Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Glory to God in the Highest; and Peace to His People on Earth

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Thoughts for Thanksgiving

We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of his hand. Why, then, do we give the appearance of being pastured on the weeds? Why are we such worn and draggle-tailed sheep? Why is there so little gamboling on the green? Why is our life so drab? Perhaps it is because we have not learned the music of thanksgiving and petition, of praise and prayer. And they must be learned in that order, from thanksgiving to petition, because only living men can pray to God, and the people of God live, really live, only when they are thanking Him. He created us that we might be the firstfruits of his new creation; that we might show forth the praises of Him that called us. And we live, really live, as God's new creation only if we live in doxology, only in thanksgiving. And so we can pray and converse with this God of all giving only if we kneel upon a carpet of thanksgiving.

Rev. Dr. Martin Franzmann

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Neither the wit nor the strength of man called our country into existence, but the Lord. Neither the will nor the wisdom of man brought together people representing so many lands, ethnic groups, and languages, and united them into one great, free, and mighty nation, but the Lord. Neither reason nor the power of man preserved our country, bound its people together, and created its fortune, but the Lord. Our country was--and is--in His hand, as the vessel is in the potter's hand.

For this reason, away with all idolizing of man! Away with the thought that human wisdom, human courage, human power and human righteousness produced the many blessings this land enjoys! Let us praise the Lord, who says, "My glory I give to no other, nor My praise to carved idols" (Is. 42:8). Let us also exclaim, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" (Psalm 118: 1). He has done great things for us, and for that, we are grateful.

Rev. Dr. C. F. W. Walther

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Truth About "2012"

If you watch any television at all, then you have probably seen the trailer for a movie called “2012,” featuring famous landmarks crashing down as the world apparently comes to an end. Hollywood has mined this territory for decades, but this film has a pretty savvy gimmick; it is piggybacking on already existing speculation about the year 2012 as an end-of-the-world date. Why 2012? It seems that the ancient Mayan civilization had a calendar that stops at the year 2012, which has led some to suggest that the Mayans knew something the rest of us don’t. But let me draw a parallel, if I might.
The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 had a chart on page 158 entitled “Table of the days on which Easter will fall from 1941—2000.” Pretty self-explanatory. Now, did anybody look at this chart and say, “April 23 of the year 2000 is the last Easter EVER!” No Easters are listed after the year 2000!” No, I don’t think so. But that’s what some people are doing with the Mayan calendar, so expect to hear a lot more 2012 talk in the years to come.
Human beings have always been fascinated with the idea of this world’s ultimate destruction. “2012” the movie is just one in a long line of “the earth is on the brink of destruction” films that have entertained audiences for years—but they also speak to a deeper concern we have. It is a concern expressed in many ways—from movies and T.V. shows to social movements attempting to “save the earth”—but it all circles back to this: we have a deep-seated suspicion that this world is going to end someday. There’s a good reason for that. The Bible says that’s precisely what is going to happen. It doesn’t give out dates like 2012 (although some Christians try to use the book of Revelation that way), but it does tell us, point-blank, this world will end. Jesus is coming back. And our Lord Jesus even gives us the signs to look for—you heard them in today’s reading from Mark’s gospel. Civil unrest. Natural disasters. The persecution of Christians. You might look at the list Jesus makes and conclude that all these things are happening now, today, in our generation, and you would be right. We can rightly say that we are living in the end times. We can’t throw out dates because Scripture doesn’t do that. But the Christian can properly come to a realization that, as far as the history of this world is concerned, we are rounding third base and are heading for home. And one of the most relevant questions you could ask about all this is: “So what?” Knowing that the Biblical signs are all there; Knowing that Christ Jesus could return at any time; Knowing that it is pointless and even counterproductive to try to pinpoint that time; so what? What are we, as Christians, supposed to do with this knowledge?
The writer of the book of Hebrews has some ideas, and I would like to share them with you today. He very clearly lists some things that Christians are to “be about” as we see the Day—the Day of Jesus’ return—drawing near.
These ideas for living in the end times all begin with Jesus. In Hebrews 10 verse 19 and following it says: “Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us…and since we have a great high priest over the house of God…” We start by acknowledging that we have been granted access to God Almighty through the blood shed by Jesus—that he is, in a very real sense, a new “high priest,” who, unlike the high priests of old, offered His own blood as a sacrifice for all sins, including yours and mine. Without Jesus’ mediation, we would have no business being in God’s presence—but with the price for sin paid in full, we are allowed and invited to enter into close contact with our Father. Since that is the case, we are invited to live in a certain way in these uncertain days.
First, the writer of Hebrews says, since Jesus has opened the way to his Father, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Because of Jesus, we are invited and enabled to draw near to God in full assurance of faith. We can approach God with a clean conscience because we have been washed. We have been cleansed in the saving blood of Jesus, and purified in the sacred washing of baptism. This has happened to us, and we believe that because God has acted in mercy, we can approach him without fear. Faith in Jesus drives out worry and fear, especially regarding our eternal well-being. Faith in Jesus means I believe He has done everything necessary for me to be saved—so that I can answer confidently, “I will go to heaven, not because I’m a good person (I’m not) but because Jesus did the work on my behalf.” The world is a scary place, and getting scarier by the day. In the face of war, murder, disaster, or the end of the world itself, you can have the full assurance of faith—absolute confidence that death, for the Christian, is merely a transition from life in this world to life in heaven with Christ.
Next, the writer of Hebrews says, since Jesus has opened the way to the Father, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” For Christians living in the end times, this is a sizable—but not impossible—task. To “hold fast the confession of our hope” means to remain faithful to Jesus in what we do and what we say. It means that we “stick to our guns” and we do not depart from the faith that has been created in our hearts by the Word of God and His Spirit. In the modern era there has been an unholy exodus away from the truth of Holy Scripture. Churches that once confessed the Bible as the inspired, mistake-free Word of God have allowed worldly wisdom to erode their confession. In American culture it has become socially awkward and nearly unacceptable to mention the name Jesus as anything other than a curse word. Far too many good Christians—and we might even look in the mirror on this one—have gone with the flow, not wanting to rock the boat. We need to repent, wake up and speak out! What are we worried about? Who are we afraid of? It says right here and we know it’s true: “He who promised is faithful.” He’s got us. He’s got our back. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus—so let’s talk about him while there is still time!
Finally, the writer of Hebrews says, since Jesus has opened the way to the Father, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” God’s Word says something so important right here. It says that when you take a look around and see the signs that the end is coming—keep doing what you’re doing. Keep doing what Christians do. Don’t change your approach. Keep thinking about and praying about ways we can “stir up one another to love and good works.” We’ve been trying to do that with our Faith Forums—looking at all the ways we can to stir up our love for Christ and one another and our love for those who are without Jesus—and what good works we can do to reach them and touch their lives with His grace. God’s Word says here that when you take a look around and see the signs that the end is coming—don’t neglect to meet together. God’s people need to come together around His Word and Sacrament and simply be together. The idea that we can just be a bunch of roving free agent Christians simply isn’t Biblical. We need the strength that we get from one another—sharing our burdens and our joys as a new kind of family—truly, brothers and sisters in Christ. We need this encouragement. We need to know we are not alone. There are others who share in our confession of faith. There are others who are willing to share the love of Jesus with us. As we get closer and closer to that day, it’s not going to get any easier to be a sincere Christian. So let’s walk together as a family of faith.

