Friday, December 20, 2013


I have been listening to all the banter about Phil Robertson and A & E  and the interview he gave where he was asked his thoughts and beliefs about homosexuality and marriage. I have been appalled at the response from the A&E network and from the lack of response from Hollywood, the homosexual community, and a whole host of others.

I would think that the Hollywood would be upset with A&E. I would also expect for the homosexual community to be upset with them as well. Notice I didn't say they should be upset with Phil Robertson. They might not agree with him (and I doubt that they do), but they should be upset with the intolerance, censorship and discrimination shown to Phil for his beliefs and his way of life.

If Phil can be treated this badly because of his beliefs, then would it not be safe to say that the homosexual community could be treated just as poorly for their beliefs? In there is intolerance to one person's beliefs, would it not stand that there would be intolerance to all people's beliefs? If on can be fired for accepting the Christian belief about homosexuality, could on also not be fired for accepting the liberal belief about homosexuality? Could there also be intolerance shown to the non-Bible quoting homosexual who speak against the heterosexual relationships and traditional marriage?

I know that this would never happen. We live in a time and culture that is anti-Christian, anti-Bible, anti-moral. Anything that smacks of traditional Christian beliefs will be torn apart and ridiculed and not tolerated. If it is liberal, homosexual, anti-Christian, it is accepted and encouraged.

That is so hypocritical. Often the Christian is accused of hypocrisy but the reality is, Hollywood, the media and the homosexual community is hypocritical. They claim tolerance - as long as it is their view. They claim fairness as long as it is for them and not against them. They claim love as long as you hold the same view as they do. But say or do something that goes against their view, and they will attack you and do everything in their power to destroy you.

My friends, welcome to the kingdom of this world. As Christians, we forget that we live in this world of which Satan is the prince. Do not expect tolerance to what is morally right. Do not expect fairness to what is godly. Do not expect to be treated fairly because you follow Christ Jesus in your life. Our Lord warned us that this is the way it would be. Don't be surprised. Instead, stand firm in the faith no matter what is said. Hold firm to Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior. Proclaim the truth as given by His Word. And in the end, know that you will attacked on all sides.

Also remember that He who is in you is stronger than he would is against you. For Christ has already won the victory over sin, death and the devil in His death and resurrection. On Christ the solid rock we stand! All other ground is sinking sand.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Call of the Baptist

"Repent! for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" That is the call of John the Baptist. This last Sunday we sang the Advent hymn "On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry." He called out to the people of his day - calling them to prepare their hearts and their lives for the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. He didn't mince words. He wasn't politically correct. He didn't care if a person was "influential" or "lowly." The message was the same for all - repent, prepare, get ready.

That message is for us today as well. We are called to repent of our sins, to prepare our hearts and lives, and to get ready for the kingdom of heaven, for it is near at hand, closer today than ever. That message is for you, whoever you might think that you are - powerful, insignificant, rich, poor, or whatever. John calls to you to turn from your sin.

Do you have any sin to confess? Do you have any sin from which you must turn? Take a look at your life, a look at your words, a look at your thoughts and then answer that question. If you say, "No," beware! You have just told the Baptist, nay, not just the Baptist, you have just told Christ Himself that you have sin for which you must repent. And while Christ tells you that you are a sinful creature, sinful in thought, word and deed, you are telling Him you are not! The One who looks into your heart, has said, "You are a sinner. You sin daily in a variety of ways. I have come to save you from you from your sin," and you are telling Him that He doesn't know what He is talking about. Really? Is not pride a sin? Is not self-righteousness a sin (Jesus denounced the Pharisees for just that sin!).

Each of us, myself included, is a sinner, a person who is called by the Law of God to repent. Falling on these poor, aching knees, all I can do is cry out to the Savior, "Jesus Christ, be merciful to me, a sinner." And that good news is that He is! He is merciful to me. The very reason that we celebrate this Advent and Christmas season is that the Son of God is merciful to us. He is full of pity. He came into this world, born of a woman, born under the Law, to save those under the Law, to save me, to save you! He doesn't come to give us a nice holiday to celebrate. He comes because He is merciful. He came to be the Savior of all mankind. He came for me and for you.

Having repented of that sin, we now turn to that life of faith. John calls us to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We are called to live today in faith, in Christ, in the wonder of all that He has done for us. that means we turn from our sinful actions and begin to live as a child of God. Are you having hateful thoughts about another person? Turn from them. Are you thinking lustful thoughts about another person? Put those thoughts from your mind. Are you doing illegal drugs? Stop. Are you worrying about what will happen tomorrow, worrying so much it has become your sin? Then give it over to God. You can't change the situation by your worry. God can! Are you drinking too much? Are you taking from work? Are you playing games on your computer instead of doing your work? Are you talking poorly about someone? Are you sharing the "truth" about someone when you should hold your tongue? Turn from that sin and do as the Lord calls you to do.  That is the message that John gives to the people and to us.

Can't do any of those things? Of course you can't. Your sinful nature makes it hard, if not impossible. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Through those blessed Means of Grace (Word and Sacraments), the Holy Spirit empowers you to live your life as a child of God. He does not expect you to do it on your own. If fact, He knows you cannot do it on your own. So He comes to you, He abides with you, He strengthens you, He give you the power to live as a child of God. He does that through the Word (make it a daily part of your life), through your Baptism (daily recalling and walking in the waters of your Baptism) and through the Lord's Supper (receive it often for the forgiveness of sins and the strength for daily life).

John calls. Are you listening?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Second Step

"The journey of a thousand steps begins with the first one," or something like that. I don't remember who said it or what the actual quote might be but that is basically what is said. No matter how long the journey, you can't make it to the end without taking the first step. And there is truth in that statement. Sometimes we are crippled in our lives because we are afraid to take the first step. We know we must take that step and get started but it is difficult for us to take that first step. Fear cripples us. It stops us from moving forward.

Then I thought to myself this morning, perhaps it isn't the first step that cripples us. It is the second step that really causes us the most problems.The second step, it is much more difficult than the first one.

 I thought of that this morning as I helped Blackie, our 14 year old dog, wake up and come up the stairs. The journey of 13 steps begins with the first one. But then again, it isn't the first step that causes him problems. He puts his front paws on the first step, and then stops. He took the first step. He made it up the first one. It was the second step, continuing to walk up the steps, that caused him so much trouble.

That is the way that it is for us. The journey may begin with the first step but it the second one that really cripples us. As the New Year begins, we will make our resolutions. We will take the first step and move towards our goal, but we don't continue to move that direction. Like Blackie, we stand on that first step and don't continue the journey. We don't take the second step to continue towards our goal. And we fail in our resolution.

In our spiritual life it is much the same way. We take the first step but it the second one that messes us up. We are brought to faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior We confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus is our Savior - first step. (Now don't turn on me at this point. I am merely using an analogy at this point. I know that the Holy Spirit, working through the Means of Grace - Word and Sacraments - is the One who helps us and guides us in our lives of faith. I am talking about our part, our life, the way we go through our days in that faith.) We go to church that one time. We pick up the Bible that one time. We say we follow our Lord that one time.

Then the second step comes. We have to continue in that life of faith. Perhaps there are other things vying for our attention and our time, and as we look at those steps of faith (living each day in Christ), we don't take that second step. We stay on the first one, believing - yes, but not moving past that first step. We don't open the Bible the second time. We don't attend worship the second time. We don't live out our faith the second time. We say, "Well, at least I believe. At least I am on the first step." And we think we have made the journey.

We must continue on to the second step, then the third, fourth, fifth and so on until that last step is taken, the step that takes us into heaven. Like Blackie, we will never make it to the top of the stairs without taking the second step. We are told that this is a journey of faith, daily, each step, each day, without stopping. We continue day after day, step after step, not stopping, not turning back.

Blackie will stand with his front paws on the first step and then whine. He might even give that annoying bark that goes right through you. He stands there and complains. He doesn't want to go up those 13 stairs. He took the first step. Why must he take the rest of the stairs. I stand next to him, encouraging him. He backs off. Does it again with the same result. We will do that 3-4 times. Each time I encourage him. I talk to him. I even tell him, "Blackie, I can carry you up the stairs but you don't like that either. He complain the whole time. It is easier on you to walk up the stairs." And he gives me that "you have to be kidding" look and does it all over again.

How often are we like him? We take the first step and figure that things much get easier from here on. But we don't take the second step. We don't want to move from the first one. It is enough. We whine. We complain - all at God. We get angry with God. We don't like how things have gone in our lives, so we stand on the first step, refusing to take the second step, letting the things or events of our lives cripple us as we stand on the first step and complain to God that things aren't fair, that He acted wrongly, that we can't believe His love, yadda, yadda, yadda. (Mind you, I am not making light of those things that you feel or say. They are very real. They are your feelings and your thoughts. But they cripple you if you remain on that step and refuse to take the next one.) 

Blackie doesn't make it to the top till he takes the second step. And I walk with him up the stairs, step after step, encouraging him, talking with him, being his Barnabas. That is what the Spirit does for us. We gives us all that we need to continue to the second step and beyond. He helps us. He encourages us. He strengths us. But we must move our spiritual feet and take the next step. Each step, day after day, no matter how difficult or how challenging those steps are, we are to take them.

