Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All Lives Matter

By now just about everyone has heard about the verdict in from the Grand Jury on the Michael Brown death. What will be amazing is that many people who will not bother to listen to or read the information that comes from the Grand Jury will know much better than those 12 people who sat through over 70 hours of testimony in the case. Organizations across the nation all know better than the Grand Jury. In many ways it is like the Monday morning quarterback after the game who has all the answers while sitting in his easy chair. "If only..." "They don't know the truth..." and a whole host of other statements will be made. People will little or no knowledge about the situation will know better than those involved. That is the way of the world. No one know better than me. I know that I am as guilty of that as anyone. We all do it.

In the end, we need to accept the verdict and go on. But that can't and won't happen. We saw that last night in Ferguson and across the nation. There are reports of protests taking place across the nation. What amazes me is that these protests range in size from a couple dozen people to thousands. Yet we have spent a huge amount of time and resources to give these organizations free press time. We have opened the door to the organizations to tell the Grand Jury they were wrong. We are spending hours and hours on this whole thing.

I was looking at pictures of the protests. Signs like "Black Lives Matter" were held up. Of course black lives matter. All lives matter. So do the lives of the police officers (black, white, hispanic, etc.) who are putting their lives on the line while these protesters put the officers lives on the line. Don't the officers lives matter? Does a protester have the right to threaten the life of a police officer jsut because he is a police officer? Doesn't his life matter? Such signs are double standards. While the signs "black lives matter" are held up, black and white lives are being taken by gangs members who shoot people over drug deals, robberies and a whole host of other reasons. Every morning in the St. Louis area there are news reports of another shooting, knifing or murder that took place over night. Don't those lives matter? Why are the protesters not in the community protesting against those actions, telling the people of the respective communities that "black lives matter"? That is were the real problem is to be found.

I was disgusted as I looked at the pictures from the protests and saw a sign saying "Police are racist murderers." Really? How does that help? There are thousand upon thousands of police in this country. Are they all racist murderers? Of course not. All that sign was meant to do is inflame an already explosive situation. I was offended by such a sign. Yet, I am not supposed to be offended. If I was to protest such an action, I would probably be called a racist. Really? Is not the person holding the sign being the very thing I would be accused of? Of course. But because of the color of his skin, it was all right.

I guess you can say I am ranting this morning. In a way, I am. How did the Grand Jury verdict justify the rioting (not peaceful protests at all) and the looting that took place overnight? What gives someone the right to burn down a business just because they disagree with a Grand Jury verdict? Think of the lives that have been ruined because of the actions last night. These peaceful protests were not peaceful nor were they protests. They were violent acts of aggression against people who had nothing to do with what was decided. They were opportunists who used this as a chance to get crazy, steal, and destroy. How many of them were not protesters at all but were gang members getting what they wanted from the community?

All right, I am at the end of my ramblings this morning. As I watched all that was taking place, I wondered how God could still love us. And then I realized, that is why God sent His Son into the world, for Michael Brown, for his family, for Darren Wilson and his family, for the community of Ferguson, for the rioters, for the looters, for the racists, for the haters, for the people who speak out of anger and hatred, for the ones who act out of ignorance, for you and for me. It is for this reason that He sent His only-begotten Son. The only message that can heal a community is the message of the Gospel. No other message can heal, can save, can give hope.

Only the Gospel. May that be proclaimed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

It is time to face Thanksgiving Day. This holiday is one in which many of us will eat far too much and enjoy every moment of it. I look forward to the turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach dish (whatever it is called), rolls, a whole host of other goodies and of course, PIE! I love pie. There aren't too many pies I don't like. (I won't bore you with the details of those pies, just know that blackberry, pumpkin, apple, cherry, gooseberry, blueberry, blackberry, and a whole lot of others are my favs.)

What I really love about Thanksgiving is spending time with family. It is nice to have Matthew home from Concordia University, Seward. We haven't seen him since mid-August. It will also be nice having Brandon Beckemeyer home. He is away at work most of the time so any time he can make it home is a real blessing. Then Penny's sisters Sue and Stacey (and Stacey's family) will be here. Gathering around the supper table on Thursday will be a real treat. And then to cap it off, there will be great food. Family and food, how much better can it get?

The moment I said that, I knew that there was one way it can get better - to have family gather in another place and celebrate together. The place to gather is the House of the Lord. It would be such a pleasure to be able to worship with family. It isn't often that we as family can gather in one place for a time of worship. But, oh, how I long for that. To be able to lift up our voices in song together, to hear the Word of God together, to receive the Sacrament together - that is truly a time of Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, that won't happen. Family won't be here on Thanksgiving Eve for worship. I will have my wife and kids worshiping but the rest of the family will either be traveling or won't arrive till Thursday. Then they will all leave before the weekend so we won't even have that time together.

But that makes me give thanks for and look forward to another time - the time when we will all gather together around another table. That table is the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. One day, when Christ comes again, He will draw us to Himself. He will welcome us into heaven. And all those who believe in Him as their Savior will enter into that blessed place. And there, gathered around the Lamb's Table, in the presence of Jesus Himself, we will shall join together. Oh, how I long for that time. With all the saints through the ages I pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."

Until then, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with one another when we can. We will miss those who can't be with us - either by distance or by death. We will enjoy the meal. We will share the times together. And we will thank God for one another.

May you have a a blessed Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Heart Belongs to God

On October 21st I had a stent put in my heart. Prior to that event, my heart ached within me. So often we talk about a "heart ache" because something has happened to us, some sad event such as a death or the lose of a friendship. That wasn't the case for me. My heart truly did ache within me. At first it would only take place at times during the day and then would pass and be gone. As time went on, it would begin to last longer until it would start when I rose in the morning and would continue through out the day. It became easier to say when my heart didn't ache within me than when it did. For day and night my heart would ache within me. 

So I finally went to the doctor and he performed the heart catherization. Laying there while the doctor plays around inside your heart is a little weird. I can't say that I felt anything because I didn't Yet I was still aware of what was taking place. The medication put me into a fog but at the same time I was aware of what was taking place. It is a strange feeling to have the doctor saying to you, "As we talked about, I am going to put a stent into that artery in order to open it up." What am I to say at that point? Al I could think of was a simple, "OK." How profound! "OK." Here is a man with a wire up inside my artery, reaching into the area of my heart, telling me he is going to put a stent (which I assumed is some sort of metal but I am not sure) inside my artery and all I can say is "OK." Then I listened as they talked about what size they would use - which made no sense to me.

And I wonder to myself about the whole situation. I am willing to let the doctor play inside my heart because it is for my best. "OK," is all I say. And he does what is needed. Others will have valves replaced and bypasses done, all in order to keep alive, to make life better for them. I was having it done to get rid of the aching in my chest that would never go away. I placed myself in the hands of the doctor, trusting that he would do what was right.

As I think about it (wonder about it), I think about how reluctant we are to allow God into our hearts. We close up our hearts and refuse to allow God to work in our hearts and lives because of a variety of reason. We don't want God running our lives. We don't feel that we need Him. We don't believe He exists. There are as many reasons as there are people who refuse to allow God to come into their hearts. Let the doctor play around inside there but God better not get involved. Don't let God in your heart. Refuse Him. Fight Him. Do whatever is necessary to come up with some sort of other "god" or form of worship or form of life but refuse the true God.

Amazing! I am completely amazed with that. "OK" I say to the doctor. "NO," I say to God. Really? Isn't that backwards? But the doctor has your life in his hands. Yes, and God has your eternity in His hands. In reality, it is God who has your life in His hands too, whether you acknowledge Him or believe in Him. He alone guides the hands of the doctors. He alone gives health. He alone controls life and death. It isn't the doctor. It is God who holds your life in His hands. 

As I came out of surgery, I must say, I gave thanks to God for that stent. I rejoiced that He was the One in charge and not the doctor. He was the One who held my heart. He still holds my heart. He fills my heart to overflowing with His love. He alone is the One who gives me the freedom from the pain the chest. How? Through the work of the doctor. Through the medicine. Through the stent. But ultimately through His healing hand. There alone is the freedom from the aching, the pain, the problems.

Yes, I have a stent. But in the end, it is God who has my heart. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday morning, did you really have to come today? Wait, I guess it did. After all, Monday always follow Sunday and yesterday was Sunday. I know it was Sunday because I had the opportunity to worship with 40+ youth and adults at Camp Wartburg. I didn't have the pleasure of worshiping with my friends and family at St. Paul's, Troy but that didn't change the fact that I did have the pleasure of worshiping with 11 members of St. Paul's, 3 members of Bethlehem Ferrin, as well as members of Edwardsville, Sparta, Murphysboro, Waterloo, Belleville, Greenville and maybe another congregation or two (depending on where the camp counselors attend worship). What a pleasure it was to worship at Camp Wartburg. The weather tried to stop the worship. Just as we all gathered in the outdoor worship area at the camp, the rains came. At first, just a light rain and then heavier. It was crying, "Stop this worship!" To which we responded, "NO!" Moving up the hill to the pavilion, the praise team of Sparta went from electric to acoustic, and we were dry and able to worship the Lord. It was a great morning for worship.