If it’s not 2012, the world and the devil will throw other fears your way, trying to terrorize you into dropping your faith and hope in Jesus. When that happens, may the Holy Spirit help us to calmly remember that because Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us and rose again from the grave, opening a new and living way to the Father, we can:

· live in the full assurance of faith, because Jesus did it all
· hold fast to our confession of Jesus as Savior without wavering
· encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to live their faith
…and in doing so, may our Lord Jesus Christ find us faithful whenever he returns. Come, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hymn Stanza of the Week: Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me
Augustus Toplady; stanza three

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly--
Wash me Savior, or I die!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Art of Gift-Giving

Mark 12: 38--44

There comes a time in many people’s lives when you start liking to give gifts just as much, if not more than, receiving gifts. There’s just something about the process of giving a gift that’s just right that’s really enjoyable. Sometimes that means weeks or even months of hunting through stores or combing the eBay listings online. Sometimes that may mean hours upon hours of making something original for that special someone. Whatever it is, you think so much of that person that you think and plan and sometimes wait an awfully long time to finally present your gift, and then wait for their reaction. I think maybe you can tell I enjoy giving gifts, and in my vocation that’s probably a good thing.
If I’m not mistaken, everyone understands the difference between a gift given out of true love and affection, and a gift given out of obligation. Here’s just one example: Let’s say your child is invited to his friend’s birthday party, and you know part of the deal is that you have to secure a present for the birthday boy or girl. At some point, everyone gathers around and watches as the paper is ripped off the boxes, and when the child says “thank you,” the response comes back, “Yeah, well, my mom bought it.” Ah, the honesty of children. “Yeah, my mom bought it, I didn’t; whatever.” That is a gift given out of obligation, and it may be a cool toy, but it doesn’t mean very much, does it?
Have you ever stopped to consider why you give gifts to God? When was the last time you really thought about why you were putting money in your offering envelope? What motivates you to give of your time here at the church? Is it because you feel it’s your duty—that you must, or else? Or do you give gifts to God because you want to show him you love him?
Today in Mark chapter twelve, we see the story of a gift given in love. A widow has one mite to give—one thin dime to her name—and she puts that in the offering plate, and Jesus points her out as someone who gets it. This is a gift that shows a love for God that is stronger than love of self. This is a gift that displays a deep trust in God. The widow could not give this gift to God if she did not trust that the Lord would continue to take care of her. It is a gift that defies “common sense.” That’s why Jesus likes it so much.
In contrast to the widow’s gift, Jesus talks about what the rich and well-to-do people are giving. Those who are blessed with much epitomize “common sense” in the way they give. They give from what’s left over. After expenses are taken care of, they move on to savings, and after that they go to luxuries and just cool stuff, and then, oh, well, what do you know, there’s some left over. Good. We can give some to the church. And if that person was rich enough that left-over amount might be a pretty big number. But by drawing attention to the widow and her mite, Jesus is clearly saying that the number doesn’t matter. Jesus is asking, what is your gift saying? Lord, I love and trust you? Or, Lord, you’re an afterthought to me?
I mean, I know people who will not eat leftovers. They won’t touch them. And by now, most of you know what “re-gifting” is; taking an obligation gift and rewrapping it and passing it along to someone else. If you’ve ever received a re-gift, you know how special that feels. And if we gave gifts to our family the way we sometimes give gifts to God, can you imagine the trouble we would be in? I mean, the equivalent of how we treat God with our gifts could be like this: guys; it’s your wife or girlfriend’s birthday, and two minutes before the nice birthday dinner, you start digging through your junk drawer at home, looking for something, let’s see there’s something in here she might like, now how can I wrap this up? Now if you think that’s ridiculous, have you ever been at a church service, maybe it’s a special service, not the usual Sunday routine, and all of a sudden the offering plates start getting passed. You weren’t really planning for this, so you reach in your pocket or your purse and you pull out your wallet, and you start to leaf through the bills, and you go through the singles, and you’re not going to put a single in there, for crying out loud and you look and see what’s the next biggest bill and oh no it’s a ten! So you go back and count: how many singles do I have again? That’s giving from our leftovers, that’s giving God our scraps and what Jesus says today through His Word is that He doesn’t need our scraps and he doesn’t want our scraps. He doesn’t want the smallest bill in your wallet; He wants your heart. He doesn’t want you to write a check to the church for an amount that you won’t miss; He wants you. He wants your love. He wants your trust. He wants you to treasure the gift He has given you.
What is that gift? The Lord had promised to send someone to decisively crush Satan and counteract death itself; and when the time had fully come, Jesus was sent to our world to do just that. Like that widow giving her only coin, Jesus gave everything on the cross. The penalty for your sins and mine—eternal suffering and torment—could not be paid halfway. A few scraps here and there would never do. Jesus could only give everything to forgive the debt of our sin. And so he allowed himself to be falsely accused. He allowed himself to be betrayed and forsaken by his friends. He allowed himself to be made fun of and spit on and slapped and punched and scourged with the Roman whip and nailed to a cross and raised up where he would fight against the nails for every last breath…so that…so that…these words would have real power: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “Take eat, this is my body given for you; take, drink, this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Now let me ask you again: Why do you give gifts to God? What do you get someone who has given his all for you?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Theology Must Sing

This quote from Martin Franzmann's great Reformation sermon takes me back to Hymnody class at the Seminary.

Theology is doxology. Theology must sing. The church with psalms must shout, no door can keep them out. So at the Reformation, when the Word of Christ dwelt richly in men's hearts once more, when the peace of God was allowed to rule in men once more, there followed a burst of song almost without parallel in the history of the church. Here, too, the Reformation was not a revolution. It gave up nothing of the ancient song of the church that was good and profitable, and the Church of the Reformation ever since, when it has been true to its origin, has always welcomed each good new song.