Blackie makes it to the top each time. We go through this several times a day. I never stop my part. He never stops his part. I often wonder if that is the way it is for our Lord. Day after day, moment after moment, He must continue to support us, love us, encourage us, help us and lead us. Does He ever get frustrated and quit? I know I think about not doing it for Blackie (but I still do because I love the old guy). God never, Never, NEVER gets frustrated or stops helping us. He is with us, day after day, even when we push Him away. He walks with us day after day, loving, caring, supporting and saving us.

What is stopping you from that second step? Ask the Lord to help you to break out of your fear, anger, frustration, grief, whatever it might be that is stopping you. And then, with His help, take the second step.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reflection on storms and the Day of the Lord

We find ourselves at the end of the Church Year. That means that this last Sunday and this coming Sunday focuses our attention on the Day of the Lord. The readings for yesterday morning, 26th Sunday after Pentecost did just that, speaking of the Day of the Lord (Malachi 4) and the return of Christ upon the clouds (Luke 21). We spent time hearing about the Lord's return and the judgment that is a part of that return. That judgment is both law and gospel, death and life. For those who don't believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior it is law, condemning to an eternity in hell, separated from the Lord for eternity. For those believing in Christ as their only Savior it is gospel, pronouncing the wonder of salvation, an eternity with the Lord in heaven.

As I reflect back upon those readings and look towards the readings for this Sunday, the Last Sunday of the Church Year (or Christ the King Sunday), I also think about yesterday's storms. We here in Troy faced winds and rain but the storms were nothing compared to other places around the state (and throughout the Midwest). I am drawn to two storms that went through two communities. One community, in Washington County, suffered tremendous damage and even the death of a couple people. The town of New Minden, IL was devastated with a tornado that went through, tearing the rood off of St. John's Lutheran Church, and destroying several homes across the highway from the church. These things happen in many communities at many different times, but this one hit close to home as we are friends with Pastor Tim & Dawn Mueller of St. John's and have spent numerous times in St. John's church building. Also we have friends Rey and Eunice Hausler whose house was destroyed by the tornado. Destruction in their lives, and I wonder, "Did they recall the words of the Lord in Luke 21 and think that perhaps it was the Day of the Lord?"  It most certainly could have been if the storm had hit a hour earlier when the church was filled with worshipers or if Rey & Eunice did not make it to their basement before the tornado hit their house.

And I also think about the community of Washington, IL who received even more destruction. Once again, we have our friends Pastor Tom & Trudy Heren of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in that community. The town was devastated with the destruction of the storm. Perhaps you have seen the images on the news. Terrible destruction, beyond what I can even imagine. Pastor Tom & Trudy have told us that the church was damaged and their parsonage was also damaged. Seven of the church families have been displaced either from damage or complete destruction of the house, the Heren's being one of those displaced families. And once again, if that storm would have hit an hour earlier, the church would have been filled with worshipers and they would have know what the Day of the Lord was like as it would have been that day for them.

Destruction, death, terror, terrible things going on in an instant, no chance to think, just to act - and it makes me think about the Day of the Lord. That is the way it will be. People think, "I will have the chance to change my mind and believe in Jesus when He comes," but they won't. There won't be the chance to think. It will be in a moment, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. The Lord will come and it will be judgment - believe or don't believe, but a that moment, much like in a tornado that hits in a moment and is gone, it will be what it will be.

The point of this rambling? Now is the day of salvation. Now is the day to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Now is the time to have the heart turned from stone to life. There may be no tomorrow for you to consider Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God, the Savior of the world, your personal Savior.

I pray for those affected by the storms of November 17, 2013. There was much destruction and some death. There will be months of rebuilding ahead for numerous communities - such as Washington, IL and New Minden, IL. We will have opportunity to assist these communities and show the love of Christ that is our hearts by the help and support that we can give to them.

And I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring to faith those who don't believe in Jesus as their Savior. I pray that He will use each of us to share that message of the Gospel with those we come in contact with each day. I also pray for the Lord to come in all His glory, praying "Come, Lord Jesus." Yes, there is much to be said about the Day of the Lord and the storms that rolled through.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cold Weather and Faithful Hearts

It is a cold November morning. This is merely the first of many cold mornings that we have ahead of us as the winter season is just beginning. While this morning is cold, tomorrow morning is going to be even colder. The shock of the cold is upon us because of the rapid change of temperature. As I sat and watched the cold front come through yesterday afternoon, it was 66. By the time I went to bed it was 36. Put with that the warmth of this last weekend, and this really does feel cold. Welcome to winter. Put on a sweater, be sure to wear your socks, pull on a warm coat and, of course, wear a hat.

As you do all of those things remember that there are people in our community who don't have nearly what you and I have in our lives. This is a great opportunity to remember to support the work of Ministries Unlimited here in Troy. They do some wonderful things to help the less fortunate in our community. Through the food pantry and the Christmas gifts as well as support for those who need help as they travel and those who need help with housing in our community, Ministries Unlimited shows the face of God to those in need. If you have the chance to help out, please do so. This is the time when their resources will begin to be stretched a little thin.

I read some interesting passages this morning. As I read Psalm 108, King David was talking about the victory that God had given to Israel over Moab, Edom and Philistia. Then I was reading in 2 Chronicles 28 and King Ahaz of Judah was defeated by Moab, Edom and Philistia. What was the difference? Why was David victorious while Ahaz wasn't? The difference came in who they trusted and how they lived. David followed God with his whole heart. He wasn't a perfect man or king but he was a faithful man and a faithful king. Ahaz wasn't a perfect man or a perfect king AND he was a faithless man and king. He did not follow the way of the Lord. He paid lip service to it but he did not live it. He made metal images for the Baals, offered up his sons as sacrifices and followed the ways of those nations around him. He was called to serve the Lord with his heart and life and instead he served himself with his heart and life. Because of his sinfulness, God gave the nation of Judah over to the peoples around them.

Faithless towards God. Can that be said about you? We could look at the nation, our country and the way it lives and we might say that we are faithless. We can point to the sins of the people and the lack of faith that is shown. And we would be right. It is that and perhaps more.

But I don't want to do that. Instead I would challenge you to look at yourself. Are you faithful to God or faithless to God? Do you worship Him with your heart and life or do you worship the gods of this age with your heart and life? How often do you read or hear the Word? How often do you worship God, not just with you lips but with your hearts as well?

We are called to be faithful to God. He gives us the power to live according to His will. He gives us the Means of Grace to strengthen our faith and help us in our lives. He touches our hearts and lives with the power of His Word, the wonder of Baptism and the strength of His Body and Blood in the Supper. He is with us day after day. He upholds us in all we do. He never turns His back upon us. He walks with us, talks with us, blesses us and leads us.

How do you and I respond? How do we live our lives? I would like to challenge you to reflect upon your life. And my prayer is that you will be found faithful in the Lord, empowered to live that way through the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Not With A Whole Heart

It was an interesting verse that I ran across this morning. I was reading in 2 Chronicles about Amaziah the king of Judah. You might not know much about him. I would like to say that I know all about the kinds of Israel and Judah but I don't. I find myself back in 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles as a way of refreshing myself on this part of the history of Israel and Judah. It also gives me more spiritual guidance for my life. So I was reading in 2 Chronicles about Amaziah. It said, "And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord..." (2 Chr. 25:2a) I thought, "Good deal, another good king of Judah." Then it continued, "...yet not with a whole heart." (2 Chr. 25:2b) And there you have it. The "rest of the story."

Amaziah served God to a point. He was faithful to God in some areas but his whole heart was not in it. That is the difference between David and Amaziah. You could say of David, "He served God with his whole heart." That couldn't be said of Amaziah.

What about you? What can be said about you and your life? Do you serve God with your whole heart? Or do you find that you are "halfheartedly" serving God? This caused me to reflect. I know that I am a pastor and my life is given over to serving God, but do I do it with my whole heart? Or do I have some parts of my life where it is all about me and what I want? Are there areas that I say to God, "You can't have this part of my life"? And I would have to be honest enough to acknowledge that there are those areas that i feel should be mine and not God's.

This is a part of our lives of stewardship. (How did that get in there?) It doesn't have anything to do with my money or my giving. It has everything to do with my daily life. You see, stewardship is using all of life and life's resources for the glory of God and the good of His kingdom. It is not living halfheartedly for the Lord but living with your whole heart.

How do we live halfheartedly? There are many ways. Amaziah's problem was that he was prideful and felt that because of the victory that the Lord gave to Judah that he was more important and more powerful than he was. For each of us, it is different. Perhaps you hold onto some sinful action that you just don't want to give up - over drinking, gossiping, lusting, looking at improper websites, excessive worrying, and so on. Or maybe it is something a little more personal - not wanting to let go of a grudge or a bitter feeling that you have concerning someone else, not allowing the Lord to lead you through your time of grief, thinking unkind thoughts about other people. Or  it could be in worship - only worshiping when you "feel" like you need it, making worship an option in your life, giving God only a portion of who you are while giving work or pleasure your whole attention.

I would challenge you to read that verse and reflect on your life as you read it. "And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with his whole heart." What can be said about you and your life?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cold rain, dead battery and changed plans.

It is a cold, wet November morning. Here this morning, there is a cold rain coming down. They say it won't last long. That is a good thing, though we need the rain. Rain again tonight (Tuesday) and tomorrow. Could be substantial amounts of rain. I don't want it to rain and yet I know that we need the rain. I don't mind if it rains during the night but when it rains during the day, when we need to be out and about, I don't like it quite so well. That is the way we are isn't it? We want something but we don't like to be inconvenienced by it. We pray to the Lord for something and then grumble when it comes in a way we don't like. "Lord we need rain," we pray. "Lord, why did You have it rain when I needed to go outside?" we lament. Fickle people that we are, it is amazing that the Lord puts up with us.