And I thought, as the rains came down, about Dean Mafereka of South Africa telling us about the problems that they have when it rains. The metal roofs make it so loud that they have trouble hearing what is being said. They have no PA system (neither did we). But the roof on the pavilion didn't make so much noise that we couldn't hear the Word of God.

At that moment, I gave thanks to the Lord for being able to share the Word of God with the campers at the SID Junior High Retreat. They could hear the Word. The rains came and they could hear! It isn't that way around the world. In fact, in many areas of the world, they are not able to gather to hear the Word of God without fear for their life. The biggest fear we had was...I am not sure that we had a big fear. Maybe a spider crawling across a table or the person next to us singing off key with "Good Morning God." No, we had no fears about worship. There were probably a lot of fears in the hearts of each person that was there on Sunday but it wasn't about what would happen if we gather for worship.

Rejoice in the Lord always! That was part of the epistle reading. So we rejoiced in the Lord. Fix your eyes upon Jesus. That was the theme. So we fixed our eyes upon Jesus. Clothed in the garments of righteousness given in the waters of Baptism, we gathered at the Feast of the Lord, even as the Gospel reading told us. (No, there was no communion as these were Junior High students who hadn't been confirmed yet. And the Feast was there - in the Word! Too often we forget that the Word is powerful and elevate the Lord's Supper above the other Means of Grace. But that is a whole different line of thinking than this blog puts forward.)

It was a great weekend. I give thanks for being able to take 10 youth and Penny with me to this Retreat. I pray that they grew in their faith. I know I did. I also grew in my relationship with them. I give thanks for St. Paul's, Troy making it possible for this to happen.

Now, on to the new week. Rejoice in the Lord always. And fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Jumping to Conclusions

You see the person dressed in leather and immediately think that he must be some sort of radical biker that strikes fear into the heart of all people. The man has tattoos on his arms and you immediately figure he is a gang member. Jumping to conclusions, it's easy to do. Ripped jeans, beat up car, suit and tie, sandals instead of shoes, shoes and dark socks with shorts, long hair, short hair, colored hair, bald head, and a variety of other things that immediately lead you to jump to conclusion about a person you have just met or perhaps that you have just seen walking past you at Walmart or McDonald's. You look at them and figure you know all about them. Why? Because you look at them and come to a conclusion about them and their situation.

That happened in my reading this morning. It is something that gets lost in the general reading but for some reason, it struck me this morning. Hannah has gone to Shiloh to pray and ask the Lord to give her a son. She is torn apart by infertility (which is what we call it today, instead of seeing that the Lord is the One who controls conception and not man). She longs for a child. She is tormented by Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah (let's not get into the whole issue of several wives and the problems this has always caused when it took place). Peninnah can have children and she looks down her nose at Hannah because she cannot.

So Hannah is at Shiloh, pouring out her heart to the Lord. She is praying from the depth of her heart. We are told, "As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heart." (1 Samuel 1:12-13 ESV) SO what conclusion does Eli jump to? "How long will you go on being drunk. Put your wine away from you," he says to her. (1 Samuel 1:14 ESV) He immediately figures she is some drunk woman muttering to herself in the midst of a drunken stupor. He looks at her and has it all figured out.

That is us! We do that! I know that I do (though I am not proud of it and try to reign in my sinful nature that leads me to act in that way). You see the person, you figure you know what is going on. But do you? How many times are we wrong? How many times do we make the wrong judgment about a person? How often do we not give a person a chance just because we "know" what type of person he or she is based on what we see? Eli did, and he was the priest at Shiloh. He should have known better but he didn't. He was following his sinful thoughts. He condemns Hannah before he even knows her.

Let's not do that. Let's ask the Lord to help change the way we act. Hannah corrects Eli. She sets him straight on what is going on. Most of the time, we don't have that opportunity to be set straight by the person we have judged. We see him, we judge and we walk on. Instead of jumping to conclusions, if we are really concerned about the person, perhaps we should lift them up in prayer at that moment. Ask the Lord to help the person in whatever situation he or she might be in. Perhaps they are stuck in their circumstance and are looking for a way free. Perhaps they are stuck in sin and are happy in it. Perhaps they just dress or look the way they are and in fact, they are far from what we make them out to be. It doesn't matter. Ask the Lord to be with them, to help them in whatever they are facing. And if they need help, ask the Lord to use someone else to help them. (Got you there, didn't I? That is exactly what we do. We don't want to get involved so we ask the Lord to help a person and then walk away. Perhaps YOU are the one that the Lord wants to reach out to the person to help them. Perhaps.)

And then ask the Lord to forgive you for acting like Eli, for jumping to conclusions without knowing what is going on. Ask Him to help you to change from a critical person to a loving person, from a judgmental person to a helpful person. Eli's life changed following that encounter with Hannah. He learned over the next couple of years that the Lord had a plan for the people of Israel. And it all began with this women he figured was drunk. How wrong he way! Perhaps you and I have been just as wrong.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Be Careful What You Say

Watch what you say. That is a lesson that can be learned from Jephthah. Who is Jephthah you ask? He was a judge of Israel. You can find his story in Judges 11-12. Interesting story. I won't go into detail on his life (you can read it for yourself). But the one thing that stands out to me as I read about his time as a judge is the vow he made before he went out to fight the Ammonites. He said, "If you (the Lord) will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out form the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." (Judges 11:30-31 ESV)

There are two things I see: 1) Jephthah was influenced by the pagan culture in which he lived. The act of offering up a burnt offering was a part of the culture of the people of Israel. The tragedy of the vow is found in that it was his daughter who came out of the house to meet him. The Lord was appalled by the pagan practice of offering up people as burnt offerings. That was what took place in the worship of Molech and Baal. It was seen as an abomination. Yet, Jephthah does just that. Why would he imagine that what the Lord saw as an abomination would be acceptable to the Lord? (You could ask that about various things going on in our society today as well.) Human sacrifice was and is wrong.

2) Jephthah spoke too quickly. He made a vow without even thinking about what he was saying. He spoke rashly in the heat of the moment. This is like King Herod when his daughter danced for him at the party. It cost John the Baptist his head. Here it cost Jephthah's daughter her life. He made a vow when he should have just been asking for the Lord's guidance.

Be careful what you say. You can't put the words back in your mouth. And when they come back to you, they will be bitter. Think before you speak. Let your words be according to the will of the Lord and not according to the desire of your sinful heart. In order to know that your words are in accord with the Lord's will, you need to spend time in that Word of God.

Jephthah spoke rashly and quickly. Have you done something similar? If so, instead of further it on and causing more problems, admit you spoke wrong, ask for forgiveness and then change the way you talk. The Lord is willing to forgive. He will also guide you in how you live each day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A story from Judges - Serve the Lord!

I was reading in the book of Judges this morning. Our Thursday Bible Study class has been studying Intrepid Heroes of the Bible. One of those heroes was Joshua. After studying Joshua, I felt compelled to read through the book of Judges. It is a fascinating book. I taught a Bible Study on Judges once, long ago.

As I read, I came across the story of Deborah and Barak. In this story, the Lord calls Barak to lead the people of Israel against Sisera who had 900 iron chariots. The Lord promised to give victory. That should have been a slam dunk for Barak. The Lord says to go and fight and He will give victory. What more needs to be said?

But Barak didn't want to do it. When this word came to him through Deborah the judge, he was still unconvinced. He wouldn't do it unless Deborah accompanied him. As this unfolded there were 2 things that caught my attention. The first is that Deborah was called to act in as much as Barak was to lead the people. So often, when someone else is called into action by the Lord, it might just affect you as well. Just because someone else is called to do something, doesn't mean that you won't have to do something as well.

As a pastor, I see this regularly. I am called to lead the people of St. Paul's in Word and Sacrament. Yet, just because I am called to lead the congregation does not relieve the members of the congregation from doing the work of the Lord. Too many times, we will sit back and let someone else do that which is needed, refusing to get involved. Then one of several things happens: a) it doesn't go well and we blame them for not trying harder, b) it doesn't go the way we like and we sit and complain to anyone who will listen, c) it goes well and we try to take credit for it in some sort of way, d) it does well and we want to jump on the bandwagon but it is too late, it is finished, e) you can figure out some other way that we react to the situation. Each one of us is called to serve the Lord. Barak was called to lead the army. Deborah was called to go with the army. The soldiers were called to fight in the army. The people of Israel who were not soldiers were called to support their work. All were called to lift up the soldiers in prayer. Everyone was called into service. That is how it is to be in the local congregation as well. All are called into service.

The second thing that caught my attention was that Deborah told Barak because he wasn't willing to step forward, someone else would get the credit for the victory. That person would be a woman. The first thought is that Deborah is going to get credit for the victory. But that isn't the case. Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, is the one who gets credit for the victory. This made me think. How often do we think we need to get credit when something good happens? When someone else gets the credit, we get upset and wonder why they didn't stroke our ego. You may not be the one who gets the credit for things when it goes well. It is selfish of us to think that every situation is about "me". It wasn't about Deborah. It was about what the Lord was doing. It wasn't about Barak but about what the Lord was doing. And it took a little known person to do the work.