But the history of the church's hymnody shows that the church has not always been true to its origin. The history of the church 's song is not an uninterrupted progress of triumph. So each generation of the church must try and test itself anew to see whether its song is true, to see whether its doxology is theology.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Photos from Family Chrismon Event




Special thanks to Kirk and Marti Jacobson for their planning and hard work. This was a great event!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day: Spoiler Alert

Revelation 7: 9—17

If you like to read movie reviews, then you probably know what a Spoiler Alert is about. A spoiler alert is when a reviewer reveals a film’s crucial plot point, probably a twist ending, in their review, and if you read it before you see the movie, it would spoil the element of surprise for you. Thus, the reviewer notifies the reader with a Spoiler Alert, giving the reader the chance to stop reading before they spoil it for themselves. Or, you can keep reading if you can’t wait to find out how the story ends.
As we consider God’s Word to us on this Festival of All Saints, then, I need to issue this Spoiler Alert. Today, Holy Scripture is going to reveal how your story ends. It will tell how the story ends for everyone who has been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve read every Spoiler Alert I’ve ever seen, and I would recommend we definitely go ahead and read this one, too. It is not there for us to ignore. It is there to encourage us. It is there to inspire confidence in us. So let’s take a look at the final scene of our story—our story made real through Jesus, our Lord.
The great vision of John we know as Revelation is filled with bizarre imagery, Hebraic number symbolism and repeated references to the Old Testament. It certainly must be the most controversial book in the Bible. For such reasons, many Christians want to leave the book of Revelation alone. They’d rather not read the Spoiler Alert, because it all sounds too weird and scary. But we dare not shut the door on this book. Believe it or not, there are scenes of astounding beauty to be found in Revelation. Our First Reading for this All Saints’ Day is one of them. It is a vision of the saints in triumph—a picture of heaven itself. Like the hymn we began with, it asks us to behold a host arrayed in white—a crowd of people so big that it is uncountable. The people in this vision are wearing white robes and are holding palm branches in their hands. They are Christian people who have been Oxycleaned in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. They are wearing the robe of holiness that was draped over them at their baptism. And they are holding palm branches in hand—that gesture of praise happened on earth, too, remember? Back then it was welcoming the Savior to his holy city—the city where his mission would be completed; here in Revelation the saints are welcoming Jesus home. And this is their shout of praise: We are saved by our God who sits on the throne and by the Lamb!” Here’s the Spoiler Alert! Because Jesus became fully human, lived His Law perfectly and then gave His life as a perfect offering, you will be one of those white-robed worshippers. The book of Revelation sends the clear message: be faithful unto death, and this is what you have to look forward to: you will see Jesus in person, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. You will worship Him with the entire number of believers from all time and place. You will serve the Lord in perfect happiness. You will want for nothing and will lack nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true. You will lack sorrow. You will lack grief. You will lack pain and suffering. You will lack sadness, disappointment, worry and fear. Those things you will lack. Those things will be lost forever as you look at the face of your Savior Jesus, the Shepherd and the Lamb, the Alpha and Omega, Your King and your brother. It will finally be Him. Jesus. He’s bringing you there. He put the white clothes—or is the right clothes on you. He put the song of faith in your heart. He will bring you over the canyon of death on the bridge of his cross into a scene just like this great celebration in Revelation.
That’s the Spoiler Alert. This is how your story ends, but as you can see, it’s really not an ending at all. Knowing that this is God’s promise to you ought to totally change the way your life gets lived. But does it?
All too often, I’m afraid that we are so distracted by life in this world that we don’t give much thought to life with Christ that never ends. The cares and concerns that trouble us get right up in our faces, so that we can’t see past them. The idea of heaven is pleasant, but distant. It isn’t until we come face to face with death that these promises start to really break through to us.
It might also be that, for as much time as we’ve spent in church, we’re still not all that clear about how you end up in heaven. We sit here observing an All Saint’s Day, but we wear the “saint” title awkwardly, if we claim it at all. It is time to change that. You need to realize that yes, indeed, you are one of God’s saints. Why? Because that’s what God says you are.
That’s what he calls those whom he has chosen and adopted in Baptism and washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. The apostle Paul also does it on numerous occasions. He calls the members of the congregations he wrote to “saints”-- which was kind of strange, considering he was usually writing to them to tell them to get their act together. But that’s the tension in which we live. We know we don’t deserve to be called saints. We don’t deserve to be called children of God. We know that when it comes to being holy, well, that’s a joke, right? We know that if a judge and jury were ever to sift through the evidence of our lives, they would be able to come up with incident after incident that would disqualify us from saintly status.
Despite our ideas and doubts about sainthood, God looks at Jesus’ cross and empty tomb, then looks at us and because of what Jesus did, he names us saints. So that’s what we must be. Just as he calls ordinary bread and wine his own body and blood; just as he calls a bit of water with his name “a washing of rebirth and renewal,” if God calls us saints, we’re saints, through Jesus Christ our Lord. If God can name the day day and night, night, then He can call us saints through the shed blood and risen life of Jesus. Are you going to tell God he’s wrong? That he’s made a mistake? “Not me, Lord, no, I’m not a saint.” God hears that and says, “Hey, listen, being a saint is not up to you! Because of what my Son did, I can and will say to you that in my eyes, you are a saint. You are someone for whom my Son was rejected and beaten and killed. Being called a saint isn’t an achievement; it’s a gift. Receive it and wear your white robe well.
Take this good news to heart: God considers you a saint, because the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus has been applied to you. Despite everything the devil and the world will throw at you in this life, you have heard and believed the Spoiler Alert that promises final and absolute victory in Jesus Christ! We are saved by our God who sits on the throne and by the Lamb. May God, in His grace, work through you and me to add more and more souls to that heavenly crowd of saints; in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day

October 31, 1517
"Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend father Martin Lutther..."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sew Prayerful--Prayer Quilts


St. Paul's has initiated a wonderful caring ministry to our shut-in members, led by JoEllen Graziadei. Called "Sew Prayerful," the group meets to assemble prayer quilts once a month.

The prayer quilts features strings that can be knotted to symbolize prayers that have been said on each shut-in's behalf. I have the distinct pleasure of delivering the completed quilts. One look at Rose Makee's face (above) lets you know how treasured and well received they are. Below left, her husband Ken admires his new quilt. Ken and Rose both live at the same elder care facility.