Put up with us? Yes He does. His love for us leads Him to care for us in many and various ways, even when we grumble and mumble against Him. We turn our backs upon Him and do what we want, and then complain when things don't go the way that we want things to go. Lord, how do You put up with us? Thank You for Your love and care each day. We don't deserve it but You sure give it. You are an amazing God. I rejoice that I can call You Father, that Your Son is my Savior and that the Holy Spirit is the One who leads me day after day.

Yesterday was a day when I was sure that I had the day planned. I taught confirmation class and then headed for the Board of Spiritual Care down at the District office. Things were going well. Without a thought, I was sure that I knew how the day was going to go. Stopping for a soda (Circle K always has the super huge soda for 79 cents, one that would last all morning), I walked out to the van, put the key in the ignition, turned it, ready to roll on the next couple miles to get where I needed to get. I was on time. Everything was going according to plan. And...nothing. That's right, nothing. The van wouldn't start. Really? This can't be true. Try, try, try again but with the same results. Nothing. Sigh, the shoulders sage with the realization that the battery is dead. Now what? The day changes that is what.

I won't bore you with the details for how it turned out. Just know that it turned out all right. Figuring that the Lord knew best, I followed Him. Upset? Not really? Why? Because there is no reason to be upset with something that I couldn't change. All I could think of was, "OK, Lord, what do you have in store? What is the reason this isn't working?" Someone said, "Perhaps the Lord kept something from happening." And I thought about that. Maybe? How many times does the Lord stop something bad, awful or terrible from happening to us? And we don't know it! Why? Because it never happened! Thanks be to God for that knowledge.

I never did make the meeting. The battery is replaced. We have a van ready for a drive to Seward, NE at the end of this week. It didn't break down when we stopped for gas somewhere in Iowa. I rejoice that the Lord is good and gracious no matter what happens to me in my life. We look at our lives and expect all sunshine and flowers. And we forget that in order to have that sunshine or those flowers, we need rain. And we are back to this morning, with the cold November rain falling. All right Lord. You do know what You are doing. rain, dead battery and plans changed. That too is a blessing for me in my life. All I can say as I begin this day is, "Lord, lead me, guide me, show me what You desire for me to do to Your glory today. I am Your servant. I am Yours. WooHoo! Thanks for that!"

Now to go about today, in a cold rain, with a dark sky and the wonder of His love on my lips, I go about this day. How are you going to live it?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In everything adorn the doctrine of God

In writing to Titus, Paul brings forward an interesting aspect of life that we don't think of too often. He encourages all people, no matter their station in life to remember that all that they do is to reflect their faith in God and be in accord with the sound teaching/doctrine that we have received from those who have gone before us. (That line made me think of All Saints' Day, which is only 2 days away on Nov. 1st, as well as the importance of realizing that it isn't up to us to make up new doctrine or teachings.)

Paul's words to Titus, "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine," (Titus 2:1 ESV) are words that are oft quoted concerning the importance of the pastor and teacher to watch carefully what is being taught on all levels of life. But he goes on with other words that I think are very telling for all people to pay attention to in their lives. He writes concerning older men, older women, younger men, and slaves. In doing so, we read, "...that the word of God may not be reviled" (2:5b); "...having nothing evil to say about us" (2:8b); and "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." (2:10 b) Everyone, no matter their station of life, are to life a life that reflects their faith in God. Not only is it to reflect their faith but also that which they profess - which is called doctrine or teaching.

Too often we live our lives as though it doesn't matter what we say or do as long as we believe in Jesus as our Savior. The focus is upon our personal faith and what we believe. We don't think about how what we do, how we live, what we say, is to be a reflection of that which we believe (which is called doctrine). You might say, "But I am not a theologian." So what! You don't have to be theologian to live a life that reflects that which you believe.

You are a witness to Christ and what He has given us in His Word. How you live reflects Christ. What you say, what you do, tells others what you believe. You can say, "I believe in Jesus as my Savior," but when your life and your words reflect the prince of this world and the sinfulness of this age, then your words are trumped. People will listen to what you say after you say you believe. That becomes the reflection of your heart.

And that is the challenge of living as a Christian. We are called to live as a Christian each and every day, in all that we do and say. Of course, we are going to sin. everyone sins. Being a Christian doesn't mean you are perfect every moment of the day, but it does mean that you are forgiven in Christ Jesus. But knowing this also means that you will do all you can, guided by the Holy Spirit, strengthened by Word and Sacrament, to live as a child of God, living according to that true doctrine/teaching that you have been taught.

What is the purpose of that kind of life? "...that in everything [you] may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." (2:10b) In everything your life is to be a reflection of God and not the world. That is truly a challenge that only the Spirit can help us to meet.

Ramblings, yep, they are ramblings this morning. Not sure that they came out like I was thinking. I pray your day will reflect the doctrine of God our Savior.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trust in the Lord

This morning I was reading Psalm 115. The Psalms are amazing. It never ceases to amaze me how these words that were written so long ago can still have an impact upon the lives of people here in the 21st century. That is the power of the Holy Spirit working to inspire the writers of the books of the Bible. What an amazing God we truly have!

The Psalmist writes: "O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield." (Ps. 115:9-11) The phrase that just kept jumping out at me is "trust in the Lord." Those words are the words that I would like to consider this morning. "Trust in the Lord!"

It isn't always easy to trust in the Lord. The situations of life make it challenging. There are many who would point to that which is going on your life and tell you, "Trust in yourself. Trust in the doctor. Trust in your family. Trust in your friends." That advice leaves you empty, like a tree without leaves in the midst of winter. The emptiness of the branches make it hard to find shade from the heat of the noonday sun, so the advice of one who points you something or someone other than the Lord God almighty. He alone is able to give you comfort and strength in the trials and tribulations of your life. He alone is able to lift you from the despair of the day.

BUT! you may cry out, but the problem is still there! It hasn't left. He hasn't healed me or my loved one. He hasn't give me a job. He hasn't made the frustration go away. He hasn't done what I asked Him to do! How can you say that He is still right there, helping me? He isn't! He hasn't! That must mean He can't!

Therein lies the problem. The challenge of the Psalm is found in that very thought. To trust in the Lord is not to make Him a magical genii that will make all things better, that will solve all your problems and make your life all that you want it to be. I believe that we have elevated ourselves to the point of becoming 'godlike' so that we believe that what we want is what needs to happen. We have lost the thought that our God is one who looks beyond the moment, the present, which holds many struggles and pains, trials and temptations, problems and sickness, and a whole host of other things that we can't even name (or perhaps don't want to because we are afraid to even say/think of them because they just "might" come true). We have a warped understanding of God. We have remade God in our image and then, when that newly made God doesn't act the way that we want Him to act, when He doesn't do what we want Him to do, we get upset, frustrated, and angry with Him and cry "Foul! I didn't sign on for a God that doesn't do what I want, when I want. I am not so sure that I can trust in this type of God." And in anger, pain, bitterness, and frustration, we shuffle off to Buffalo without looking back upon the God we have made that has disappointed us.

"Trust in the Lord!" Those words call us to set aside ourselves and our ways and to turn to the God of the universe, the God who has made all things, who has loved all things, who has saved all things. We are to trust in the God who has reached out to us, not by making us become like Him but by becoming like us. We are to trust in the God who has sent His Son into this world to suffer (yes, suffer, and much more than we have ever suffered) and to die for each of us. Yet, that is not the full story. He also rose again on the 3rd day, rising from the dead to give new life who all that believe in Him and all who trust in Him.

For you see the fullness of what Christ Jesus has done is that He did die but He also rose again. It is in that resurrection, in that new life, that we are given new life, new hope and new future. To trust is the Lord is to have the old self put to death (with all its demands that make it desire to become the controlling of all things) and the new self come forth. To trust in the Lord is to actually trust that He is God and I am not. It means that even when things don't go the way that I think that they should, I know that God is still in control and knows what is best for my life in this situation. It means believing in God and not myself.

That is the challenge. I am not God. I am not in control. I do not know what is the best for my life. I may suffer. I may become ill. I may lose someone or something important in my life. But I trust that God is still God, He still loves me and cares for me. No matter what happens, how things play out, God is still God and I still trust in Him.

That is not easy. Satan doesn't want us to live that way. Our sinful nature doesn't want us to live that way. People around us don't want us to live that way. That is where the Psalm, the Word, and faith begin to really come together to guide our lives.

"Trust in the Lord!"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


What is the local congregation about? Fellowship in Christ. In those words we find what the congregation is to be about. It begins in Christ - the Lord, the Savior, the Messiah, the One who will come again. In Christ we find our life, our being, our present and our future. In Christ our past is forgiven (forgotten by Him but held onto by us so that we do not repeat the action of the past and make it an action of the present or future). Day in and day out, we are to be about Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. If we proclaim anything other than Jesus Christ, Him crucified and risen, we are preaching a gospel that is not the Christ of Scripture. So the congregation is about Christ, receiving daily life from Him alone.