The story made me think. Serve the Lord. That is the call. Don't worry about who gets the credit. Just serve the Lord. Do what needs to be done at the time. Let the Lord guide you in the actions of the moment. Be involved. Don't be afraid to get messy in the service of the Lord. (It go really messy for Jael). Serve the Lord, however and whenever He has need of you.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Reflections

A beautiful fall morning. Kettles over open fires. The smell of wood smoke in the air. Clear blue skies. Joy. Joking and talking. Apples in buckets. Poured into kettles. Children bouncing around between the kettles. Adults talking. Fellowship. Divine, peaceful fellowship.

All that changed in a moment. Images of horror. One plane, one building. An accident? It has to be. A second plane. A second building. Horror. Fear. Terror. Exactly what was meant to happen. Tear apart the fabric of peace and replace it with terror, fear, anxiety, and unrest. It worked.

Quiet. But not a peaceful quiet. An unrestful quiet settles over everything. Returning from school, and the joking is gone. There is a tenseness that wasn't there before. Still cooking, stirring, watching and wondering. Listening. Asking. Filled with...uncertainty.

But wait, wasn't that uncertainty there before that moment? We could never be sure of anything. I will do this. I will go there. So certain. But it wasn't certain even before the towers collapsed. We just "believed" it was sure and certain, that everything was all right and we had no cares in the world. All that happened that day was the bringing to the surface what was there all along.

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."  (Romans 8:36 ESV) We don't like this passage. We don't like what it tells us. For we live in a time, in an age, when we don't consider death as the reality. We don't look at suffering and pain as our lot in life. When those things happen, we become angry and upset. We should not face death. We should not have to suffer. NO! We will not allow it. Drop this talk of suffering and death.

But our lives are uncertain. "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12 ESV) 9/11 caused us to face the reality of life. We are frail, feeble people, even us Americans are still frail and feeble. We think we are strong. We think we can stand on our own. We cannot. We need to realize this fact. And the events of 9/11 almost taught us that.

We called on the Lord. We cried out in pain. We begged for relief. We longed for a peace that could pass all human understanding as the events of 9/11 unfolded and were burned into our memories.

And all along, that peace was there. All along there was the One who had faced all our terrors and had overcome them. There was One that had already traveled the path upon which we were walking even before 9/11 happened.

All we were looking for (and still look for) is right there in Christ Jesus. He has faced our terror, our pain, our fear, even our death - and overcame it. He died in our place. And then He rose to overcome all that we face.  "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure (convinced) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers (nor terrorists) nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39)

Our certainty is in Christ Jesus, His life, death and resurrection. Will sickness come? Yes. Will terrorists destroy life and property? Yes. Will people riot in another community? Yes. Will I be filled with uncertainty over the situation of my life? Yes. Will I face situations that seem hopeless? Yes. Will people die? Yes. Will my loved one die? Yes. Will I die? Yes.

BUT! I am convinced that none of those things will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He brings to me and to you, to our nation, to the world, a peace that passes all human understanding. He gives peace in a world of terror, pain, suffering, loss, destruction, and death. His peace is eternal. It is ours - through faith in Him alone.

9/11 is history. We cannot and will not forget. But let us not forget another day, a Friday, a Good Friday that was followed by an even better Sunday, an Easter Sunday, a Sunday of resurrection. There is our peace.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Words from Jude

This morning I read a whole book of the Bible. I say that not to brag but to get your attention. As I did my devotions, I read from both Exodus and Jude, two interesting books that don't get a lot of attention - Exodus because after the people of Israel leave Egypt and enter the wilderness, they receive the directions for construction of the Tabernacle which is less than exciting for most people and Jude because it just is a short book with little real reason to read it. I would argue both thoughts miss the point but that might be for another blog and another time.

As I read Jude, I was amazed by how he brings so many different events into his writing. There is the Exodus followed by the angels that did not want to remain with God in their proper place and were put in eternal chains. He mentions Sodom and Gomorrah and their sexual deviation that caused their destruction. As he talks about the temptations of life and the struggles of Christians, he rolls through people and events without even batting an eye. The events just flow from his pen.

Without getting into the historical discussion of each, I must say that what I learned from him (among other things) is the importance of knowing your history. He seems to know about all the different events that he writes and even seems to assumes that his readers know these events, that they are not new or foreign to them. They are part of his life and he assumes are part of the lives of his readers.

And I thought, can we make that assumption today? If I preach a sermon with all sort of references to people and events from the Bible, be it Old or New Testament, will the hearers know what I am talking about? Moses' children spent time with their grandfather. Jethro gave Moses some great advice that Moses accepted. Amazing stuff. Did you know it? When I teach confirmation class, I need to not only teach the catechism but must teach the basics of the Word as well. Many of the young people who come into 7/8 grade confirmation class, need to learn not just the doctrine of the Lutheran church but also the stories of the Church.

We need to return to teaching the Word. Over and over again we need to teach the stories of the Word so that we will know them, cherish them and share them. It is so important for us to know the Word. We can't live a Word that we don't know.

Just thinking this morning. As I read these two books, I came to realize that I, as a pastor, need to make sure that I teach the Word over and over again. I should not assume that people know the Word. Yes, there are some that know it much better than me. I do not claim to be uber knowledgeable but I continue to read and study the Word.

Final thought - return to the Word. Each day, read it. Make it a part of your day and your life. Musings finished for the day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Christ's light shines upon us

This morning I was thinking about the sunrise. It happens each morning. It happens no matter whether I want it to come or not. The sun rises each morning. If I have had a long, sleepless night, I might welcome the sun when it finally rises. At those times it seems like it takes forever for the sun to rise and night to be over. I embrace the sunrise and give thanks that the long night of darkness is over. Other mornings, I curse the rising of the sun. (All right, that really isn't true. I don't know if I have ever cursed the sunrise. I use that word to bring about the point I am making.) When I want to sleep, when I have had too short of a night of rest, when I am enjoying laying bed, snoring away, the sun rises and breaks into my comfort, my peace, my sleep and wakens me. The sunrise on those mornings isn't so welcome. In fact, it is actually frowned upon because instead of letting me sleep, it forces me to break out of sleep and enter into the new day.

Sunrise - it comes without my bidding. It comes without my asking. It comes when I don't want it. It comes each and every day. I can't make it happen. Nor can I stop it. (As I use this analogy, I realize that it isn't perfect but it seemed to work in my thoughts.)

Sunrise - the Light of Christ breaking upon the darkness of my life. So many times we hear about the fact that we bring ourselves into the relationship with Christ, we decide to follow Christ, it is up to us in our lives if we want the Light of Christ. Bringing ourselves to Christ is like saying we caused the sun to rise today because we wanted it to rise. We can't do either. Christ comes to us, often unbidden and often unwelcomed. He is unbidden because we don't realize how much we need Him. He is unwelcomed because when He comes into our lives, we must change. We don't have a choice. He changes us. He makes us new and different people. Like the sunrise that comes when we want to sleep, but it comes anyway and awakens us, so the Light of Christ comes when we are asleep in our trespasses and sins, and awakens us to a new life, a different life, a life that we may not be ready to live. The Light of Christ changes our lives. And we may not want that. How many times have you sat in a worship service, listened to the sermon and had it hit you hard? You then are faced with the question, am I going to change or am I going to follow the old way? Am I going to be changed by Christ and His Word or am I going to harden my heart and not change from my old, sinful ways? The Light of Christ has a way of challenging us in that way.

And then there are times when we are facing struggles, hardships, pains, toils, trials, tribulations, temptations and sins, and we long for the Light of Christ. We ask where He is, why He isn't coming to us. We even do what we can to "force" Him to act in a way that will change the situation of our lives. Like the person longing for the sunrise to end the dark night, we long for Christ to act in order to end the darkness of the situation. We can't make Christ act any more than we can force the sun to rise. At those times, we are like the Psalmist who says, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits... more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning." (Psalm 130:5-6 ESV)

Sonrise - the Light of Christ comes to you. His light shines brightly into your darkness and brings hope. His light shines brightly into your sinfulness and brings forgiveness. He comes to you. You don't come to Him.

All right, that is the musings and ramblings for this morning. May Christ's light break upon your day as you face today. As it does, remember, His light changes your life.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Drink from the Well

It is hot! It is really hot! Between the high temperatures and extreme dew point, there is a extreme heat warning in effect for the metro area. That means that it isn't safe for folks to be outside for any great lengths of time. It also isn't safe to leave the pets outside for any length of time. Our dog, Zebulun, doesn't like to go out in this heat. He loves the AC. Then again, every time I am outside and walk into the AC, I will think, "Thank God that He gave someone the knowledge of how to make AC work." Weather like this makes us give thanks to God for those things we often forget about on most occasions.

One thing that is needed on these hot days is to continue to stay hydrated. It is important to drink plenty of water to refresh the body and keep it healthy. Without the water, the body will begin to have all sorts of problems.

As I thought about that today, my mind went to the account of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Jacob. You can find this encounter in John 4. The subject of the discussion between the two begins with water. Jesus asks her for a drink of water. Soon the discussion goes from the physical (needing water) to the spiritual (needing water). Jesus says to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whomever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14 ESV) The water that Jesus is talking about is that Word of eternal life that He brings to all.