Sew Prayerful will meet for the next time at St. Paul's on Friday, October 30 at 9:30 a.m. For more information, please contact JoEllen at jgraz252@oh.rr.com

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Ministry a Success

St. Paul's Youth Group, under the supervision of Ed and Linda Prib, sold over seventy pumpkins Saturday and Sunday, along with thirty-plus loaves of pumpkin bread. A verse of Scripture was attached to each item. Thanks to everyone who supported this well-received event--and special thanks to the Pribs for coming up with the idea, organizing it, and leading the youth in carrying it out!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hymn Stanza of the Week: Built on the Rock the Church Shall Stand

Built on the Rock the Church Shall Stand
Nicolai F. S. Grundtvig; TLH 467, stanza 6

Here stands the font before our eyes
Telling how God did receive us;
Th' altar recalls Christ's sacrifice
And what His table doth give us;
Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim
Christ yesterday, today, the same,
Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hit the Homiletical Ball

Imagine a tennis player who concentrates on looking good but forgets to get the ball over the net. The point is: Hit the ball! The object of any sermon technique has to be getting the Gospel across to people. Is the message getting through? Are the people believing the Gospel and relishing the grace of God? The motto behind all homiletical method must be: Hit the ball! Do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission of winning lost souls for Christ. The pastor who gets hung up on pure technique for its own sake is actually self-centered, like a tennis player looking at his own shadow. The foremost question in his mind is "How am I doing?" but the preacher who employs technique in service of the goal is always asking, "How is he (the listener) doing?"

Dr. James Bollhagen

Sunday, October 11, 2009

There's Always More With Jesus

Mark 10: 17--22

One of the keys to a good conversation is asking good questions. When you ask thoughtful questions, it shows you are interested in the person you’re talking to, and if you ask the right questions, you may unlock some great insight or information from the person you’ve questioned. That’s why we like to watch or read interviews of people who interest us. A thought-provoking question can produce a fascinating answer.
Then again, sometimes a question can be not thought-provoking, just provocative. An intrusive or ill-timed question can stop a conversation in its tracks.
Questions. We even have them about the Christian faith. That’s normal, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as I said, the right question can unlock some things that help us to understand or deal with an issue more fully. But sometimes people ask the wrong question. That’s OK, if they’re open enough to be challenged in their thinking. If not, though; if a person is stuck on a bad question and can’t proceed until they get an answer that “makes sense,” then that person might prevent themselves from hearing something they need to hear.
For an example, we need look no further than today’s Gospel lesson. A rich young man, who was obviously a “winner” by the world’s standards, comes to Jesus with a question. It is an understandable question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It is a revealing question, probably much more so than that young man realized—because by asking “What must I do…” he put the burden on himself to do what needed to be done. It is the natural, human question to ask; it is the question that all man-made religion is based on; and it is the wrong question. Or maybe it would better to say that the question rests on a faulty assumption—that we can do something to inherit eternal life; that the ball is in our court, so to speak. At any rate, it would seem that this successful guy is coming to Jesus to find out what he needs to do to make an already exemplary life just a little bit more polished.
This view of Jesus creeps into the thinking of many people, Christians included. “Look how good a job I’m doing with my life, Lord,” we say, “just give me your seal of approval and I’ll continue to do a great job on my own.”
But Jesus will not settle for that. He is not content to be a divine Dr. Phil, dispensing advice or affirming our good decisions. And the way he answers the rich young man shows it. Jesus demands much of this man, much more than expected. Jesus asks the young man to give up the one thing that was closest to his heart—his wealth. Jesus doesn’t argue with this so called “winner” about his claim to have kept the Law from his youth. With this demand to sell his possessions and give to the poor, Jesus is asking, are you living in the Spirit of the Law? Do you really love your neighbor as yourself? And the rich young man comes to a sad realization. No, I don’t. I don’t love my neighbor as myself. I love the stuff that I’ve got. He went away full of sorrow, because he didn’t get the answer he had hoped. At that point in time, he must’ve been thinking, “if that’s what it takes to earn eternal life, I don’t think I can do it.” He was disheartened, because Jesus has basically answered his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life” by saying, “There is nothing you can do. You’re serving a false God right now. Repent of that and I’ll show you the way.” And tragically, the rich man doesn’t think he can.
This is not “Jesus the nice guy” we’ve come to prefer. This is Jesus the truth-teller, and He won’t settle for surface-level stuff. Where we prefer a Jesus who affirms that we’re basically good people, the real Jesus confronts the sinner whose gossip, grudges, and insufficient charity toward others is proof that our wishful thinking is wrong. Where we prefer a Jesus who compliments our faithfulness to home and family, the real Jesus confronts the sinner whose secret thoughts and actions are often quite unfaithful. Where we prefer a Jesus who blindly gives us whatever we ask for, he confronts the sinner who typically forgets to say “thank you.” He confronts the sinner because he loves the sinner, just like he loved the rich young man and wanted to help him. He makes it clear: “There’s nothing you can do to inherit eternal life.” Once we finally believe that, then he can say, “There’s nothing you can do; but there is something I can do.” This is the great news of the Gospel.
Jesus wanted to be more than a wise teacher for the rich young man. When it says in verse 21 that Jesus loved him that means he was willing to go to the cross for him. Jesus had already predicted his death twice and he was about to do it again. In love, Jesus was willing to do what this successful person could not—what none of us could ever do—and that is deal with sin, and make its curse go away, once and for all. When we let ourselves think of Jesus, nailed to a cross for us, we are confronted with the severity of our sin—and the incredible mercy of God. There, at the cross, Jesus is punished not for his sin but for yours and mine. Why? He loves you.
Jesus required that wealthy young man to give up everything for him. He could not. Neither can we. Therefore Jesus gave up everything for us, to the extent that he would bleed and die and be forsaken by His Father, all so that he could say, “This is what I have done for you, so that you can inherit eternal life.”
Jesus demanded much more than the young man expected. But He also gives much more than expected. To those who are broken and remorseful; to those who repent of a self-righteous attitude; to those who have tried to fix themselves and are ready to give up, Jesus holds out his gifts, bought and paid for with his blood. Here is forgiveness. Here is peace with God. Here is meaning and life. Here is confidence in the face of our own suffering. Here is certainty in the face of our own death. Here is the promise of life with God that lasts forever—eternal life in which praise and worship and unity and service and love will never end. All of it brought about not by what I have done but by what Jesus has done by suffering, dying, rising from the tomb, and ascending into heaven to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to His Church. What must you do to be saved? Look away from yourself and trust that Jesus has done it all. Trust that his mercy covers you. Trust that baptismal waters cover you. Trust that the robe of Jesus’ holiness covers you. Trust that with Jesus, there is always more grace, more mercy, more forgiveness, than we can comprehend

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hymn Stanzas of the Week: Jesus! and Shall It Ever Be

Jesus! and Shall It Ever Be
Joseph Grigg; stanzas 5 and 6 (TLH 346)

Ashamed of Jesus? Yes I may
When I've no guilt to wash away,
No tear to wipe, no good to crave,
No fear to quell, no soul to save.

