"

I watch the filth, the sin, the corruption, the rottenness of life here in the French Quarter (I know that there are good places as well - just as there in Troy) and I know that what we are doing is worth every single dollar, no matter how much they add up. And I wonder, "How can anyone say that we should cut our budget? Get rid of staff? Or do anything that is going to cut back on the sharing of the ONLY message that will change the life of the sinner?"

Me, I support the work of St. Paul's 100%. I am behind all that we do and will use every resource I can to make sure that not one of our children end up like that young man on the bench. I pray for our children, our young adults, our adults, our elderly, every single one of our people and ask God to use us to make a difference - one soul at a time -  no matter what the cost.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Extreme heat, dry grass and no rain

We are in the midst of an extreme hot spell. The past two days it has set a record of 108 and 106 respectively. It looks like the high will be over 100 for the next 4-5 days at least. It is a dry heat which is unusual for the St. Louis (Troy, IL) area. I know there are those who live in the southwest who brag about the dry heat. You can have it. I am used to the miserable heat and humidity of the Midwest and frankly, I prefer it to this intolerable dry heat. I reckon that makes me a true midwestern when I prefet our normal summer to this dry, hot summer weather.

This dry heat burns everything up. No wonder the southwest is a desert. Nothing normal can live in this heat, by normal I mean the stuff that we are used ot in the midest- things like grass, tomato plants, peppers, flowers, etc. We have to water and water just to keep them alive. The heat keeps them from producing like they should. We are anxiously awaiting our first ripe tomato, but this heat is sure keeping them from doing what they are meant to do - produce fruit for us to eat.

And all this got me thinking (imagine that). I started thinking about spiritul life. Our souls are like the plants of the field, the grass of the yard, the tomatos in the garden. They need to be watered with the Living Water of our Lord Jesus Christ. They need to regularly be given that refreshing Word of God to keep them alive and growing, to help them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

When we avoid worship and avoid receiving the Lord's Supper as so many people are prone to do today (You don't need to go to church to be a Christian.), what is happening to our souls? Oh, they are like the grass. They grow for a while without being watered. They might even need to be cut once in a while because they get too tall. But when the heat is on, when the devil puts to screws to you and starts to really press you in your faith (sickness, death, loss of job, anger with another person, gossiping, cussing, etc.) what happens? Are you able to withstand such pressure? Can you faith stay alive? Look at the grass. For those of you who are reading this in the Midwest, go look at your yard at this point and tell me what you see. Is is lush, green and growing? Do you just love to walk barefoot through it because it is like a thick carpet of green wonder? Or is it dry and brown? Does it crunch when you walk through it? Do you wonder if it will ever look nice again?

Of course it will. It will rain and it will green up. But let me ask you this, if it only rained 2 times a year, or it only rained once every couple months, what would your grass look like? It would be dry and brown (much like the grass in the desert southwest in the "dry heat"). You wouldn't have much of a yard. If you only water your soul with the Word of God on Christmas and Easter, or once every other month or so, what is the status of your faith? Is it lush, vital and growing? Or is it stagnant and brown? Is it even alive?

I cannot and will not judge you. But I will let God's Word judge the status of your heart. "Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing..." (Hebrews 10:25). "Remember the Sabboth day by keeping it hold." (3rd Commandment) "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42)

"Everyone who drinks of this water (earthly water from the well) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The ater that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14) Jesus gives living water. He gives that in His Word and Sacraments. To deny them, to disdain them, to avoid them, is putting yourself on spiritually dry ground that can and will lead to eternal damnation. Ouch! Did I just say that? Yes I did. If you avoid the Word of God and don't take the Sacrament, you are putting your soul in dire straits. Like grass that will finally die out and blow away if it is never watered (walk through the desert) so it is with your soul. Water of life comes from the Word and Sacraments.

Can you be a Christian and not worship, not drink deeply from the water of life that Jesus gives? Of course you can. But will you? And more than that, why would you want to try to go without the living water when He gives it to you so freely and willingly.

As you take a long drink of a cool glass of water today, when you are dry and thirsty, think about your soul. It needs refreshing too. Hot, dry, weather, burned up grass and no rain. Makes me think about lost souls. What about you?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday ramblings

Was watching the news this morning and it caused me to ponder something. Hillary Clinton was talking about the Egyptian situation, how Mubarik (I don't know how to spell his name) was placed back on the ballot in the elections despite the will of the people. The Egyptian people had rebelled against his regime and wanted him out. Now he is back on the democratic ballot, not by the will of the people but by the will of the government. She was saying how this way wrong. (Understand that I am not claiming to know the ins and outs of what is going on in Egypt. Nor do i have an opinion on what the Egyptians should do or not do. That is up to them, not me or the U.S.A.) She stated that the government should not go against the will of the people.