The Word of God (and Jesus is that Word as John tells us in John 1) is the life-giving water that quenches the eternal thirst of the soul. We are called to drink deeply from this well of eternal life. There in the Word we will hear of all that our Lord has done and continues to do for us in our lives. He will refresh our souls day after day. This wondrous, life-giving Water flows over us (in the waters of Baptism), through us (through the hearing and reading of the Bible) and fills us (in the Lord's Supper).

You wouldn't think of trying to mow the lawn without drinking water on these hot days (or on most days). Why would you think of trying to go through your daily life without those blessed Means of Grace refreshing you? Jesus invites us to the Well of Living Water. Come to the Well. Drink deeply of what He gives to you and be refreshed.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

It has been a while since posting

Yes it has been a while. Why? I haven't sat down and blogged. During June, July and early August, I enjoyed sitting on the front porch for devotions and reading. Now that school is back in session, I don't have the mornings free to sit and read like I was. While sitting on the porch, the computer sat on the table, looking forlorn. Poor thing. When I finally came in, I didn't feel like blogging.

I also have the new page on the Church website, www.saintpaulstroy.org which I need to keep up-to-date weekly which makes me think about what to write there. What I write on the church page will be different from my blog. 

Any thoughts to share. Yes. I enjoyed Hawaii. I loved the views, the weather, the food, the ocean, the ship, the sights and sounds, the traveling, the wonder of creation. Penny and I celebrated 30 years of wedded bliss with a trip to the islands and a cruise around the islands. 10 days and nearly 2000 pictures later, we came home to reality. Loved it. Might say more later.

Summer was amazingly short. Summer is always wonderful. Time on the front porch to enjoy the nature God has given us. Warm weather. Sunshine. Early sunrises, late sunsets. All of that makes for a wonder of life. I sit and watch the birds, the bees, the butterflies and the flowers and amazed. God really did a great job with creation. 

 I guess today I am thinking more about God's creation. He made all this in just 6 days! Just because He wanted to make it. And then He made man and woman to be in a relationship with Him. When Adam and Eve sinned, He still loved them and wanted to be in a relationship with them. So He promised them a Savior, which just happened to be His only-begotten Son! Suffering and dying on the cross, the Son of God won salvation for all mankind. What a wonder it really is! 

In the end, all I can say is thank you God! Thank You for Your love. Thank You for forgiveness. Thank You for salvation. Thank You for creation. Thank You for life. Thank You God.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer time

Well, it has happened. Summer has begun! I know that school has been out for a little over a week. St. Paul's School finished on May 30th and Triad finished on June 2nd. Our staff had two days of training and meeting at the beginning of June. So for St. Paul's school staff, it has only been 1 week that they have been out of school (add to that the fact that they had to prepare their rooms for floor refinishing). So this week, I can say, "Summer has begun."

I really don't have anything on my mind in which I feel the need to speak about. It is summer, after all. While school might be over, summer means that there are other things going on at church. The ministry of St. Paul's doesn't stop on the last day of school. In fact, there are many things taking place at this time.

Work has begun on the float for the Troy Homecoming Parade. On Sunday, June 8th, we had over 2 dozen people show up to help out on the float and to prepare the bags for handing out at the parade. Over 2000 bags were prepared! There is still some work to be done on the float. That will take place in the Ministry Center gym on Sunday, June 29th starting at 3:00 p.m. and going till it is finished. We need your hands to help put the tissue paper on the chicken wire.

Vacation Bible School is coming! June 16-19 from 9-11:30 a.m. each day, we will have "Gangway to Galilee." VBS is for children ages 3 to 6th grade. It is an exciting time for St. Paul's. We invite the community in to enjoy the wonder of God's Amazing Grace. Many hands will help out next week. We look forward to the time we have with the children.

Worship continues to be a growing and vital part of the ministry of St. Paul's. The sermons for the summer are in conjunction with the summer Sunday school program - Bible stories that have water connected to them. Each one shows the grace and mercy of God in the lives of His people. Through water He has connected us to Himself and to one another - the water of Baptism. This weekend, June 14/15, the story is the water from the rock while Israel is in the wilderness.

Sunday Adult Bible class is studying "A Snapshot of the Old Testament." This gives us a chance to study some of the OT stories. It is exciting to see that we are filling up in the Bible class. We have set up more chairs in the church basement and filled all of them this last couple of weeks. That is exciting. Come and join us from 9:15-10:15 a.m. each Sunday morning. This is the same time that the Sunday school is gathering in the Ministry Center. What a great opportunity to grow in faith and fellowship and to get to the God's Word better.

Enjoy your summer. I know that I am. I will see you in worship.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Song in My Head

What song is in your head? Mornings begin with a song. Sometimes it is a sacred song, perhaps something that was sung at church or one that just happens to come into my head. Other times it is one form the radio that I heard a day or two before. It might be a song that I really enjoy or it might be a song that I can't really stand. It might be a song from a group like Remedy Drive or Audio Adrenaline. Or maybe it might be from Robert Cray, the String Cheese Incident or ZZ Top. It is like I have this jukebox in my head that has a listing of songs and someone pushes 114 or 534. And that song plays. It is kind of fun to see what song begins my day.

You might think that I would say that every song in my head is a beautiful hymn or a well written Christian song that focuses attention on the wonder of salvation given in Christ Jesus. But it isn't. It just happens to be a song that comes into my head as I wake up that day. Does it matter what type of song it is? I don't think so. Music is a gift to us from God. There is well written music and poorly written music. There is rock, classical, country and pop. The varieties of music are truly a blessing to us from God. You might not like a certain type of music but that doesn't mean that it is bad. I enjoy a good hymn. I enjoy a good praise song. I enjoy a good rock song. I enjoy a good hard rock song. I enjoy a good 70's song. In the end, I enjoy a good song.

I would encourage you to enjoy the music of your life. Enjoy the talents that God has given to so many different people to make a variety of different types of music. I will enjoy a good Phish song at the same time I will enjoy a good Casting Crowns song. I will grove to a a good Audio Adrenaline song and at the same take in a good Deep Purple song. I won't listen to a poorly written tune or a song which is poorly written. How do I make the decision what to listen to? It is what appeals to my ear and my mood.

The one thing I need to understand that while I let my mood decide what sort of music I am going to listen to at the moment, I can't let that be the way I deal with my spiritual life. The Word of God is not something that I can play around with and say, "Today I think I will embrace the teachings of the Bible," and then tomorrow say, "I will embrace the teachings of the Book of Mormon." To do so would be spiritually wrong. There is one message of life, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My itching ears might want to hear something that focuses my attention on me, on my sinful desires, on the direction my heart wants to go but my soul needs only that which will give true life and salvation. Only God's Word gives that assurance and that life that is needed in my life. Anything else is man-made and will lead to my death and destruction.

My musical choices will change according to the day. That is all right. The message of life and hope will not change from day to day. There is one message. It is as Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to Father except through me." (John 14) Only one message of salvation - that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus alone is the way to eternal life. Jesus alone is the truth that this world needs. Jesus alone life from death. The message of the day will not change.

I have a song in my head and salvation in my heart. It doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How dedicated are you?

That isn't normally a question that we ask of our fellow Christians. We don't talk about dedication. We talk about faith - do you believe in Jesus as your Savior? Yes! Hurrah! And then we walk away. Do you love Jesus? Yes. And then we turn on the TV and watch the latest sitcom that teaches everything but the way to live out the love of Christ in life. Are you dedicated to you Lord? Dedicated? What do you mean? Are you asking how much I love Him? Are you asking how much I pray? Or read the Word? Or share the message of the Gospel? Those things don't matter. All that matters is that I love Jesus.

True. For salvation, it is only the grace of God that saves you. It is completely and totally His work that saves you and me. He even gives us the faith to believe in Him - giving it to us through Word and Sacrament. Salvation comes to us by grace through faith. Our salvation doesn't depend on our dedication. It depended completely upon His dedication to us. And it was total dedication - giving up His life upon the cross for you and me, rising again to new life and giving to us forgiveness, faith and salvation. What a dedicated God He truly is.

How dedicated are you? Is your life dedicated to following the Lord? Does your daily life reflect that dedication? I know people who are very dedicated to their baseball team but aren't nearly as dedicated to their Lord. They will watch every game, pay for the channels to see the games, pay for the tickets to go to the games, wear their favorite team gear and yet, hardly ever darken the doorway of their church. They don't feel the need to worship the Lord they claim to be dedicated to in their lives but wouldn't dare miss something for their team. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good ballgame. I will go to a ballgame. I will watch one on TV. But in the end, the team doesn't mean more to me than my Lord. Put next to each other, I am dedicated to my Lord. And I try to live like I am.

How dedicated are you to the Lord? The call to follow the Lord is complete. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your strength. Doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room does it? I think that in many ways, modern day Christians (and probably Christians through the years past) have made their faith too "easy." They believe and figure that is enough. The call to follow the Lord is a call to live for Him, living in His love, sharing that love and living with your fellow man as He would have you live with him. It is a challenge. It is difficult. But He empowers us through Word and Sacrament to live daily dedicated in our lives.