In this Christ, we have fellowship - with Him and with one another. To proclaim Christ without living in the oneness, the fellowship of the body of Christ, is to proclaim a Christ that has no impact upon our lives. Who He is, what He has done, what He is doing and what He shall do (this sounds much like the One found in the Revelation, the "One who is, who was and who is to come") impacts our fellowship with one another. If I am righteous, then I can treat you as one who is not. But if I fully understand that I live under the grace of Christ because I am unrighteous, a lost and condemned sinner, one who has been forgiven in Christ, not because of what I have done but what He has done and still does for me, then I will live as one who loves others who themselves are just like me, forgiven sinners under the love of Christ. This makes us "fellows" on the same path, traveling the same way, being loved by the same Lord and lifted up by the same Spirit. We are in a oneness with each other in Christ.

That is the fellowship that we tasted of last night at the Mother/Daughter/Friend Salad Supper. That is the fellowship that we drunk deeply of over the weekend at the SID Junior High Youth Gathering at Camp Wartburg. And that is the fellowship that flows freely each weekend as we join in worship on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Together in worship, we fellowship around the words of Christ and His body and blood in the Sacrament. The focus is not upon us but upon Him. We look not to each other for strength or forgiveness but to Christ alone for that strength and forgiveness. We look to each other as fellow travelers upon this rough and difficult road called life. The fellowship we have with each other, shown as we sit around tables, laughing, talking, eating and praising God by our lives, the fellowship that we have as we lift up our hearts in prayer or our voices in songs of praise and thanksgiving, the fellowship we have as we kneel at the altar comes from the love of Christ and all that He is for each of us.

I greatly enjoyed last night. The M/D/F dinner is always a highlight of the month of October. It is so wonderful so see so many people talking, laughing and eating together, especially as I realize that it is taking place because we are one in Christ, we have fellowship with each other coming from a oneness we have with each other. As I looked out on all the faces of the women gathered and the men serving, I was filled with a warmness. That warmness was love, the love of Christ that leads my heart to love each and every one of you that were there. It lead my heart to ache at the thought of those who were not able to be present for whatever reason. I longed for those who were missing and rejoiced in those who were present. I give thanks for the women who put it together. I lift up my heart in praise to God for those who were present, those who were laughing and talking, those who were eating and rejoicing, those who were living in the love and fellowship of Christ.

Yes, last night was fun. It was uplifting. It filled my heart with hope. It showed me Christ is in our midst. He is working in wonderful ways. He is giving us fellowship - in Him and with each other. Thanks for last night. It was worth every moment. I look forward to next year's dinner. And I look forward to this weekend when we will fellowship once again.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shine like lights in the world

I was reading Philippians again. We are studying this letter in our Sunday morning Bible class. If you haven't joined us, I would encourage you to do so. We are doing an overview of the Epistles, learning their historical setting and the importance of their writing. It has been an enlightening and fascinating journey. Come and journey with us.

As I was reading through Philippians again, I came across the following section: "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." (Philippians 2:14-16 ESV) There are many things that can be said about these verses but the one thing i would like to focus on this morning is the fact that we are called to "shine as lights in the world."

"This little gospel light of mine, I'm going to let it shine..." Remember singing that in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School? It is a happy little song. Our children enjoy singing it with their "gospel lights" held up for all to see. The children let their lights shine in the the world. We look at them and smile. Often we think, "That will change as they grow up and the shine is worn off their lives."

The shine does get worn off. It is worn off by this "crooked and twisted generation" in which they live. Our world is crooked and twisted. Sin has taken hold and twists and turns and bends and breaks the wonder of this world that our Lord has created. The beauty is destroyed by the ugliness of sin. (Think about the wonder of the sexual relationship which the Lord has given to a man and a woman in marriage and how this crooked and twisted generation has made that into something vulgar and twisted.) Our children grow up with the shine of faith and then the world twists it and bends it and tries to break it.

You, as a parents, a teacher, a mentor, a Christian who has gone through the time, are called to continue to shine like a light in this world. Those little ones are looking to you, someone who has been living in this crooked and twisted world, for guidance in how to live the life of faith. Your faith is to shine for those little ones (and not so little ones) to see. Your light of faith is to shine so that in this dark world of sin there is a light that can be looked at - the light of Christ, shining for all to see, so that they may praise your Father who is in heaven.

Ask yourself this question: "Is the light of faith shining brightly in all I say and do? Am I reflecting Christ today as I go about my day? If that child, with their little gospel light in hand, was to watch me, listen to me or reflect me today, would their gospel light still shine brightly or would they be hiding under the bush? (Oh no!) As Paul was writing to the Philippians, he was encouraging them to remain shining brightly in this dark world. I would encourage you to do the same. Hold up your gospel light. Let it shine.

And then go to work, shining in the light of Christ. Go to school, shining in the light of Christ. Go to the store, to the mall, to the gym, wherever you need to go, and let the light of Christ shine brightly in this crooked and twisted generation. Instead of moaning about how wicked things are, let the light of Christ shine in your life for others to see.

"All around the neighborhood, I'm going to let it shine..." May the Holy Spirit guide you so that the light will shine all around your neighborhood.

Monday, September 30, 2013

It Comes to an End.

September is over. Today is the 30th which means that comes midnight, October will be upon us. This is not all that amazing. It happens month after month, year after year. But for some reason, September coming to a close today struck me as, I don't know, different, amazing...I can't find the word to describe how it struck me. I just can't believe that today is the last day of September But here it is.

Time marches on. We can't stop the progression of time. We might want to stay in a moment, but unlike what Captain Picard of Star Trek fame did in one of the movies, you can't slow time or stop time. This moment is gone in a moment. Very philosophical yet very practical.

Did you make the most of September? Did you do all the things that you wanted to do? Did you take advantage of the daily opportunities that were presented to you? Or did you let them slip away? Are you at the end of the month, wishing you had the month back because there were too many things that you didn't get done.?

But let's change that a moment. Instead of looking back with regret over something that we can't change, no matter how much we want to, why not look forward to the new month with a renewed sense of living. we have a 31 day month before us. Let's make the most of this coming month. Spend some time with family. take a few moments each day with those you love. Talk to them on the phone (remember the phone? It is what we used for  communication before texts, tweets and email.). Sit down with them and see how they are doing. Go outside for a few moments and enjoy the fall-like conditions, the changing leaves, the crisp air, the smell of fall. Take time to worship your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Listen to His voice as He speaks to you from His Word. Let that Word surround your days. Spend an extra 2 minutes a day in prayer - talking with your Father about all that is in your life. Walk daily with Him, as you walk daily with one another.

I look forward to October. September was a great month (I turned 52 this last month). But I look to October to be an even better month. In case you don't know, I look back on each month with joy, and look forward to the new month with expectation. I know that God has great plans for me and my life. I pray that my sinful nature will not stand in the way of God's will for my life. I pray also for you, that you will also follow your Lord this month, that you will be filled be true joy that comes from a relationship with Him, that your days will be filled with a sense of wonder at the hand of God leading you as you go to work or school, as you drive down the road, as you sit in your house, as you lounge in your chair or on your couch and as you share His love with those around you.

October is going to be amazing. Do I have big plans? No. But God does!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I have often wondered...

There are many things I wonder about but I won't go into them here as I don't have time or space. There is one thing that I have wondered about (this came on because of today's devotion in Portals of Prayer) - did Joseph always keep a sunny disposition throughout all that he faced. The Joseph I am talking about is the son of Jacob, the one sold into slavery by his brothers. Was he always upbeat, knowing that the Lord would continue to bless his life and make all the rotten things come out all right? Or did he ever get discouraged?

When I read about Joseph, I find myself a little frustrated. Why? Because I see all the struggles he goes through and I get the impression that he sits around saying, "It is all right. God has a plan for my life and I know that things will work out all right." He is attacked by his brothers, striped of his robe of many colors, thrown into a well and Joseph says, "It's all right. God has a plan for my life and it will work out all right." He listens to his brothers argue about whether or not to kill him and he says, "This is good. God will make everything work all right." He is pulled out of the well and sold to the Midianites who take him off to Egypt and sell him to Potiphar, and Joseph says, "This is from the hand of God and all things are going to work out. I will be all right because God is with me." Did he feel that way after winding up in prison because of Potiphar's wife falsely accusing him of attempted rape? Did he feel that way after the interpreting the dreams of the baker and the cup bearer of Pharaoh and then having them forget him for 2 years? Think about it! Two years he was in prison and heard nothing from the 2 men who promised they would talk to Pharaoh about him and his situation. Did he say the whole time, "This is good. God has a plan. This is part of the plan and it will be all right"? These are things I have wondered.

What is the answer I have come up with? I would have to say that Joseph was probably the ultimate "Pollyanna." He seemed to always see the bright side of every situation - with his brothers, with Potiphar and his wife, with his time in prison and with his role in Egypt. Did he have moments of doubt? Probably. There were probably times when he laid in his cell wondering what God's plan might truly be, but through it all, he never lost faith that God was in control. There might have been times he felt lost and afraid but through those times he still trusted in the Lord to do what was best. There may have been days when he wondered if he would ever see his family again, even when he was 2nd in command in all the land of Egypt, but he knew that whatever God's plan was would be best.

I guess what I am saying is that Joseph was a young man (who grew into manhood) that trusted in the Lord with his whole heart. All he did was a reflection of that faith. He would see the situation of life through the eyes of faith. He would call out to God in times of trouble and know that the Lord would deliver him.