Then I thought to myself, "Isn't that interesting? Hasn't the government in America gone against the will of the people?" How has it done that you ask. Thanks for asking. I have thought about the issue of same-sex marriage. In California, the voters decided overwhelming to say that marriage is between one man and one woman and to say "no" to same-sex marriage. That vote was declared unconstitutional and was overturned by - wait for it - the government. Gasp! Could it be that the very thing we are saying is wrong to do in Egypt - the government going against the will of the people - is going on right here in the good ole' U.S. of A.? In other states (which I can't think of right now and I don't feel like checking on line to find out), it was decided to stay with traditional, one man and one woman marriage, and the government overturned that and said that the voters didn't have the right to decide such a thing.

I am amazed how the morality of our society has changed so much. What is morally wrong is declared to be morally right. And when you speak out against such moral evils you are called unloving, uncaring and a whole host of other terrible things.

Never is it asked, "What does the Lord say?" In fact, we have done our best to remove the Lord from our society. Is it any wonder then that we are having such problems - moral, economic, etc.? Just as in Israel of years ago (translate that to mean in the Old Testament time, the time of the prophets and the divided kingdom), so it is today. As we turn our backs on the Lord, can we ask Him to bless our nation? "God bless America" we sing. But why would He? We have told Him to butt out of our lives and leave us alone, so why would He then turn around and bless our nation?

Why? Because He is a gracious God, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. He doesn't treat us as we treat Him. He sends the rain on the just and the unjust. He gives food to the righteous and the unrighteous (when in reality He is giving food to all the unrighteous because none of us can claim to be righteous). So He will continue to be with us and our nation even when we aren't with Him or we don't want to follow His will.

Thank You God for being You! Please forgive us for turning our back upon You and Your will. Help us, individually and collectively, to turn our hearts from ourselves and our sinful desires to following You and Your perfect will.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Proverbs II

Continuing my thoughts on Proverbs.

Proverbs 16:2 "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit." How true this is! When you are doing something, it is easy to convince yourself that what you are doing and why you are doing it is pure and holy. "I am just doing what is right." Unfortunately, what we do isn't really that pure. We are guided by our own sinful thought, desires and actions. We want things our way and so we convince ourselves that we are being "holy" and "pure" in our actions. The Lord knows the truth. "He weighs the spirit." What that means is that the Lord knows that our actions don't stem from purity but from self-concern, self-importance and from just blindly doing what we want to do. All of us are guilty in this. Our motives are seldom as pure as we like to say they are.

Proverbs 16:28 "A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." When a person is dishonest (seeking only what he desires and not the good of others), strife follows closely. How often it seems that strife develops and you don't know where it came from until you meet the person who is dishonest, not being truthful in all that they say or do. Doesn't it just drive you nuts 9it does me) when you walk into a room and see folks whispering and then when they see you, they stop. Nothing good comes from that. Most of the time you should be talking to the person that causes you to stop whispering to the other person and that is why you stop. It is guilt. Instead of separating friends (which dishonesty that leads to the whispering does) you should work hard to follow the will of God and do that which is right. Talk to each other instead of about each other.

Proverbs 17:3 "The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts." The Lord does test our hearts to see how pure they are. He allows things to come into our lives to purify our faith in Him. Take a look at Job and you will see how that works. James talks about this in James 1. Amazing stuff! The fact is that we don't like to have our hearts tested. We want an easy life. The Lord knows better what we need than we do. When testing comes, we turn to the Him and ask for strength and guidance.

Proverbs 17:22 "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Joy comes from the Lord. A crushed spirit comes from the devil. Which one is better? The joyful spirit, of course. Watch people who have been crushed under the weight of pain and suffering or under the mean words that are said by someone they thought they could trust or that cared for them and you will see how true this is. A crushed spirit dries up the bones, the person just can't hardly go through the day. You see the person from across the room and you think "Boy does that person look haggard." That is exactly what this means. A joyful heart is good medicine. May the Lord make your heart joyful today. Be lifted up! The Lord loves you and cares for you. Those that attack you (Satan, the world and your sinful nature) are not stronger than Him! He has already overcome them. May the joy of the Lord be with you.