Till then--nor is my boasting vain--
Till then I boast a Savior slain;
and oh, may this my glory be,
That Christ is not ashamed of me!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Whose Side Are You On?

On whose side is the pastor? Is he in a self-defense mode on the side of his office, or is he on the people's side? Don't try to answer, because the whole premise of the question is wrong. A pastor may at times have to defend the unique position and role of his office against naysayers, just as Moses had to defend his own mediatorial position (Numbers 12 and 16). But the question is still wrong. It presupposes that the pastor and the laypeople are sides pitted against one another and engaged in some kind of contest to get the most attention. The pastor and the laity constitute the same side, the Church, in the midst of a sinful world.

Laypeople are going to make mistakes and fail to get jobs done, but they should be given responsibility in the church. The church is not a place where people are granted forgiveness only if they can first prove that they don't need it.

Dr. James Bollhagen

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take Up Your Cross

In giving of ourselves for Christ, we have given up nothing because Christ is everything. He is all in all. The true followers of Jesus are not the ones who answer the polls correctly in identifying who he is, but rather, they have the faith that brings the crucified Christ to expression in their own lives.

Dr. David P. Scaer

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Make Some Noise for Lutheran Women's Missionary League!

What weighs 32 1/4 pounds and spreads the Gospel message? That would be $253.43 in noisy mites. Combine that with the $181 of quiet mites collected on LWML Weekend and you have a total of $434.43 that will be sent to the LWML Ohio District. We pray that God will richly bless the various missions of the LWML in the Ohio District and around the world. To learn more about the LWML go to http://www.lwml.org . Please continue to "feed" your mites boxes and return them to church on a regular basis.

Thank You,
Billie Lelle - Friendship Circle Treasurer

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do I Benefit from Christ's Death?

The afflicted person says: Christ died for everyone; but not everyone benefits from his death. How can I know that Christ's gracious work will help me? How can I be sure that I have a share in all that Christ has earned for us through his suffering and death?

The comforter says: God gives you the Word of His Gospel and in it He gives you all the grace of His Son. He stretches out his hand the whole day (Isaiah 65: 2). He calls and invites everyone. He is certainly calling you, too. What God offers you in his mercy, grasp with the hand of faith. What you believe, you receive. Faith grasps Christ, and in Christ it grasps God's grace, the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life.

John Gerhard

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Family: God's Idea

A young mother went down to her baby’s nursery one night and was surprised to find her husband peering down at their newborn child. She could tell he was captivated by the scene as he stood there looking at their beautiful sleeping infant. She was so touched that she tiptoed up behind him and slipped her arm through his, saying, “Honey, what are you thinking about?" And he said, “I just can’t believe we got this crib for under a hundred dollars!”
A woman was surprised by her 7 year old grandson one morning. He had made her coffee. She proceeded to then drink the worst cup of coffee in her life. When she got to the bottom there were three little green army men in the cup. She said, "What are the army men doing in my coffee?" Her grandson said, "Grandma, it says on TV, “The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup.”
To live in relationship with other human beings is God’s design. It is his intent for us to give and receive love from others—especially from those who share each day with us—the people we call family.
Today’s reading from Genesis shows the Lord putting the first family together. “It is not good for man to be alone,” said the Lord, and so he created Eve to be with Adam. This is no small thing. We are created to need relationship with others. Psychologists continue to report what the Bible has said from its opening chapters: It is not good for us to be alone. The more healthy relationships we have, the better off we’ll be. By the Lord’s design, that network of relationships begins with our family. The Bible paints a clear picture: He gave a man and a woman to one another, to share love, companionship, and to know the joy of creation with the blessing of children, and to know the further joy of their ongoing care.
There’s just one problem, and it’s a doozy; the problem of sin. The first family disobeyed God and put their wishes before His; the results: agony in childbirth; hard toil in the fields; and eventually, death. With the introduction of sin, you can see the relationship between Adam and Eve starting to crack. Once their sin is discovered, they start playing the blame game. That’s really a rather familiar pattern, isn’t it?
Sin had and still has a devastating effect on the relationships that matter most to us. In an awful perversion of God’s intent, sin can twist the relationships meant to nurture us into relationships that damage us. The very people who were meant to love and serve us instead hate and harm us, giving us permanent scars in our souls. This is not the way things are supposed to be. Jesus makes that abundantly clear in the Gospel lesson, where he condemns the practice of easy divorce, using phrases from Genesis to set up this statement: What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. Sin leads to the disintegration of relationships; the disintegration of relationships, especially in the family, leads to disintegration of our society; this is one of the most profound “ripple effects” of sin, and it affects everyone. You would be hard pressed to find someone whose life has not been made miserable by the implosion of a family, whether their own or someone else’s.
Sin complicates even the best of relationships. The fact is that by nature we sin against others every day. That means we have more opportunities to sin against our families than anyone else. We want to have our way. We can be needless cruel to those we profess to love. We have a hard time remembering Scripture, but we can remember how a family member “stepped on our toes” in exquisite detail. It would seem that our family relationships are doomed to fail. They would be, if it were not for the intervention of Jesus Christ in our lives.
The Son of God submitted to His Father’s will. In the words of the writer of Hebrews, for a little while, he was made lower than the angels. He became truly human, for the purpose of “tasting death for everyone.” That means that by becoming human and suffering and dying on a cross, he tasted the death of our selfishness. He tasted the death of our sin—the sin that wreaks havoc on our relationships. He tasted our death—the death that we should have died for hating instead of loving—an eternal, awful death—a death whereby relationship with God the Father is broken. He tasted it for you and me. He tasted it and he swallowed it, and it killed him. Yet in doing so, death was swallowed up forever, and when Easter rolled around, and Jesus walked out of that tomb very much alive, things would never be the same for his people again. You see, Jesus’ death and resurrection means that our sin has been swallowed up. It’s gone. We are forgiven an insurmountable debt. That means there is a new beginning available to you, truly a new life to live. It is what some call “the Jesus life,” a life that has accessed our hearts and minds through Baptism and the Word of God. Because Jesus loves you, and proved his love for you by being nailed to the cross for you, He is not ashamed to call you his brother. He is not ashamed to call you his sister. He is the way to love our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, relatives and friends. See how Jesus expresses His love by humbly serving his disciples with a towel and a bowl. See how Jesus speaks the truth in love to his friends and followers. See how Jesus lays down his life for his friends; dying to self and dying for them. See how he forgives, even as our sin nails him to the tree of life. Service. Telling the truth. Sacrificing. Forgiving. Relationships thrive when Jesus is allowed to be part of them, because he brings these qualities to the table. Let Jesus into your relationships. I’m convinced that the primary place that we live out our Christian faith is in our families. Yes, we have more opportunities to sin against our families than anyone else, but that also means we have more opportunities with them to really exercise our Christianity. That happens when we confess our sin to one another and practice the art of speaking and living in forgiveness with one another. We can only do this because Jesus is not ashamed to call you his brother or sister. We can only do this because he proved that love by dying and rising. But that means we can do this, by the baptismal power that connects us to our Savior. Our family can be an oasis of forgiveness and unconditional love. Jesus has already begun to reverse the mess created by Adam and Eve and the serpent’s temptation. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil—the tree that brought so much sin and heartache into the world, has been trumped by the Tree of Life, the cross of Jesus, the Son of God, our brother who loves us.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hymn Stanzas of the Week: Not What These Hands Have Done

Not What These Hands Have Done (TLH 389)
Horatius Bonar, stanzas 1 and 3

Not what these hands have done can save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.