What do I learn from Joseph? I learn that God has a plan for my life (and your life) and that we are called to trust int he Lord. I learn that bad things will happen in our lives, things that are unexplainable and terrible, things that will threaten to crush us, things that are absolutely not what we plan or want in our lives, but through it all, God is still there. He will guide us through those times. He will be the Rock we can rely upon and trust in. We will be challenged in our lives. We will be tempted to turn from our Lord. We will be lead by the situations of life to curse God and turn our backs upon Him. We will feel justified by our indignation and our frustration to curse God and go about our lives as though He doesn't matter or as though we are furious with Him and refuse to be comforted by anyone. We will feel as though what has happened to us is the absolutely worst thing in the world and there is no way that God could be a part of what is taking place. We will feel all those things and more.

At those moments and times in our lives, I would encourage us to return to Joseph. You might say, "Yes, but he knew that God would work it out for him. Look at how it turned out!" Do you think that when he sat at the bottom of the well, wondering what was going to happen to him, that he honestly thought, "This is going to lead to my becoming the 2nd most important person in the land of Egypt." I doubt it. Do you think he sat in prison for 2 years and thought, "When Pharaoh has his dream, I will get out of here." I doubt it. But one thing he did think, "God is with me. I will trust in God with all my heart and life." When we are tempted by the situation of our lives to think God has no plan or that God has deserted us, look at Joseph's faith and realize that isn't the case. No matter how bleak, how sad, how overwhelming, there is one promise that God has made us that overrides everything (and it isn't that we won't have to suffer or be sad or frustrated or hurt or sick or whatever else you and I want in life). That promise is that He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. Jesus says to you, "I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19) And He means it. He showed that in Joseph's life. He has shown that in countless other lives through out the years. What makes you and me think that our lives are any different?

God is with us - in the well, in the prison, in the hospital, at the funeral home, in the house, at school, in the car driving to work, in the terror that comes at night, in the fear that our spouse will leave us, in the time when we have to say good bye to someone dear to us, in the moment when time seems to stand still and not a sound is made as we process the terrible news given by a voice on the other end of the phone or the family member/friend gives face to face. Joseph turns to God in all situations. So can we. He is our God. Other might mean things for evil but God will work it out for our good - in time, sometimes a short time, sometimes a long time.

I guess I don't really wonder about Joseph, other than in my mind. I already know the answer. Yes, he trusted in God in all those situations, even when he might have those moments when he cried out, "Why!? Where are You God?!" Even then, he never lost sight that God was still with him. May you never lose that sight either.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life revisited

Strange title - Life Revisited. I guess it is because I have one thing on my mind this morning. (There is more than one but for this writing, there is one.) That one thing is the death of a long time member of St. Paul's.

Last Friday Roger Tegmeyer died. I am told that he was on his way to the dining room when he had to sit down for a moment and then he passed away. I haven't heard if it was his heart or a stroke or what it was that took him. It really doesn't matter (except for the sake of curiosity) because the end result was the same. He left this life for the next. Roger was a saved man. I can say that because he openly and willingly professed his faith in Jesus as his Savior. He did not rely upon his deeds, which were many. Instead he relied upon Jesus alone for his salvation. Even with the issues he was dealing with, he still knew his Savior even when he didn't know me. He still hungered for the Lord's Supper even when he didn't know what was for supper. He still lived on the Word even while his mind was leaving him on a daily basis. We can rejoice that another saint of God has entered into eternal life with his Savior.

The family decided to have a private service for Roger. Many have been put off by that for they wanted, perhaps even needed, to have time to say their thank you and good bye to Roger. We know that the visitation and the funeral is for the living, for the dead have already entered into their eternal rest or their eternal damnation (depending on faith or lack of faith in Jesus). Roger had helped many people. He had showed his faith through his kind acts of support for many of the people in our community. And people wanted to show their respect for Roger and have the chance to honor his memory. Without a public visitation or service, that became impossible. I understand the frustration that comes from that situation. At the same time, we must honor and respect the wishes of the family. In your heart you can honor Roger. In your talk about him over the next days and through the discussion that will happen whenever someone mentions Roger in conversation, you can thank God for him. You may not understand the "why" things were done like there were, but you can still remember and honor the memory of Roger and all he did for you and for his community.

Why did he do so much? It was because of his faith in Jesus. He knew that God was the One who blessed him and gave him the resources of his life. He knew that God had given him the talents and skills he had and used those same talents and abilities to the glory of God. Roger knew one thing - he was a child of God. So he lived in that faith. He didn't trust in himself or his deeds for salvation but he trusted in Jesus alone. He loved people of the community because God had first loved him. His life was not meant to lift up "Roger" but it was meant to lift up Christ Jesus.

So when you think of Roger, think of his faith. When you talk of what Roger did, talk about what Jesus did for Roger. And give thanks to God that you had the opportunity to know Roger. And then live each day in the way that Roger did - trusting not in yourself or in someone/thing else in this world. Live each day trusting in and living for Christ Jesus. Share your faith in word and action. Then you will be honoring, not Roger, but the Savior who saved him.

Monday, September 9, 2013

But He Lingered

Those are interesting words to read. I don't think I had ever really noticed them before. This morning I was reading Genesis 19, the story of Lot and the angels in Sodom. As I read, I noticed 3 little words that are often overlooked (I know I have overlooked them), "But he lingered." They don't seem like much, until you put them into their context. After all, I like to linger over a cup of hot tea, just sitting and enjoying the moment, the relaxation and the peace that I find sitting on my front porch. I might linger over a good book. I might even linger with a friend while we are visiting, not wanting the moment to end.

That really is why we linger, isn't it? We don't want the moment to end. A boy and a girl might linger just an extra few minutes so that the evening date doesn't quite come to an end just yet. I can remember lingering on the telephone when Penny and I were dating, not wanting to say good bye because I wanted to at least hear her voice for a few more moments. We linger to keep something, such as a feeling or a situation, alive and in the moment.

But I was reading Genesis 19, as the angels have told Lot that he and his family need to leave the city because the Lord was going to destroy, and those 3 words just stood out to me. "But he lingered." He had tried to keep the 2 men safe from the perversion of the men of Sodom. It was only the power of the angels blinding the men outside Lot's door and their pulling him into his own house that saved Lot from being abused by the other men. The angels told him to get his family, sons-in-law, sons, wife, daughters, whoever was important, to leave the city before it was too late. Time was ticking. Destruction was imminent. "But he lingered."

Lot just couldn't bring himself to let go of Sodom. True, it was wicked. The men had tried to rape the visitors to Lot's house. They had tried to abuse Lot. The Lord had decided that the wickedness of Sodom was so great that He was going to rain destruction from heaven. But Lot lingered. He held onto the city for a little longer. He couldn't let it go. The angels had to forcibly make him get moving. "So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city." (Genesis 19:16 ESV) He wouldn't let go of the moment, the feeling, the desire to be a part of the people of Sodom. He lingered.

How often do we do that very thing? How often can it be said of us, "But they lingered." Think about your life, the situations you have found yourself in. Have you ever lingered just a moment too long, when you knew that it wasn't good for you to linger. The man who lingers in the presence of a woman other than his wife because she makes him feel "alive" in ways that is meant only for his wife. The person at the party that lingers just for one more drink, even though he or she has already had enough to drink, because this makes him or her feel good in a time when they are struggling. How often do we linger around sin?

And that is what struck me this morning. We linger around sin. We are told that we are to flee from sin and the devil, to not stay around them, for they will lead us to our destruction. But we linger. How could staying around a sinful situation just a few more moments really hurt us that badly? How can it affect us to linger for just a little longer? It can't be that bad.

But look at how being in Sodom affected the daughters of Lot. They didn't think twice about getting their father drunk in order to have an incestuous relationship with him, just so they can have a child. Each daughter got pregnant by their father and were proud of it. He lingered and sin takes a solid hold in his family.

Do you linger around sinful situations? Do you believe that it won't affect you? Are you feeling that it is all right to remain a little longer when it is wrong? I pray that the Lord will seize your hand and drag you away from that sinful, destructive situation. I pray that the Spirit would send an angel to protect you and take you to safety before it is too late. And when He does give you that escape from the sinful situation, don't look back in longing over what "might have been." Don't "regret" having to give up that sinful behavior or action. Instead, rejoice that the Lord has brought you safely through temptation and has given you an escape before you got so caught up in the situation that things go from bad to worse.

"But he lingered." I hope that isn't said about you in sinful situations of your life. May the Lord grant you wisdom and give you guidance in whatever situation you are facing at this time. Perhaps He will even seize your hand, and force you away from that which will destroy you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Overcoming in Life.

"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved." (Philippians 4:1 ESV) Reading in Philippians this morning, this verse caught my eye. Perhaps it caught my eye because I had also read Psalm 13. That Psalm starts with the words, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must i take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?" (Ps. 13:1-2a ESV) And I thought of those who carry a tremendous burden on their heart, those who face a crisis like no other crisis, those who struggle each day to face the rising sun because the night has brought them terror or sorrow and the day will only cause their hearts to ache even more. I thought of you.