How dedicated are you?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who do you love? Part 2

Yesterday I talked about our relationship with the one we love, our spouse. I know that there are those of you who are not married at this time. You might think, that doesn't apply to me. I would beg to differ. That is what today is about.

If you love someone, you will want to spend time with him/her. The more you love him/her, the more you want to be around him/her, the more you want to feel close to him/her. We talked about that yesterday so I won't rehash it.

Let me ask you, who do you love? As I ask this question I want to move from the physical love to the spiritual love. I ask this question as I think about my relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ. I love Him with all my heart and life. There is no one that I love more than Jesus, not my wife, not my children, nor is there anything I love more than Jesus, not my trains, not my books, not the Cubs, nothing. I love Jesus first and foremost in my life. (This follows the teaching of the 1st Commandment - You shall have no other gods.)

Having said that, let me make a disclaimer. I am not saying that I am perfect in my love for Jesus. There are times other things move into 1st place in my life. For that, I am sorry and confess my sin to God and receive that wonderful forgiveness. None of us can be perfect in following the 1st Commandment, in either the 1st use of the Law or the 3rd use of the Law. But that doesn't change the fact that Jesus is still the One that I love. I always return to Him. More than that, I give thanks that He loves me despite my sins, despite my adultery with other gods (not physical adultery but a spiritual adultery, much like the people of Israel through out the Old Testament). He loves first. My love for Him flows out of His love for me. His love is perfect, my love is imperfect. His love is continual, my love fluctuates. His love is complete, my love is incomplete. He loves me. He gave Himself for me. He overcame sin, death and the devil for me. I did none of those things for Him. He gives, I receive. He fills me with His love and it overflows from my heart, much like water poured into a glass will continue to overflow as I continue to pour water into it. He never stops loving me, I stop loving Him when something catches my fancy. Keep all that in mind in all that I write. There is only one perfect love, that is found in Jesus alone. My love is not perfect. I am not perfect. I am a forgiven believer.

Having said all that, I think you might agree with me in saying, "I love Jesus. He is my Lord and my Savior." There is a love affair taking place here - between Him and me (starting with Him, flowing from Him, nothing of mine is given to Him other than my will, my life, and my very being). As I want to be around the one that I love in this world, my wife, so I should want to be around the One that I love more than her, Jesus Christ. I want to be with Him. I want to hear from Him. I want to receive love from Him.

More than all that, I NEED to be around Jesus. I need His love in my life. I need His presence in my life. I need Him (He doesn't need me). And because of that love that He has for me and I have for Him, I do all I can to be with Him - in my daily life, in worship, in Bible study, at work, at home, where ever I find myself.

Here is a thought, if I love Jesus like this, why would I not attend worship? How can I say, I love you Jesus, and then not spend time where He has promised to meet me. How can I say to Him, I love you but I don't want to attend worship because I don't think I need it, want it, desire it, or whatever? So many Christians will say they love Jesus and then never go where He has promised to be with them. (Understand, I am not judging people. That is His job.) What would happen to my marriage if I said, "I love my wife with all my heart. She is my all in all." And then I never go home to her? What would happen to my marriage if in that very place she is at, I never go? I would not have a marriage long. My love for her will grow cold and die. My desire for her will become a thing of the past. I will be enamored with someone or something else.

So it is in my relationship with Jesus. If I avoid the place He promises to be, in His house of worship, what will happen to my love for Him? More than that, can anyone believe that I really love Him? Am I merely kidding myself and quelling my conscience? So many people avoid Jesus on a weekly basis. They say, "I love you Lord. I just don't need to be around you."

Now I know that you can come back to me and say, "Jesus is always in my life. I don't need to worship to be close to Jesus. I can be close to Him at home, at work, wherever I am." And that is true. I am not doubting that at all. I just seems crazy to me that a person can say, "I love you" and then avoid that which the Lover gives to him/her. I love you, but don't ask me to be around you. I love you but don't ask me to put myself out for you. I love you but I don't want what you offer me. That is exactly what is said when a person says, "I don't need to attend worship to be a Christian." It is saying, "I love You Jesus, but I don't want to be around You in this time when You promise me that You will be present in both Word and Sacrament." If I said to my wife, "I love you but I don't want to be around you," would you say that I love her? No. I am merely mouthing the words.

All right, so some will be offended by this. They will take exception to what I have written. They will profess love for Christ and still say that they can avoid Him. They will say I am judgmental. I might be accused of being unloving. I don't know what else might be said.

But I come back to the thought, if I love someone, I want to be around them. If I love Jesus, I want to be around Him. He invites me to come to Him. Why wouldn't I listen to His invitation? Why wouldn't I want to spend time with Him? Yes, I will continue to love Him at home. I will continue to be with Him in prayer and reading of His Word. I will continue to love Him at work. I know that He has promised to be with me wherever I am. Perhaps it is time for me to commit myself to be with Him where He is - in His house of worship.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Who do you love?

After reading a devotion this morning, I got to thinking, and that is what this blog is about, the musings of this pastor. The devotion asked the question, "Do you have to be told to spend time with the one you love?" It is a good question. I began to think about it from a variety of directions. Let me lead you into a few of them.

When you first started dating the person you felt attracted to, did you have to be told to spend time with him or her? I can remember in high school, when I first became attracted to a young gal, I began to try to figure out her schedule so that I could show up at the door of her next class so that I could see her and say "hi" to her. I wanted to be be around her. Most people, when they are attracted to someone, try to find time to spend together. What would you think of a couple that says, "We are in love but we don't want to be around each other"? Would you think of them as being "in love"? Probably not. It would be strange. Most of the time, a young couple will be told by their parents (this is when they are still at home, still in high school), "You need to not be with her or him so much. You are spending too much time together." And the reality is, they are spending a lot of time together. I can remember back to the dating phase of my relationship with that young gal in high school. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. I would wait till the last possible minute to leave for work so that I would have just 5 more minutes with her.

In most marriages, the one thing that couples forget (this is one of my musings) is to spend time together. They get busy with the things of life - work, housework, yard work, extra curricular activities (such as golf, going out with the friends) - that they don't have time for one another. The very thing that made them a couple when they were dating is lost now that they are married. They have the pleasure of spending their free time together and they chose to spend it apart. This isn't good for a relationship. Instead of spending time apart, they need to realize that even as a married couple, they need to have that special time with one another, that which brought them together when they were dating. It is a worn out phrase, but I tell couples, "After you are married, be sure to date one another." You would think that would just be a given, but it isn't. I see too many married couples spending their time apart. They don't make time for one another. They don't spend time courting each other. They say they love one another but then they let other things get in the way of that love.

Yes, you need time to yourself and the things you like. But that is just the problem. When you make that commitment to one another at the time of your marriage, you are saying, "This person is now more important than baseball, than drinking with the buddies, than spending time shopping with the girls. He/she is now the 2nd most important thing in my life and nothing will take his/her place." And then to live in that way, spedning time with one another.

Often when a couple starts to have trouble, they will say something like, "I don't know what happened. We seem to have drawn apart." They then go on to say that they don't spend time together any more. One will say that the other won't talk to them. They complain that they don't seem to have the same interests. And the list goes on. I will encourage them to stop and think about the way it was when they were dating. They recall the joy of seeing each other, spending time with each, getting to know each other's likes/dislikes, and just plain, growing together in love. Yes, it was a special, magical time. Then why not return to that time? What? You mean date each other? You mean spend time together? But I have to...and then they go into all the reasons they can't spend time together. Is it any wonder that so many marriage end in divorce. They begin with love and spending time together, and end in loneliness and discouragement, having drawn apart by the personal desires and the things of the world around them.

Moral of the thought: Those of you that are married, ask yourself, "If I love this person, why don't I spend more time with him/her?" And then do it. Make time. Drop that golf game for one weekend and do something the wife wants to do. Stop fretting about picking the house up or going out with the girls, and spend some time with the hubby in the thing he enjoys doing. Make time to be in love with one another, and then act like a couple that does love each other.

Yes, I know that you have kids and they demand time. But remember, those kids wouldn't be here if you hadn't spent some intimate time with your husband/wife. You need that. You need time with one another. You were committed to one another at one time, it can be brought back. Those things that drew you together are the very things that will help you to come together once again.

Penny and I enjoy time together. We purposefully make time to be together. We know that it is important for our relationship. We enjoy one another's company. We like each other. That girl that I begin to see in high school, that I wanted to spend time with, is the same gal that I still want to spend time with. It frustrates me if I don't get to have some time with her. I need her. My life needs her. God gave her to me and me to her, and since that is a special gift from God, I want to spend as much time possible with her.

If you love your spouse, show it. Don't let your love for something else rob you of the gift of marriage that God has given you. And if you don't think of your spouse as a gift from God, then you really need to get back to the basics and return to that time when you began to fall in love with one another.

We spend time with the things we love. Time for reflection in your life.

All right, I will continue this musing another day. Blessings to you today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Resurrection

I asked the confirmation class to write a paragraph on "What Easter means to me." As I thought about it, I wondered what Easter did mean to me. So what was good for the goose is also good for the gander. Here goes.

Easter means life. I know that I am going to die one day. All my loved ones are going to die. We cannot get out of this world alive (unless Christ returns before we die). When I die, this body will be laid in a grave. It seems like such a dismal end. A cold, dark box lowered into the ground and covered with dirt is where my body will go. Yuck. That doesn't sound too good to me.