Friday, October 2, 2009

True Christian Victory

We're victorious not when we grow up and stop needing to rely on Jesus so much. We're victorious when we rely on him more every day. Every day remembering our Baptism and who we are as children of God. Every day dying and rising with Christ. Every day receiving his victory, life, and salvation. Growing not up and away from him, but growing into him. The Spirit taking the life of Christ and giving it to you. "He will take what is mine and give it to you."

Rev. James Douthwaite

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Warriors of the Word

In our day there is great fatigue for the fight against false doctrine, indeed a willful rejection of this fight. Men who wield the sword of the Spirit are decried as destroyers of the peace and as people who hinder the building of the Church. Indeed, if we are cognizant of the fact that the Church only and alone is built upon the Word of God, then we will regard it as completely self-evident that we must defend against those who would tear down this foundation. Because the life of the Church is precious to us, there are times when one must do more defending than instructing. So it was in the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The enemies sought to hinder the building. Thus one-half of the young men did the work and the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and armor. And even each of those who were doing the construction was equipped with a sword.

Rev. Matthew C. Harrison

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Service of Angels

Even in the hour of our death, the presence and service of the angels continue, giving us ample reason for comfort and reassurance. As the angels rereshed the Savior when he struggled with death in the Garden of Gethsemane, so Christians, according to Scripture, can expect to receive the aid of the angels in their final battle. They gather around the deathbed, and when the soul leaves its mortal body, they bear it up into the blessed dwellings of the heavenly Father. Oh, what love, of God we thus see revealed in the doctrine of the angels!

Dr. C.F.W. Walther

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How Do I Live A Christian Life?

We are called to follow Jesus, but He is not just an example that we are to follow. That is what we call "moralistic thinking." And it is a false understanding of the way the Gospel works.Moralism holds up certain Christ-like qualities--dedication, self-denial, and the like--and then says, "Work on these traits and you'll be a good Christian." But the evil lies in not seeing that these ideals are results of the Gospel. They are not something we can do. We do not focus on "dedication" as a quality in Christ's character which we want to emulate, for we fail utterly; we can't do anything. Rather, we focus on his death on the cross for us. "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2: 13).Therefore, we look to Christ's commitment for and to us; and by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we respond back with our commitment: Christ in me.

Dr. Donald Deffner

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Do You Have Salt in Yourself?

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Mary Poppins—or The Sound of Music? That still confuses me sometimes. I like sugar and I know I’m not alone. Sugar can mask a lot of bad—or bland—ingredients. Salt, on the other hand, doesn’t overpower the flavor of food as much as it brings out what is already there. Salt also has the power to preserve—which is one of the reasons it was so highly valued in the ancient world. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt, which is where the phrase “he’s worth his salt” originated. Where am I going with this? Well today we hear Jesus say, “Have salt in yourselves,” and we need to drill down into what he means by this. I’ve found that it helps to contrast salt with sugar in trying to comprehend Jesus’ words.To this day, I prefer sugary cereals, even if it’s just a little frosting on the old shredded wheat. Shredded wheat without the frosting—you might as well chew a cardboard box. Sugar takes what is not so hot and makes it tasty.The devil and the world are well versed at this technique. They take things that are atrocious—things that, at their core are sinful and anti-God, and make them seem tasty! The sensation of pleasure we get from these sugary sins blinds us to the fact that we are eating garbage—that we’re killing ourselves with sinful behavior.
Never once does Jesus sugarcoat the problem of sin. In fact, listen to what he says:42 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 46 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ’where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
The way Jesus says this is unforgettable: it would better, He says, for you to lose a body part that causes you to sin than to end up in hell. Nothing sugary about that! Now did Jesus mean that literally? I’d have to say no—Jesus was using extreme language to get your attention—but now that he’s got it, pay attention to the message, which is that sin is serious business. I’ve heard it said that the hands Jesus talks about represent the sin which we do, the feet represent where we go to in order to sin, and our eyes represent what we look at in sin. The message then becomes: If you do things that lead you to sin, get rid of those things. The same for places you go, or the things you look at. Those things are like sugar that overloads our senses so that we willingly swallow the poison of sin. In doing so, we risk something the momentary sweet flavor will never be able to mask. Namely, hell. Where the worm does not die, nor is the fire ever quenched. The world sugarcoats sin, so that we can swallow the taste of hell. Do we really see sin as being so serious that we would chop off part of our life rather than let sin get a hold of us? Do we see sin as dangerous as swine flu? Or do we just accept it-- or worse, do we like the taste?Moving away from sugar-coating for the moment, I wonder how many of you remember the days of getting a cut, or a deep scratch, treated with iodine? Do you remember that burning feeling, as the iodine penetrated the wound? I remember being on an oceanfront beach one time. I had been hiking, with a few blisters on my foot that had yet to fully heal. Without thinking, I waded into the sea water and “youch” I was treated to the power of salt.For centuries, salt, in one form or another, has been used to treat wounds. That action causes the stinging sensation. And boy can it sting. In fact, it can hurt more than the wound that it treats. But that cleansing, that purifying, is so needed! Otherwise infection could set in.Where sugar-coating only hides the effect of sin, God’s Word acts like salt. It gets into our lives, ripping out the curse of sin, healing the wound and protecting it from further infection. It will sting a bit, as we realize the damage done. That is the way the Holy Spirit works. He is like a surgeon who not only removes that which is causing sickness, but also leaves life and health behind. Your life is purified by the salt of the Gospel—the news that Jesus absorbed the sting of sin and death on the cross, once and for all, for you. So you would never have to know what that sting feels like. You will never know that pain because Jesus experienced it instead of you. The law and gospel of Jesus is like salt in our deepest wounds—the knowledge of our sin stings—but it is quickly overwhelmed by the generous forgiveness of Jesus, which has the properties needed to heal our minds and souls.Having been changed in this way, we too become “salty.” We become living examples of how not masking sin, but being open about it and repenting it can change a person. We can become people who do not swallow the devil’s sweet lies, but instead flavor our conversation with the salt of God’s truth, in the direct and loving manner of Jesus himself.
In today’s Old Testament and Gospel lessons, people raise questions about who should be doing the work of God. The Lord’s response in both cases is the same; He essentially says: I wish all of my people were salty. I wish they all loved my truth and refused to sugarcoat it. I wish they all wanted to apply the healing salt of my Son’s Gospel to the wounds of the world, and worked to do so!
As Christians, our lives are to be seasoned with mercy, truth, and loving service. These are not qualities to strive for, but realities that are already within you, because Jesus lives in you. You have His salt in yourselves. Sprinkle it out. Share it. Savor the difference that Jesus makes.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hymn Stanzas of the Week: Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow

Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow (TLH 554)
Paul Gerhardt; stanzas 4 and 5

To rest my body hasteth,
Aside its garments casteth,
Types of mortality;
These I put off and ponder
How Christ will give me yonder
A robe of glorious majesty.

Lord Jesus, who dost love me,
Oh, spread Thy wings above me,
And shield me from alarm!
Though evil would assail me,
Thy mercy will not fail me:
I rest in Thy protecting arm.

Friday, September 25, 2009

He Lives in Me (Part II)

Meanwhile my old man (Eph. 4: 22) remains outside and is subject to the Law. But so far as justification is concerned, Christ and I must be so closely attached that He lives in me and I in Him. What a marvelous way of speaking! Because he lives in me, whatever grace, righteousness, life, peace, and salvation there is in me is all Christ's; nevertheless, it is mine as well, by the cementing and attachment that are through faith, by which we become as one body in the Spirit. In this way Paul seeks to withdraw us completely from ourselves, from the Law, and from works, and to transplant us into Christ and faith in Christ, so that in the area of justification we look only at grace, and separate it far from the Law and from works, which belong far away.

Dr. Martin Luther

Thursday, September 24, 2009

He Lives In Me

Living in me as he does, Christ abolishes the Law, damns sins, and kills death; for at his presence all these things cannot help disappearing. Christ is eternal peace, comfort, righteousness, and life, to which the terror of the Law, sadness of mind, sin, death and hell have to yield. Abiding and living in me, Christ removes and absorbs all the evils that torment me and afflict me. This attachment to Him causes me to be liberated from the terror of the Law and of sin, pulled out of my own skin, and transferred into Christ and into His kingdom, which is a kingdom of grace, righteousness, peace, joy, life, salvation, and eternal glory. Since I am in Him, no evil can harm me.



Dr. Martin Luther

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Loudest Preacher

Death is the loudest and strongest preacher to the unbelieving world. That world may shun all churches and avoid all preachers of the Word of God, but there is one preacher it must hear. Death's church is the whole earth and the heavenly vaults above it; its pulpits are the deathbed, the coffin, the hearse, the grave, and the cemetery. With a piercing voice that penetrates marrow and bone, this preacher calls into the world's ear wherever it goes: "Man, you must die! There is no remaining abode here. The earth is not your homeland. This life is not the destiny given to you. You must finally go out of this world, with all its glory, at an hour unknown to you. Oh, repent. Repent!"
But in incomprehendable delusion, the world does not want to hear death's call to repentance. It must then experience the great might of the king of terrors. If its loved ones die, it cries tears of doubt, then looks on as the grave locks up the corpses forever and their souls flutter and disappear like fog in the air. It looks into eternity as into an unknown land, tormented by doubt.

How differently believers stand by the coffins and graves of their loved ones who have fallen asleep in the faith! For Christ, in whom we have believed, has swallowed up death and removed its power, and He has brought life and immortality to light. Death has become a little bee that has lost its sting, and now it carries nothing but sweet honey in its mouth.

Dr. C. F. W. Walther

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Installation of Jacob Rogers

God’s Word comes to us today from the book of Deuteronomy, the sixth chapter, beginning with the 4th verse: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. This is the Word of the Lord.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I stand here today as a preacher of God’s Word because of Lutheran principals and administrators. Now, they’re not the only factor in my becoming a pastor, but they were a factor. From Trinity Lutheran School in Warren, Michigan, to Concordia Lutheran School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to St. Peter Lutheran School in Hemlock, Michigan, to Valley Lutheran High School in Saginaw, Michigan, to Concordia University—River Forest, Illinois, (before it encompassed all of Chicago), to Concordia Theological Seminary, back in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I directly benefitted from the faithful administration of Lutheran schools, which gave me the opportunity to be steeped in and immersed in God’s Word of gospel hope and truth. No child is really conscious of it at the time, but in retrospect, I am very grateful that Lutheran principals and administrators were there to set the table for learning and growth in the Word to take place. For those kind of reasons I am also grateful for the opportunity to support Our Shepherd Lutheran School and to have the privilege of preaching the Word on this very special occasion of Jacob Rogers’ installation as our principal.
It’s no secret that Lutheran schools are facing rather large and intimidating challenges these days. I’m not going to attempt to get all sociological on you, or speculate as to the reasons why. Instead, let’s allow God’s Word to remind us why we have Lutheran Schools in the first place. Listen again to His Word from Deuteronomy: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Lutheran schools exist to help families grow in their faith and knowledge of the one true God; God in three persons, and to help them walk in that faith and knowledge. Yes, academics and social skills and physical health are key components, but the ultimate purpose for Lutheran education is to impress upon children and their families the commandments and the promises of Almighty God; to expose the hearts of children and their families to God’s Law and Gospel; to show children and their families how to live a Christian life with integrity. Our Lutheran schools are the crowning jewel of our church body, for nowhere else are disciples so fully formed and equipped as in our schools, where Jesus is present daily, where His Words are studied daily, where teachers embody the wisdom of Christ daily. I pray, and I hope you will join me in this prayer, that at the local, district, and national level, we would fall back in love with our Lutheran schools and show it joyfully with willing sacrificial support—and not only that—but be quick to talk with our family and friends and acquaintances about the treasure that we have received from our Lord Jesus Christ in places like Our Shepherd.
Jacob, on behalf of everyone who makes up a part of the Our Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran School community, I bid you welcome in Jesus’ name, and I sincerely hope that you have been made to feel how genuinely thankful we are that you answered God’s call to serve here. I want to acknowledge the many challenges that you face as a result of your acceptance of the call to serve, and to echo what many others have said: that we stand in strong support of your professional leadership and your personal health and well being. I want to acknowledge the many hats that a Lutheran principal is asked to wear; from public relations to disciplinarian to team leader to state regulations expert and, of course, Christian role model. It is a sizable task. It is a noble task. It is a task that cannot be accomplished by one person alone—and the good news is, you are not alone. Jacob, you are joined to Jesus himself through the unbreakable bond of baptism. He lives in you and enables you with the gifts and skills you need to welcome and serve the children in His name. You are the servant leader of an unusually gifted and faithful staff of teachers (I didn’t say unusual, I said unusually gifted). Add to that a circle of dedicated parents who are committed to the success of Our Shepherd and congregations that cherish what Our Shepherd provides, and hopefully you do realize that you are not alone in this endeavor. You have been called into a family of faith that is so glad God called you here.
And so, in Christian love, we ask you to point this family continually to Christ Jesus, or Savior and Lord. Encourage us through Word and example to love the Lord with all our heart and soul and strength, and remind us of His forgiveness when we fail. Urge us to keep the commandments of God alive in our hearts, and see to it that God’s Word is being impressed upon the children who walk through these doors. Show us how to bring the Word of Life into our homes and what a daily walk with Jesus looks like. Teach us to wrap ourselves in the good news of Jesus Christ. Hold the Word of His cross and vacant tomb before our eyes, so that neither we nor you forget why we’re here in a Lutheran school. That’s what we need when families are going through difficult times. That’s what we need when there are disagreements and hurt feelings. That’s what we need when an immediate crisis crowds our vision. We need Jesus. Jacob, we need you to stand for him.
There’s a story about a severe thunderstorm that rolled in one night, much to the chagrin of a little boy who was trying to get to sleep. As the first wave of flashing lightning and rolling thunder swept through, he called out from his bedroom, “Daddy, can I come in there with you?” “No, son, it’ll be all right,” was the response. “Just close your eyes and get to sleep.” Well, of course, the storm continued to rage outside and after a couple minutes the boy tried again. “Daddy, can I please come in there with you?” “No son,” came the reply, “Just say your prayers and everything is going to be OK.” Well it wasn’t too much longer until a blinding flash and an immediate roar of thunder caused the boy to jump out of bed, hit the ground running and dive into bed between his mom and dad, getting as far under the covers as possible. And dad said, “Son, it’s all right. You’re going to be fine. Jesus was with you the whole time.” And a little voice came up from under the blanket, “But Daddy, I need Jesus with skin on.”
Jacob, the Our Shepherd family needs Jesus with skin on, too. The children and parents that make up this family need Jesus with skin on when life is scary—and when there are things worth celebrating. That is where you come in. By the power that enables him to do all things, even grant the gift of faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit would use you to be Jesus with skin on to this community. And we, with the same Spirit-born faith, promise to do the same for you—to be Jesus with skin on to you and your family, to work and strive together to receive the little ones in Jesus’ name. And may the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion at the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Do You Want To Be First? (Mark 9: 30--37)