Like Paul, my heart aches for those who are struggling in their lives. I love each of my people deeply. Who are "my people"? Those whom God has given to me to serve and shepherd. Through these 26 years of ministry, the Lord has brought me to love and care for many people of many congregations. Currently, He has brought me to the saints of St. Paul's, Troy. They are the ones that are near and dear to my heart, even as the Lord has given me others who continue to be near to me or are becoming that way. The love of Christ touches lives in the parish and outside the parish. Like Paul, I can say, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy..." (Philippians 1:3-4 ESV)

One of our members brought up the thought of those who are going through tragic incidents in their lives have the choice of facing those times as victims or survivors. She was looking at it from the clinical point of view, which is very valid and very important. But what she said is so very true. You will either survive the crisis, the tragedy or whatever you are facing or you will be a victim and tormented by it day after day. Those are the choices. To be a survivor does not mean that you forget or are instantly "healed" from the pain or suffering of the moment. You still face all those emotions, pains and sorrows. The difference becomes in whether you are going to overcome or are you going to be overcome. The answer is not easy. Nor does it come from a resolve that lies deep in our heart. We cannot look inside and find the strength that we need to face the crisis of life.

Instead, we must look outside of ourselves, much like David shows in Psalm 13. "How long?" he cries. "How long?" you cry. At that moment you wonder if David is a victim or a survivor. But things turn in the Psalm. They turn from the focus being upon David alone to his relationship with the Lord. He writes, "But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 13:5-6 ESV) The situation of his life hasn't changed. What changed was David. He changed from focusing upon being overcome by the situation to turning to the One who gives strength to overcome - the Lord.

In another Psalm, David writes, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord, our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright." (Psalm 20:7-8 ESV) Only in the Lord is strength to be found. Only in the Lord is there power to overcome the crisis of the moment or the challenge of life. He gives strength. He gives power. He gives all that is needed to face whatever you are facing at this time. He can and will help you through the pain, the suffering, the heart break, and whatever else is encompassing you.

Back to where we began: "Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved." (Philippians 4:1 ESV) Stand firm in the Lord - today. Trust in Him. Let His love encompass you. For in the end, it is only the power of the Lord that will help you to survive and overcome whatever you are facing at this moment. He has overcome for you. Through faith in Him, you can also overcome.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Shine Wears Off

On Monday, I wrote about shining my shoes. They looked good. They weren't like new but they also no longer looked like they were fit only for use in the garden. This morning, Thursday, as I was putting my shoes on, I thought to myself, "They are looking pretty rough again. They almost look like they could stand another polishing." With a shrug, I pulled them on, tied them and began to go about my day. Yet my thoughts kept returning to those shoes and the lesson that they were teaching me.

Shoes and worship - they are very similar. Like the shoes, we are used and abused by life. There are times when we are scuffed up pretty bad by what we are going through - sickness, disappointments, frustrations, misuse by those around us at work, school or home, anger, bitterness, death. There are some real reasons for our hearts and lives to show the wear and tear that we have gone through. Like my shoes, we begin to look pretty beaten and battered. Or maybe we aren't being "scuffed" up by anything in particular. Maybe just daily life scuffs us up - work, school, play, household chores, daily stuff that needs to be done or that we go through regularly. Nothing "major." No major crises. No real reason to be battered and beaten but just normal, daily, mundane events that cause us to show our wear and tear.Like my shoes, just going through each day.

In the end, we look at ourselves and see how beat up we look. (OK, maybe not physically like my shoes, but spiritually.) So what do we do? We attend worship. We go to church on Sunday morning. We hear the Word of God. We are assured that our sins are forgiven. We receive the Lord's Supper. And the Lord "polishes" us up. He cleans us up. He removes the dirt, the grim and the scuffs of sin. He makes us look new again. "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life." (Romans 6:4 ESV) "...and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds." (Ephesians 4:23 ESV) Made new, each and every time we come into the presence of God in worship, we are "polished," cleaned, made new. (I know that the analogy is imperfect and that you might be able to argue that we aren't just "polished" but are actually made new each time, but bear with me.)

We leave worship and go out into our daily lives. We go through much during the week. The wonder of worship fades into the background as we head to work or school and face the challenges of daily life. We are "scuffed" up by trials and tribulations. We are abused by temptation and torn up by sin. Even though we just attended worship, were just fed from Word and Sacrament, (made new, polished up, given that glorious shine of God) we begin to look worse for wear. Perhaps it is only a day or two and it looks like were weren't even "polished" up and made new. We look at ourselves and wonder, "What happened?"

That is why we return to worship week after week. It isn't because we have anything to offer to God. In fact, we come all beat up, broken, "unpolished" after the week of temptation, sin and tribulation that we have faced. We don't look new. We have been through "hell" in whatever we faced. And we look like. We act like it. We come because we need what God gives us in worship - His Word and Sacrament. He takes us lovingly in His hands and makes us new once again. He forgives our sins, feeds us from the Word, returns us to the waters of our Baptism and strengthens us through the Lord's Supper. He makes us new again.

And the cycle continues, week after week, month after month, year after year - for our entire life. Why do I go to worship? All I need to do is look at my shoes and it tells me why - I need what God has to offer there. I need His healing and forgiveness. I need all He is offering to me. Am I too beaten up? Has it been too long since I was there last? That doesn't matter to God. He will take me into His loving hands, wash me again in the waters of Baptism, clean me in the words of forgiveness, feed me from the Word and strengthen me with the Sacrament. Yes, I need what He does for me each week.

The shine is wearing off my shoes. They need to be polished again and again and again. So do I. I need to be made new in Christ. God invited me to worship. He invites you to worship. He invites us in order to make us new in Christ. How will you respond?

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Bit of Polish

It was time. I had put it off long enough. I knew it had to be done but I just didn't want to take the time that was needed to do it. And because of that, it began to look really bad. Perhaps it was even beyond any hope of recovery. In case you are wondering, I am talking about polishing my every day shoes.

I had put it off for too long. It is one of those tasks that you know needs to be done but you keep putting it off. When I would put my shoes on, I would think, "I need to polish those." But then I would figure I would do it later. I would look down at them through the day and think, "I really need to polish my shoes." Then i would go on about my day and not get the job done.

And they really began to look rough. The black was wearing off. They were scuffed. And the toes didn't even look like they had any polish left. Abused, neglected, forgotten, and yet still expected to get me from place to place. Those poor shoes needed polishing.

This morning, I polished them. As I sat there applying the black shoe polish, I wondered to myself if that is how we often treat our spiritual lives. We go through the days, knowing that we need to take time to "polish" our faith but we just figure we can do it later. How would we "polish" our faith? Through God's Word and Sacraments. Each day we should recall our Baptism, the very day when god made us His own and promised us that He would empower us and strengthen us as we go through our days. We need to be regularly in His Word, reading, studying, growing in the message of life and hope that it brings to us. We are to receive the Lord's Supper "often" rather than infrequently. Notice that it is actually God who is "polishing" us through these Means of Grace.

But we so often don't have time for any of them. Our weekend is the only time we have for ourselves so we don't attend worship where we hear God's Word and receive the Sacrament. We are busy each day so we don't have time to read and study that Word of life. We have too much to do so we don't think about the importance of Baptism for our lives.

And, like my poor everyday shoes, we begin to look pretty rough. The days beat us up. The struggles of life abuse us. Our faith life is neglected and forgotten. Then, one day, we look at ourselves and wonder, "What happened to me? Where is God in the middle of my struggles? Why doesn't He do something to help me out?" We blame God for all the problems when in reality, we are the ones who have turned away from the very Means He has given to us to help us and strengthen us as we go through those hard times. We look worse for wear, almost not fit for anything any longer.

I polished the shoes this morning. As rough as they looked when I began, they look pretty good now. I am amazed what some shoe polish and some attention can do to such a beat up looking pair of shoes. It is also amazing what God's Word and Sacrament can do to "polish" one's life when it is looking beaten up and broken. "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," our Lord says to us. Beaten up by life, abused by sin, we hear the Lord's voice, we are drawn in by the Holy Spirit, and we are given what we need - forgiveness of sins, strength to face another day, joy and peace for the walk we are on, love that touches our hearts and lives in a very significant way and the promise that our Lord will never leave or forsake us.

Like the polish does for my shoes, so God does for my soul. He makes me new. He strengthens me. He gives me hope. He carries me through the day. All that comes to me through His Word and Sacraments. Why do I need to worship? Why do I need to receive the Lord's Supper? Why do I need to be in His Word? Because I am a sinner who needs all that my loving Father gives to me.

Don't neglect the Word. Don't refuse the Lord's Supper. Don't forget your Baptism. In these blessed Means, the Lord gives you all you need to face today. Made new in Christ, I go off to face whatever today brings. My soul is refreshed. And my shoes are shining.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stewardship thoughts

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (Psalm 20:7 ESV) I continue to return to Psalm 20. It continues to touch my heart in new and various ways. I will think to myself that I have mined it for all it is worth and then it opens up anew. I sit in awe of the Word of God. I am amazed at the power of this simple word, written so many years ago, in a different setting than I find myself today and yet, wonder of all wonders, it seems as though it could have been written today for times such as these.

As I read this verse again, I thought about our daily lives and I wondered to myself, "What do you trust in?" My first answer was simply, "God." I patted myself on the back and thought, "My how good of a Christian you really are." Sitting back with a sigh, a smile and puffed up ego, I continued to meditate on this Word of God. And slowly the smile left my face, the ego began to deflate and I began to ask, "Really? Do you really trust in the name of the Lord our God? Or do you trust in your own way of thinking? Do you think that you have it all figured out and know what needs to be done at every moment? My shoulders sagged a little and I had to admit, "I may not trust in chariots or horses, but the way that I live my life shows that I trust in myself, my strength, and my thoughts. And I then say to my Lord, "I am sorry. Help me to trust in You alone."