Yes, my soul will enter into eternity with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yet, that isn't the end of the story. This body, this very one that I am trying to take care of right now, this body that dies and returns to dust, will one day be raised to life again. On the day when Jesus returns upon the clouds, this body will rise form the dead. It will rise victorious over death. It will be glorified (only the Lord knows fully what that means) and body and soul together will enter into eternity with my Lord. Jesus rising from the dead gives to me the assurance that even though I die, yet shall I live.

This body will rise again. It will live - even better than it is right now. There will be no sin nor any results of sin upon this body. Never again will I have to go to the doctor for the Lord will give this frail body perfection in which it will no longer be frail. I will live physically because Jesus rose from the dead. Easter means that I myself, with these eyes, will see the Lord standing upon the new earth. I will be praising the Lord almighty with these lips and with this voice.

Yes, Easter means life. True life, complete life for me and for all believers in Jesus Christ. It means that my loved ones who died believing in Jesus will live again. I know this because Jesus rose from the dead and tells me that in Him, there is new life, holy life, eternal life.  Life! Physical resurrection.

Easter means hope. I see so much despair and hurt in the people's lives. There is pain from the loss of loved ones who have died. There is emptiness in heart and life because a father or mother, a husband or a wife, a son or daughter, a friend, a neighbor or someone else has died. The heart hurts. It aches. But that is not the end of the story. There is eternal life - physical, eternal life. That person's soul is with the Lord and one day, on the day of resurrection, the body and soul will be reunited and they will live physically for an eternity. There will be no more pain or emptiness. There is hope. True hope. Hope that doesn't disappoint. Yes, there is pain now. There is the ache of the heart that has lost and cannot have again. But that is not the end of the story. Jesus lives! He rose! And all who believe in Him will rise too. They will live. That is hope.

Easter is all about the new life that is given in Christ Jesus. I can face today because Jesus lives. I can hear the bad news that is shared with me because Jesus lives. I can know that even as this body breaks down and becomes weak, Jesus lives. I know that no matter what happens, even I lose everything, that Jesus lives. And because He lives, I have comfort, peace, hope and joy. I have it all because Jesus lives. (Some will say I can say this because I have never lost anything. If you think that, I am sorry. It isn't true. But I do not dwell on what I have lost. I focus on what I have in a risen Christ.)

Easter (by Easter I mean the resurrection of Jesus from the dead) is my everything. Because of Easter I can get up in the morning and face the day. Because of Easter I can go through the day. Because of I can sleep at night. Because of Easter I know that no matter what happens to me or to those around me, there is still peace and hope.

Easter is life, here in time and forever in eternity.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

What does that mean? Maundy Thursday? Hmmmm. It must have something to do with the Lord's Supper, as the Lutheran Church celebrates the Sacrament on this night. It must mean...what does it mean? Simply put, it comes from John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved  you, you also are to love one another." (ESV) A new "commandment" or in Latin, the verse begins with "mandatum." "Maundy" is a derivative of the word mandatum. Thus, Maundy Thursday is the day when the Lord tells us how we are to live our life as His brothers and sisters - in love, not the love of the world that seeks something in return but to love no matter what, not looking for something but merely giving. As Jesus gave Himself for us, so we are to give ourselves for others. As He has loved us, so we are to love others.

Then He shows how much He loves. That is found in the words, "Take eat, this is My body given for you," and "Take drink, this is My blood shed for you, for forgiveness of you sins." In that Supper, that Holy Communion, we are given the full love of Christ. His body which is broken for us and His blood which is shed for us, is given to us in, with and under the bread and wine of the Supper. We are given that which shows us the depth of His love for us.

He will go to the cross for each of us, for our sins. He will show us the depth of His love in that terrible death that He faces. But before He steps out of that building and heads to the Garden of Gethsemane, He gives the Supper that will strength each of us, that will assure us of forgiveness, and that will assure us that salvation is truly ours through faith in Him.

"Love one another as I have loved you," He says to us today. "Take eat, take drink," He invites us. Today is truly a holy day. It is a special day. It is Maundy Thursday.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We are hypersensitive, except when it comes to Christians

I was reading about the hot water that Heidi Klum was in because of a photo shoot in which she dressed in Native American garb. It accused her of being insensitive and lending to the discrimination against Native Americans. There were other things leveled against her because of the photo shoot. I guess I look at what happened and say, "Don't be so sensitive." Now before you accuse me of racism and being insensitive, I must say, "When was the last time you got that upset over the clergy being portrayed as stupid, lazy, ignorant, greedy, lustful and just plan idiots?" I have not seen too many portrayals of clergy as normal, healthy, God-fearing, servants of the Word. Over and over again we are shown as being less than admirable and something to be loathed. No one gets upset over that. No one says that it is unfair, unkind, insensitive and wrong to portray clergy in the fashion. It makes me sick but does the media or the bloggers care about that? No. In fact, they do their best to add to the insensitive, unloving and uncaring portrayal of clergy.

More than that, Christians are portrayed in the same light. If a Christian states what they believe, they are intolerant and must take back all that they said. If a non-Christian states what they believe, they are praised and made to be a hero.  Take the case of Michael Sam. He comes out as being gay. He is hailed as a hero. He is put on the cover of Sports Illustrated, not because he is a great football player but because he is gay. Then when Phil Robertson states his beliefs about homosexuality, Cracker Barrel pulls all his products form the shelves, the news media rips him up one side and down the other and the Network tries to pull their show from their programming. What's up with that? A Christian states what he believes and is blasted, a football player states what he believes and is praised. The difference, the football player is gay and the Christian isn't. Discrimination? Yes. Intolerance? Yes. But not on the side of the Christian, on the side of the homosexual community, the media and society at large.

We are hypersensitive in our culture today in all areas except when it comes to Christianity. You cannot do or say anything that might be construed as as racist, intolerant or anti-gay. But you can attack and destroy a person because he or she is Christian.

Should we be surprised? No. Our Lord warned us that this was going to take place He told us that we would be attacked because we are Christian. And it is happening. I, for one, will continue to speak what the Lord tells me in His Word. I will continue to point out when other Christian churches are wrong in their interpretation of Scripture. And I will speak up when the media and other organizations attack my faith. Will it change the way things are in this world? No it won't. But that won't stop me. I hope that it won't stop you either

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reflections on...

Reflections on...I don't know, could be reflecting upon just about anything. Reflections on Lent - the wonder of the Savior who suffers and dies for each of us, even though He knows that we are going to be just like the ones who crucified Him. We will mock Him (in how we live, act, and talk). We will turn our backs upon Him (in order to "enjoy" the pleasures of the flesh and the lusts of this sinful world). He does this for us. Talk about "Amazing Grace." How quickly we become upset when someone says or does something we don't like, how we turn our backs upon them, and yet, He never turned His back upon us. He suffers for you and me, lost and condemned sinners that we are. He gives forgiveness to us sinners, again and again. Thanks be to God that He sent His only-begotten Son to be our Savior.

Reflections on Spring: It is here! At least the calendar says it is here. The weather people tell us that we are still going to have up and down temperatures over the next week or so. It has been a long winter. I don't know about you, but I am ready for spring. Let the flowers bloom, the trees burst forth with leaves and warm temps engulf us. I am ready to sit on my porch and enjoy the spring which will lead us into summer very quickly. Bring it on!

Reflections on life and death: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. How true that statement by Paul is for our lives. Living in Christ - each day, reflecting His love and His mercy. One day we shall all die. I am reminded of that as we prepare to go to a funeral at Pickneyville. We long to live eternally, yet we have the thought that we won't have to die. Sin tells us that we will. God's message is one of life - living in Christ each day and then, when this body fails and physical life is over, we will live eternally with Christ - in the new heaven and earth. Reflections of life eternal, overwhelmingly wonderful to think about, yet not something that we want to even consider because we are enjoying this life too much.

Reflections on health: shingles are a pain, literally. They take forever to heal. When they do, you rejoice and thank God for the relief He has given during the spell of 2 months that they decided to come and visit. Thanking him that they are receding and perhaps even disappearing, never to come back, please! Enough is enough and as Penny said, "They can even make you grumpy." Sorry for the grumpiness Penny. I didn't mean to let them get to me. Lord, thank You for giving her patience with me over these last weeks.

Reflections on: nothing else at the moment. Just reflecting the love of Christ that is poured out on me over and over again, without any merit or worthiness on my part. Thank You Lord for that love. May I reflect it today and every day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One Generation to the Next

Lutheran Schools Week is a great time at a Lutheran School. It is an opportunity to celebrate the blessings that a Lutheran School truly is for the lives of the children that are being taught the wonder of God's creation. Yes, we can say that it is God's creation. We don't have to teach the lies of evolution or any of the other false teachings about the origins of the universe. We can say, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." We can teach the truth that all humanity began with one man and one women, Adam and Eve. 

We can teach that the reason there are such problems in this world stem from the time when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. All mankind fell into sin when they sinned. Every human born of a man and a woman is sinful from conception (and yes, life begins at conception and all life is valuable to God and should be valuable to us). Death came into the world through the sin of those first people. All have sinned, you and me, the children we teach and the parents of the children, have sinned. No one can save themselves from eternal damnation. All are lost! Yes, we can say that. All are going to hell.

But God (we can talk about God day after day) loved the world so much that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those under the Law - to redeem the children, to redeem you, to redeem me. He came to do what we cannot do for ourselves. He suffered and died in our stead. Jesus Christ died on the cross for us and for our salvation. Not only did He die, He also rose again on the 3rd day. He came back to life. He physically rose from the dead. That which was dead, was alive. Jesus lives! He lives even today! And we can celebrate the wonder that life gives to us. We are saved by grace through faith - faith in Jesus Christ alone. 

All of that is what we can talk about day after day. That is something to celebrate. That is the wonder of a Lutheran School. I love being a pastor of a congregation that not only supports Lutheran education but makes it a priority. 

Yesterday was Grands Day. It was a day when grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, special people, all came into the school, gathered with their special student and then went to chapel to celebrate the gift of life in Christ.  We sang, heard the Word, recalled the gift of prayer that we have been given, celebrated the love of Christ with one another. 

We also saw how important it is to pass the message of love on from one generation to the next. We look upon the stories of life that we share and realized that it is just as important, perhaps even more so, that we pass on the stories of our faith. We need to support the ministry that continues to teach our children about Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If we don't, who will? The world around us won't teach them of the love of Christ. You and me, knowing Christ as our Savior, are to pass that on to the next generation - no matter what it takes.

Celebrate Lutheran Schools Week with us. It is a wonder to be a part of this special ministry. Thank God for the opportunity we have to pass on the gospel to the next generation.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And so it begins...

"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2:12-13 ESV) Lent begins today with Ash Wednesday. This day begins the 40 days of reflection upon what Christ Jesus has accomplished with His Passion. He carries the sins of all mankind as He walks through this life as the sinless Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, the Promised One to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Lent is about what He has accomplished for us and for our salvation.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of a reality that we don't like to face. The Lord says to Adam on the day he ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19 ESV) Death became a reality on this day. Each person, born of a sinful man and woman, is born with sin. This original sin brings us to physical death and eternal damnation. As we read, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23 ESV) We are all going to face death. We shall all be placed into a grave and will return to the very dust we came from. Try as we like, and we do try everything in our power, we will not live forever. Our bodies will fail. We will die. That is the stark reality that Ash Wednesday brings forward.

The tradition of wearing ashes on this day began in the pietistic actions of well meaning Christians. It is to remind them of the fact that they are ashes and to ashes they shall return. Some of our Lutheran churches have revived this action in the recent years. There is nothing wrong with the action as it is meant to remind each person that they are sinful and because of that sin, they are going to die.

I do not follow those who have been reviving this tradition. Why? Partly because I grew up in the Lutheran Church in the time when that was seen as Roman Catholic. And partly because I also grew up in the time when the Lutheran Church saw that as drawing attention to yourself rather than to the work of Christ. Following the Ash Wednesday Gospel it was not an action that was done. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 6:1 ESV) "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret." (Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

Lent is a time for us to focus upon Christ. I believe that the use of ashes can be beneficial in the worship service to help the individual see the impact of sin upon his life but then it should end. When the person walks out of the church that day, they should wipe their forehead of the ashes and go forth forgiven in Christ. Those of the world don't need to see the ashes for it then focuses the attention on the ashes or the individual rather than Christ. That, and we are told not to be doing our actions for others to see. As Joel said in the verse that we started with, "Rend your heart and not your garments." Ashes on the forehead do not change the heart. The Gospel changes the heart. The Holy Spirit changes the heart.

Is that change seen by others? Yes. As our Lord says, "Let your light so shine before others , so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 ESV) Your heart and life is changed, not by ashes, but by the Spirit working through Word and Sacrament. Your life is to reflect Christ in how you live, talk and treat others.

Enter into this holy season of Lent, focused upon Christ's work not yours. As you walk through Lent, let your heart be changes from one filled with sin to one filled with the love of Christ. We are not pietists. Nor are we Catholic. We are Lutheran. We can use ashes or we can not use ashes. They are a non-thing for us. On this Ash Wednesday, may the focus not be on you but on Christ. As you reflect on your death, reflect on His life. For there, you are given life.

And, so it begins. 40 days of Lent. Let's walk together and look not to ourselves but to Christ alone.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sausage Supper 2014

As you may have heard by now (I hope you have) the 2014 Sausage Supper at St.Paul's, Troy has been cancelled because of weather. This was not an easy decision. There are people who fall on both sides. Do you cancel? Do you not cancel? Will the weather be as bad as they say? Will it be worse? Will the forecast keep people (customers and workers) away? Will someone fall as the Supper? Will someone get hurt driving to the Supper? What is our responsibility?

The decision was not an easy one. I know that Ken Sipes talked with quite a few people who all had their opinions. I know I talked with quite a few people who had their opinions. Yet in the end, there was only two people that ended up making the decision, Ken and myself. I guess it lands on our shoulders. We held off as long as we could, hoping the forecast would get better but it didn't. So in order to cut expenses (we were already responsible for the sausage no matter what happened), we made the call. Right or wrong, it was made.

Now we wait to see what tomorrow brings. Will it be as bad as they say? Will there be 4-6 inches of snow on top of 1/10th of an inch of ice? Will there really be 2 inches of sleet mixed in with it? I am hoping the weather is bad. I would hate to have cancelled the Sausage Supper for no reason. But I still stand on the decision for the sake of safety, trying to be proactive rather than reactive.

Then the second part of the decision: Do you reschedule? Once again, there are a variety of opinions. It sounds so simple. Just pick a date, set it and go for it. And when you walk in, work for a 3 hour shift and go home, it is easy. When you come in and enjoy the wonder of a sausage dinner, the best in the area if I say so myself, it sounds easy. What isn't easy, is getting everything arranged again. It takes several months of planning to get enough workers for the supper (and we already had trouble getting some of the positions filled, especially in the kitchen for the 2nd shift. Mark Ponce was short on workers even after we had been asking for workers to come forward.) Jennifer Kesterson and Erica Sipes were working to get enough workers for the dinner room.

Folks that signed up to work had set aside time to be there on March 2nd. Many took off from work for the day and asking them to take off another day is challenging. Other events are taking place. There are a host of other reasons. In the end, the call is once again made to not reschedule, to return the canned goods, to freeze the sausage and have a Sausage Sale Day, to store the paper products for next year, and to move on.

Right decision? Wrong decision? Like all things, it will be debated. You might have a strong opinion. I am sure that you will make that known. Like the discussion the next morning after a big ball game, everyone will know what was the right thing to do at the moment. But making that call at that moment it needs to be made is not so easy.

Please be kind when you speak about the decisions that were made. Be forgiving if you think that they were the wrong decisions. Let the love of Christ be the focus of your words and you actions. Remember that all that you say and do will reflect upon St. Paul's Church and upon the message of the Gospel that is proclaimed. And it is, after all, still just a Sausage Supper and the work of the Church goes on. What is that work? To proclaim that there is only Lord and Savior and that is Jesus Christ. Salvation is found in no other name in heaven, on earth or under the earth. We praise God for this wonderful message of life and hope.

And yes, Lord willing, there will be a Sausage Supper in 2015.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sausage...Need I Say More?

It is almost here, St. Paul's Annual Sausage Supper. This Sunday, March 2, 2014, is St. Paul's Sausage Supper, served in the Ministry Center from noon to 6:00 p.m. I have to say that I really enjoy the Sausage Supper for several reason.

First, it is because of the food. The sausage is some of the best around, which is saying a lot. I consider the Sausage Supper at Bethlehem, Ferrin, IL the best one around. When I measure Suppers, I measure it against Ferrin and let me tel you, St. Paul's is a pretty close second. I don't want you to think I am "dissing" other Sausage Suppers, because I am not. Each person probably has what they consider to be the best. This is my measurement. So if you want great sausage, good gravy, sauerkraut, beans and of course, wonderful pies, then come to Troy on Sunday and enjoy the meal.

Second, it is because of the people. I enjoy working with the folks at St. Paul's. It is good to see so many people, young and old, new members and long-time members working side-by-side, serving the people of the community. It reminds me of how the Lord wants us to be in our lives - living and working together to serve our fellow man. As you come to eat, look around at the workers and see what it means to serve the Lord with gladness.

Third, it is because I get to meet a lot of people. Penny and I serve as host/hostess at the supper. We work to help get people seated (Jennifer Kesterson and Erica Sipes are great to work with in seating folks). Being in the lobby of the Ministry Center and greeting folks from Troy, St. Jacob, Marine, Highland, Collinvsille, Bethalto, Glen Carbon, Maryville, St. Louis, Alton, Ferrin, Carlyle and a whole bunch of other towns in the area, I find it uplifting. I love to talk with folks, see who they are and where they come from. I also enjoy trying to make their day enjoyable. I hope to greet you this Sunday.

Finally, it is because I get to serve the Lord. As I serve the community, I find myself at the feet of my Lord. Each person that walks through the door is a special because the Lord sees them as special (He gave Himself for them!). So in serving them, I serve the Lord. What a privilege and what a humbling thought.