What about you? Do you trust in something of this world or do you trust in the name of the Lord? As I sat in our Voters' Meeting this last Sunday, I heard many things. I heard us giving lip service to God and following Him. But I came to realize that in reality, we trust in our money and assets. We look to them for security rather than looking to God. "But," the argument would go, "I can believe in God but I must make the plans that show that everything will work out just right. We will have enough in the bank account for day to day operations and still have all our assets in place to give us security should something happen and we need it." Really? Can you really be sure that you have worked things out so that you don't have to worry? I think of the parable that Jesus told: "The land of a rich man produced plentifully and he thought to himself, 'what shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops.' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:16-21 ESV)

As I look at this parable, I often think of the way that many of us act in the church. We look at our assets and we trust in them. We must have many assets and then we will feel comfortable and sit back and take our ease. But is that really the way that the Lord tells us to live. Is that really good, Christian "stewardship." The Lord doesn't tell the church to lay up assets for a rainy day or a tough time. Yes, He may well give the church those assets but He doesn't do it so that we can fall down on our life of stewardship. All too often, what happens, is as a people, we trust in our assets and what our plans are for the way the local congregation should go rather than to trust in God. We look to the bank account and figure that if it is big enough, we are all right. And then we forget about our daily stewardship life. We forget that we are called to be Christ-like in how we use what God has given to us. We become stingy, left-over givers. We give out of what we think we can spare rather than being first-fruit givers that trust in God and say, "Lord, You have given all to me. Out of my heart, out of faith in You, I support the work of Your congregation to this level." And then give no matter how much or how little it seems the church may or may not have. Christian stewardship is not giving to a budget. It is giving as the Lord has given to you. Does the church need it? That isn't the question. Does your faith need to act in that way? That is the real question. How does your faith act? If your giving is done only when you feel there is a need, then you are not living in faith. You are living in response to needs. Faith trust in all things and acts. Stewardship is such that it is done no matter what. If you decide that you are giving 10% then you give that amount. If you decide to only give 1%, then you give that amount. If you decide to give 20%, then you give that amount. How you act is meant to reflect your life of faith and your trust in God not to be a response to a budget.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our Lord." What do you trust in? Do your actions match what your lips say? I know that I need to look into my heart and life and ask that question. What about you?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Guidance for Christian Living from Ephesians

In our Sunday morning Bible class we have been working through the epistles of the New Testament. This is an overview of each of the letters. We spend some time in the historical setting of the epistle and then look at a few of the key verses. This has not been an in depth study of each epistle. We are currently looking at the "prison letters" of Paul - Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians.

In writing to the Ephesians, Paul spends time talking about Christian relationships and how to go about living each day with one another. He writes, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:1-3 ESV). These are some powerful words for us to listen to in our lives - and powerful words for us put into practice in our lives.

Walk in the manner worthy of the called wot which you have been called - live each day, in the relationships that you have been given by the Lord in way of Christ, not in the way of the world. That is a huge challenge for each of us. It is so easy to walk in the way of the world instead of in the way of the Christ. After all, our natural inclination is to look out for the "self" and when we do that, we are tempted to put down, tear apart and destroy the other people in our lives. Why? Because that is our nature to do so - the sinful nature wants to show itself. Think of how easy it is to speak evil about someone rather than speaking good about them. Think about how easy it is to find fault and how hard it is to build up. Think of how you might have spoken words of gossip about a situation when you really weren't sure if what you have heard through the grapevine or from another person was even true. That is not walking in the way worthy of the calling you have received.

Instead we are called to live in humility and gentleness, being patient with one another. That is a challenge for us as well. To be humble - wow! So often humility is the last thing on our mind. We think to ourselves that we are better than others (where is the humility in that?) and look down upon others. Being patient is so difficult. We ask for people to be patient with us, giving us time to grow and learn in the situation, but how often are we patient with others? Guided by the Spirit, we are called to humility and gentleness.

As we continue reading in Ephesians, we learn about the life of faith that we are to live each day. One verse that I think we overlook goes like this: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29 ESV) I would like to challenge each of us to make this verse a guide for how we talk to one another and about one another. I do believe it would do three things: 1) change how we talk to and about one another (it would get rid of idle gossip and help to eliminate hurt feelings and angry situations) and 2) would build up the body of Christ, and 3) would make for a stronger witness to those outside of the body of Christ.

Why am I writing about this? Is this in response to what someone has said or done? No it isn't and yes it is. No it isn't in response to any one person or one thing that has been said. Yes it is in the sense that so often it is this very thing that causes people to not want to listen to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As someone listens to how one Christian speaks about another Christian, the one listening says to himself, "If that is how they treat one another, why would I want anything to do with Jesus Christ?" The words we say and the way we say them truly does affect the message we are proclaiming.

Speak only that which is good for building up - that it may give grace to those who hear. We find some wonderful words of God in this letter to the church in Ephesus. Now the challenge. How will I talk today?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Running the Race

A new week has begun. Yesterday was the 1st day of the week, a day when we had the opportunity to join with our fellow Christians in worship. I hope that you took advantage of that opportunity for you will not get that again until next weekend. That time of worship has prepared you for this week with all that will take place in your life. Through Word and Sacrament, the Spirit has strengthened your faith, lifted you up and encouraged you in your walk of faith.

You will be facing many things in your life this week. Some will be filled with joy at the wondrous events that take place. There will be people who get interviewed for a new position, invited to go to an event that they have been wanting to do for a while, have a night out with someone that they have longed to be with for some time, healing will come to someone who has been ill, joy will come to someone who has been filled with sorrow, excitement will take place in the life of some, first games of school will happen in volleyball or baseball and a whole host of other great things will take place For others this will be a sad or difficult week for they will face disappointments, frustrations, events that will bring sorrow to their hearts, difficulty at work or school, weakness of body or mind, disappointment from actions of friends, mistreatment at the hands of some, abuse by others, lies spoken, and relationships broken. And then there will be those who won't have any highs or lows. It will be a "normal" week, with work, school and play being whatever it turns out to be, nothing major, no extremes taking place at all.

What makes me think about that? I was reading in 1 Peter this morning and it started me thinking about what some may be facing this week. Peter writes, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as thought something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." (1 Peter 4:12-14 ESV) As I read that section and others as well, I came to realize that our lives are going to be challenges. Satan is not going to want us to live the Christian life so he is going to work to cause us to become frustrated, upset, angry, and discouraged because of the events that go on this week. One person will face hard times and will look at the one who is facing good times and become upset. "Why can't that be me? Why can't my life be filled with that joy instead of this terror or pain?"

At those moments, I would encourage you to fix your eyes upon your Savior Jesus Christ, the very one who has gone before you on the path that you are upon. As you go through this week, and whatever it brings to you, "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary and fainthearted." (Hebrews 12:3 ESV)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

St. Paul's School, day 2

The first day is in the history books! Things went very well here at St. Paul's as we began the 2013-2014 school year. The students seemed to be happy to return to school. I am sure that some were happy to be back in school to learn and grow while others were happy to see their friends once again. Summer can be long when you don't see your friends everyday.

So that brings us to day #2. Don't worry, I am not going to count each day that we have school. But day 2 is an important day because the "new" of the 1st day has departed and the reality of being back in school sets in. There is still the excitement of the new school year, but there is no longer the nervous butterflies of wondering about a new classroom, a new teacher or new students. You can sense a more "settled" feel among all who are here today. They know that it will be a good year. There will be many blessings and some frustrations. There will be good times and bad times.

Basically, things at school will be like things in our daily lives. Up and down, good and bad, honorable and dishonorable, mentionable and unmentionable. As you look at the days of your life, you probably see that to be the case. There are some days you excel at living the Christian life, while there are other days that people looking at you or listening to you might wonder if you even know that there is a God above.

It is for all our days that our Lord came into the world. He is the heart and center of our lives. He is to be the One that guides our thoughts, words and actions. We pray that the  Holy Spirit will lead each of our students, teachers and families to lives according to the will of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we fail, we will ask the Lord to forgive us and help us do better the next time around.

Yes, it is going to be a good year. Day 2 is rolling along. Students are learning. Teachers are teaching. Relationships are growing. Christ is being proclaimed. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

1st Day of School 2013

Ready or not, here it comes! The 1st day of school is today. At 7:45 a.m. St. Paul's Lutheran School opens its doors again. We rejoice that we are able to offer solid Christians, Lutheran education here in the Troy community. We have the opportunity to reach out into our community with the message of the gospel. It truly is a blessing.

Some children are ready. Some are not. Some are anxious to get back into the classroom with their friends and others are dragging their heals. That is the way it is in every school across the nation as they begin the new school year. I can remember the wonder of a new school year - new pencils and pens, new crayons, new folders, new paper - all of this was a joy for me. Then there was the new classes, with many of the same old friends and some new ones. I can still see the faces of many of them as we went to school year after year. I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to attend a Lutheran school through the 8th grade. I give thanks to God and my parents for making that possible.