So I hope to see you Sunday at St. Paul's for the Sausage Supper. The weather is going to challenge us this year. I recommend coming during the day, not waiting till the last minute (unless the forecast changes). Bring on the sausage!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When will it end?

One of our dogs, Blackie, had been a part of our family for nearly 15 years, which when Penny and I thought about it, was 1/2 of our married life. Rachael and Matthew picked him out of a litter of puppies at an auction in Carlyle, IL. We were living in Ferrin at the time. I remember being asked if they could have a puppy (we already had a golden retriever at home by the name of Goldie). They would take care of him. You know the story. And being the softy that I am at times, I said yes. 

And I have to say that I am not sorry for that answer. Blackie came home with us and became a part of our family for the next 14 years. He gave us a lot of smiles, laughter, frustration and friendship. He had a bark that would go right through you (he learned that from Goldie). He loved to go for walks. He would lay in the sunshine in the middle of summer when we thought it would be too hot to lay in the sun and didn't like the cold. The snow would always cause problems with his paws but he didn't like wearing the booties that Penny bought him. He was a dog that loved his people. Matthew was close to Blackie. He had bad hips, lots of arthritis and stairs were a problem for him. It was the stairs that finally was his undoing.

On Monday of this week, he fell, tore the ligament in his back right leg and couldn't walk. Sadness hit the family. Tuesday, I took him to the vet, and the unfortunate outcome came upon us. We had to say good bye to Blackie. I know that it isn't true but I sure hope that "all dogs go to heaven," like the movie says. I imagine he is running and playing with Goldie and Missey. And perhaps even with Bart our cat that loved to tease Blackie in so many ways. Thanks for all the memories and joy Blackie. You were a good dog, a good friend and a part of our family.

I was asked the very words that are the title of today's blog. When will it end? One sad event after another. One heartache after another. A family dog for us. A family member for another. The loss is difficult, a weight that is upon the shoulders, in the heart of the one that has the loss. When will it end? When will the pains of this world end? When will people quit getting sick? When will people quit suffering? When will all of this be no more? 

The only answer that we can give is when Christ returns! That is the absolute best answer that we have, and it brings joy to the heart. When Christ comes again, this heaven and this earth will pass away and He will give us the new heaven and the new earth. Out of the rottenness of this sin-filled and death-filled world, He will give us a sinless and deathless world. Eternity with the Lord will be the exact opposite of what we face today. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more cold, bitter weather and crippling snowstorms or ice storms. No more traffic jams. No more shootings, rapes, robberies. No more suffering. No more illness. No more temptation. No more sin. NO MORE DEATH! 

That is the wonder of Christ's return. All this, all this frustration, anxiety, fear, suffering, tears, pain, grief, and loss will be gone. In one moment, it will be gone. And it is will be replaced by the wonder of what Christ gives to us in eternity. What will it be like? Beyond anything that we can ever imagine. And it will be great, fantastic, wonderful, amazing and however else you want to describe it.

Until then, there will be tears and sorrow. There will be loss. And Christ will take us in His arms, comfort us and heal our broken hearts. We will feel empty and Christ will offer to fill that void. Here is the real question: Will you allow Him to fill your emptiness with His love, presence and peace? Don't live in your grief and loss. I am not saying to forget. You can't. But what you can do is give it to the Lord. Too many times we hold onto the grief thinking that in that way we honor the one we have lost. We aren't. We honor them by giving up the grief to the Lord and holding onto the wonderful memories we have. Carry the memories. Carry the love. Let the Lord carry the grief. 

Thank You, Lord, for Blackie. I know that You made these animals to be special to us. I appreciate it. It was a great 14 1/2 years. What do You have for us for the next years? I can't wait to see.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Beat Goes On

Monday morning, the day after the Super Bowl has been played. One team one. One team lost. It is the same each year. One will come out on top and one will not. Neither team has anything to be ashamed of when all is said and done. Both teams made it to the Super Bowl, the highest level of performance in the football world. This year one team dominated the other. The next time they meet, it might just come out differently. One team was really "on" and the other team was "off." Doesn't change the fact that both teams played well enough during the season and the playoffs to make it to the place that no other teams made it this year. Congratulations to both teams. And congratulations to the team that won.

But what difference has that really made for the world? We have spent millions and millions of dollars for this one game. It is not just the advertisers that spent that kind of money. Think of all the money spent on chicken wings, chips, salsa and beer. Millions of dollars spent for those few hours on a Sunday evening. So much hype and push for the "big game."

All right, I almost slipped over to the "we shouldn't spend that kind of money on worthless things while so many people right here in our backyard are freezing because they don't have a warm place to stay or are starving because they don't have food to eat" direction of talk. But I know the reality. If we didn't spend the money on the ads, the food, the game tickets, the hotel rooms, etc., we wouldn't be putting that money towards helping others out of the problems of their lives. We would just find something else to spend the money on. It is like the lottery of the states - it was supposed to help finance the schools. But with the billions that are put into the lottery, you would expect that we would have the absolutely best school system in the world. But we don't. We just shift money from education to other things and our education system still suffers from a lack of funding.

I sit back and think, "If only 1/2 of that amount of that which was spent by Christians on Super Bowl festivities was spent on the mission work of the Church, think of what could happen." The local churches wouldn't struggle. The mission churches wouldn't have to pinch pennies to make ends meet. There would be more than enough to take care of the needs of the homeless, the sick,  and the hungry. But I am also a realist to know that even if that happened, we sinners would find some way of messing things up once again.

So should we stop having the Super Bowl? Nope. Should we cease having the Super Bowl party? No. That isn't what I would envision. (Though I would say to stop getting drunk at these parties because that isn't the life that our Lord wants for any of us. We shouldn't overeat either, for that is just as bad.) What I would encourage is that each of us would look at how much we spent on such things (whether it is the Super Bowl, the World Series or and of the other events that we make such big deals about in our lives) and think about how little it really makes a difference in this world. Then perhaps we might stop, reflect, pray and ask the Lord to guide us to support the work of our local church or mission in the same way. Give us a heart to be so excited about our time of worship, the time we spend in Bible Study and to give as much to the work of the Lord as we do the works of man in some game.

Then perhaps we will begin to see what a difference that just might make.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lessons from the Road

Last week and this week (January 10-31) I find myself driving back and forth to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. I have been taking classes these two weeks as part of my studies for the Doctor of Ministry degree. (I will talk about those studies and degree another time.) Each day I have the pleasure and the pain of driving into the city. Many of you do this day after day. You get up in the morning, get the family ready, either take them to daycare or make sure they are ready to get on the bus and then off you go, into the great expanse we know as "the CITY." I am sure that you have seen all there is to see as you make that commute morning after morning and evening after evening. I will not claim to know all that much about the commuting experience as, on the whole, it has been a good and easy experience. I thank the Lord for that fact.

But you do observe a lot while you are making the commute. I am going to sharing some of those observations for whatever they are worth.

People don't observe the law. Not a surprise to you, nor was it a surprise to me. But the fact remains, people do not observe the law. What is the speed limit? Whatever I want to go. What happens if there is a policeman "clocking" me? I slow down only to speed up after I am past him. People don't use their directional signals unless they feel like it. People talk on the cell phone, holding it to their ear here in Illinois though we are told that is now against the law. People text while driving. People don't wear their seat belts. People don't have their children in car seats. In a nutshell, they do what they want despite what the law says. The lawmakers can make all the laws they want, but the people of Illinois and Missouri (and other states) are going to do what they want, when they want, how they want.

People get upset when they get caught breaking the law. I know, that is a duh statement. Who doesn't get upset when they look in their rear view mirror and see those flashing lights? Who doesn't get upset when they are asked, "Do you know how fast you were going?" Of course I know how fast I was going, why do you ask? I was in a hurry and for you to stop me to ask me that question is just ridiculous, you think to yourself. And people get upset when the policeman pulls them over, when they get a ticket, when they are inconvenienced by this experience.

People don't think they deserve a ticket. "Everyone else was driving that fast." How often that is said to the police officer, I can't imagine. No one deserves the ticket they received. What is a few miles over the speed limit? Why do I have wear my seat belt? Why? Why? WHY? That officer had no right giving me a ticket. (Now I am talking rhetorically here. I haven't received a ticket.)

People are also impatient. They do not want to wait for the person ahead of them or next to them. Each person feels that they are in a bigger hurry than anyone else or they are more important that any of the other drivers, or that their life is of greater worth than anyone else's. Therefore it doesn't matter how they drive, as long as "they" get to their destination quicker and more efficiently that the others on the road. "Get out of my way! I'm coming through!" seems to be the mantra that most drivers follow.

What have I learned? We are a selfish, self-centered people who think of themselves more than anyone else. (There are exceptions to the rule but for the most part, I believe it is true.) We are a people who feel that we are above rules and regulations, a people who deserve to have things go our way in the way we want it to go in the time we want it to happen. We don't like anyone telling us what to do or how to do it.

In the end, I have learned what I already knew - we are sinners. Do you doubt it? Just take a drive to St. Louis, and you will find yourself as a sinner in the midst of sinners doing what comes natural - sinning.

And it is for this reason that we have a Savior.