Here are St. Paul's, we can rejoice that we have a solid staff that will be teaching our children. Many of our staff are returning again this year. Mrs. Ida Doyle still serves as our principal and 5/6 grade teacher. Mrs. Lauren McLaughlin is our 3/4 grade teacher and our athletic director. Mrs. Laura Thomas is our kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Penny Schuessler is our preschool 3's teacher. Mrs. Rachael Beckemeyer returns as our art teacher. Mrs. Connie Liter continues as the cook. Ms. Linda Craig is the anchor to all that is done as she is our school secretary.

The new staff members come to us with many great qualifications. Dr. Bruce McLaughlin is our 7/8 grade teacher and will work with our technology. Mrs. Mindy Fischer is our called 1/2 grade teacher. Mrs. Amanda Daniels will be teaching our preschool 4's. Mr. Andy Navarro will be teacher music to our children.

Each member of our staff brings their God-given talents and qualifications to our school. We thank the Lord for leading us to have this highly talented staff. We look forward to having them teaching our children through out this coming year.

One last thought before I close. I give thanks that God has lead the parents to send their children to St. Paul's school. I know that it is a challenge to pay the tuition. I can remember my mother working to make ends meet when she sent the 4 of us boys to the Lutheran School Association in Decatur after Pop died. It was a huge challenge. I am sure that it is that way for the families of our school. Is it worth it? Yes it is. It is worth it for our children, to help them to grow in their faith and knowledge of their Savior Jesus Christ. May the Lord bless you as you send your child/children to school this year. Know that we will do everything we can to keep your children safe, to help them to feel loved and to learn about their Savior.

A hymn verse from "Oh, Blest the House:"
Oh, blest the parents who give heed
Unto their children's foremost need
And weary not of care or cost.
May none to them and heav'n be lost! (LSB #862 vs. 3)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Greetings from Virginia - perhaps just a sermon since I don't get to preach this week.

"May we shout for joy over Your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!" (Psalm 20:5 ESV) While on vacation through the nation, this verse has struck me. I have read Psalm 20 numerous times (as is shown by the different colors used in underlining). The amazing thing is, this verse has NEVER been highlighted. There are only 9 verses in this Psalm, but verse. 5 never registered with me. Till now.

And I find it a powerful and meaningful verse for my life. The focus is not upon me, you or anyone else. The focus is upon God and what He has done. We shout for joy...why? Over HIS salvation, over what He has down for each of us. He has won the victory. He has defeated our enemies. How do I know that? We are able to raise our "banners." Those banners that are raised are ones of victory. It is like being in the midst of a battle for a fort, and whoever wins is able to raise their flag. Think of the Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where the "National Anthem" was written. What showed the victory after a night of bombardment from the British ships? The flag still waving on it's pole. So we raise our banners high - because God has won the victory for us! We are victorious, not by our strength, our intensity, our desire but by what He has done.

What is that? He has been raised on the tree, on the cross. He suffered unknown suffering in order to win the victory for us. Where is the victory seen? On the cross? Yes, but that is not where we truly see the victory. We can't raise the banner just yet if we stand at the cross alone. All too often we stand there at the cross and forget that there is more. He dies upon the cross, but we must go from there to another place - to a tomb. NO! We hate going to tombs. It terrifies us. It saddens us. Tears are shed there at the graveside. Too many can't get past the tomb. Why do we need to go there?

"He is not here. He is risen just as He said!" That is why! There, in the empty tomb, a tomb that contains only the cloths that wrapped His body, we see the victory, the salvation of our Lord. The Lord saves! He is risen. The grave is empty. Jesus rose from the dead. And it is right there, in the empty tomb, that we see the victory.

Then we encounter Him! We see the risen Lord - in the Word. As I read Psalm 20 several days ago, I encountered the living Christ in verse 5. All I could do is bow my head in humble adoration. And then I felt like dancing! I felt like shouting (I was sitting in the basement of Julie and Fred's house so I didn't - they were all still asleep). Shout for joy! OVER HIS SALVATION! What joy fills my heart. I encountered the risen living Lord in this simple verse. What joy fills my heart. Set up the banner! Lift high the cross - for that is my banner. Onward Christian soldiers. Christ Jesus lives! He has won the victory.

"May we shout for joy over Your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday morning in San Antonio

Sunday finished with a worship service for the workers and their families, and others. The entire floor of the Lila Cockrell theater was filled and some were on the 2nd level. IT was a powerful service, capped off with the singing of "Brothers and Sisters in Christ" with Terry Dittmer on the organ. Wow! It was so great to sing that with nearly 2000 other brothers and sisters in Christ. Who would have known that when it was written back in the 80's that it would fit the 2013 NLYG  in San Antonio, TX with a theme of "Live/Love[d]"? How does it fit? Listen to the word of the 3rd verse: "Lord, teach us how to proclaim, All Your goodness, Your love and Your name! Lord, teach us how to forgive, (ready for it?) And in love, teach us, Lord, how to live. Raising our voices..." Did you catch it? Live/Love[d] is in the song. In love teach us Lord how to live! Who would have known? God knew! He knew that we would be learning to Live/Love[d] here in San Antonio - even back in the 80's. What an awesome God! Kinda makes you want to sing it again, doesn't it?

Registration went great. Our Youth Group is registered, in their hotel, have eaten on the Riverwalk, swam in their pool and enjoyed being in San Antonio. Penny and I had the chance to see them last night. It was great to see people from home here. They looked good. And they looked like they were having a good time. Go Troy!

We have over 2000 staying at this hotel representing 118 churches. That is a lot of rooms! Registration went great at the Grand Hyatt. Way to go! Just a note - we have 49 states represented. Can you guess which state is not? I will tell you at the end. We have nearly 1/2 of the congregations of the LCMS represented. There are folks from 11 countries. This is the largest gathering of LCMS folks for a long time. Besides being the huge Youth Gathering that it is, this is also the largest gathering of Lutheran adults at one event. With workers, special guests, adult leaders, etc. there are over 7,000 adult Lutherans at this gathering. WooHoo!

And why are we all here? To Live/Love[d]. We are going to grow in faith. We are going to share that faith. We are going to love one another. We are going to love the folks of San Antonio. We are going to be fed from Word and Sacrament (I get to assist in communion distribution Thursday morning at the worship service! Darrell, Alex and Casey are going to be on my team! I am pumped!). The Holy Spirit is going to do amazing things here - reignite faith, renew love, build trust, overcome the devil, free from addictions, and a whole host of other things that only the Spirit can do! Holy Spirit, do Your thing! You can't ask for more than that!

Live/Love[d] is a gift to our church body from the Lord. He is giving us the opportunity to grow in faith and to share that faith. Let's do this! Let's grow! Let's share! Let's live the love of God each day. Thank You, St. Paul's, for sending our youth and adults here, for supporting our 4 YAVs and for supporting Penny and I in coming down here. While we are here, be sure to pray for us and for the Gathering. And let's all Live/Love[d]!

What state isn't represented? If you guessed Hawaii, you would be wrong. The big Kahuna of the Traffic Team, Mitch Gowan and his wife Nancy, are from Hawaii. If you guessed Alaska, you would be wrong. So what state is it? Wait for it, wait for IT...............West Virginia! Bet you didn't guess that state.

Talk with you soon! God be with you.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday - a day of transition and arrival

San Antonio, TX - get ready to have the Holy Spirit do some powerful things! What kind of things? Hearts changed, souls saved, weak strengthened, love uplifted, joy spread, fun attained and just about anything else you can imagine. I found myself outside of the hotel this morning listened to the Spirit and feeling like dancing in the street. I didn't because of traffic but boy do I know what King David felt like. The Ark of the Covenant may not be coming into San Antonio today but thousands of young people and their adult leaders are arriving and the Holy Spirit has put joy in my heart. Dance! Sing! Shout! If not me, who will be like Jesus to the least of these? Use me! I am Your servant.

Many youth are traveling today. The youth and adults from St. Paul's will be leaving from church at 8:30 this morning (Sunday). I pray that they will be safe in travels. That their flight will be smooth. And their arrival on time. Reflect the love of Christ at the airport, to TSA, to the flight attendants, to all the others that you come in contact with today. You are the Light of Christ moving through this country. May the Light of Christ shine brightly in all that you are say and do!

Penny and I have been in training. All day yesterday - from 8:30 a.m. -6:30 p.m. - we were in the Convention Center, learning what our roles are and how to help out in whatever way we can. So many pieces to the puzzle are coming together. Thank the Lord for the Youth Board of the Missouri Synod. They are a powerful part of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of the youth and in the lives of the folks in San Antonio. I know that there are those in our church body who look down on them but my friends, those folks are wrong. The ministry they are doing is amazing and the Spirit is doing great and powerful things through them. Thank You Lord! (OK, I almost got going on the political climate in our church but the Spirit stopped me. It would have been me, my feelings, not His that would have been spouted.)

So here we go. Half a day of training in specific duties today. And then back at the hotel from 1-6 to greet youth and adults at the Grand Hyatt. We have 2180 youth and adults staying in this hotel! 2180! That is a lot of people in one hotel. Only the Marriott River Center has more - over 2400. The team here - Penny and myself, Tom and Trudy Heren, Nancy Gowan and Shirley Smith - rocks! I have the best CLB team of any hotel! It is great.

More to come. I am pump! Holy Spirit, use me! Let's rock this town. My prayer at the start of every service is "Holy Spirit, rock this place!" I pray that now for San Antonio. Holy Spirit, Rock this Town! Rock these kids! Move mightily! Strengthen us! Fill us! Empower us! Amen.