Who is the greatest athlete of all time? How about the greatest entertainer? What is the greatest movie ever made? The greatest person you ever met? It’s a human pastime to come up with our list of “greatests,” and there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing so, as long as we understand that God’s definition of what makes a person great is far, far different than ours.
Jesus’ disciples found that out in an embarrassing way in today’s gospel. Jesus had been teaching them about himself; telling them in plain language about his rescue mission. Jesus said: “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And after he is killed, He will rise on the third day.” To you and me, this is dangerously close to “old news.” To the disciples, it didn’t make sense, and they were afraid to ask questions. Instead, as they walk along the road to their next destination, the conversation shifts, and has nothing to do with what Jesus was talking about. Instead, they start opining about who of them was the greatest disciple! Some translations say they were disputing this issue. When they get to the house where they were staying, Jesus asks them, “What were you talking about on the way?” You probably could’ve heard the proverbial pin drop in the silence that followed, as the disciples thought it over. Jesus had just told them he was going to be betrayed and executed, and they had responded by cutting him out of the conversation and debating who is the greatest among us. What an uncomfortable silence that must have been. How patient of our Lord Jesus to keep teaching these guys who couldn’t seem to see past themselves. We might as well say the same thing about ourselves. How patient Jesus is with us, who so desire worldly greatness, recognition, and status. He never stops instructing us through his Word.
To understand God’s definition of greatness, we have to understand God. By nature, the almighty God of heaven and earth is a servant. He created Adam and Eve so that He might care for them. He created them in His image to serve one another and to take care of what God had made. When they sinned, He did not respond with raw power, instead, he promised to serve them again by sending a Savior who would crush the serpent’s head, decisively defeating death and hell. That’s the plan Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel—a plan to serve. That’s God’s nature. Therefore, when God measures greatness, he measures it in terms of serving. In God’s eyes, the one who is great is the one who serves others.
Sinful humankind measures greatness in exactly the opposite way. Our culture says greatness is when you have so much power that you are served by others. Greatness in our culture means you have some talent or quality that sets you apart and make you worthy of being admired, glorified, and yes, even worshipped by others. That’s why movie stars, musicians and professional athletes are idolized. Think about it: the word “idolized” says it all. Natural man looks at wealth, publicity, and power and says, “that’s what life is all about.” But lest we point the finger too easily at Hollywood or Washington D.C. or your local sports arena, we also need to look in the mirror, and ask: “in what ways have I been seduced by a need to be thought of as great? In what ways have I craved recognition or power or control? What has my need to be number one caused me to do? Even Jesus’ own disciples couldn’t help jostling for the number one spot. It is an almost constant human temptation.
And that creates some tension, to say the least. Jesus says, “In service to the people of the world, I’m going to suffer and die to buy back what is already mine.” This is the greatest service of all. By their discussion, the disciples said, in so many words, “Suffering and dying isn’t great. Rising up to be powerful is great. So which one of us will be the greatest of Jesus’ disciples? Which one will have the power and authority?” By their discussion, the disciples betray how far away they are from thinking God’s way.
What follows is what educators call a “teachable moment.” He sits the twelve down in response to their embarrassed silence and says, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” This would have been a startling statement to the disciples, and in truth, it is still startling to the sinful nature. Greatness is found in service? Being best is a matter of being last? What is that supposed to mean? To God, it makes perfect sense, because he is the servant who created us to serve; to man, it sounds ludicrous.
The “teachable moment” continues. A child toddling by is scooped up in Jesus’ arms as He says, “Whoever receives one of these little children in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but Him who sent me.” This, too, would’ve been so far away from the disciples’ conventional wisdom: the lines were clearly drawn, childcare was for the womenfolk, men did manly stuff like catch fish and fight wars. Yet Jesus declares that service to children is great service. He has come to save all people, children included. But this goes way, way past Jesus telling his disciples to serve the cute little boys and girls because they’re so doggone adorable. Jesus is saying: to be great means to serve those who can’t serve you back. Serve those who might not say thank you. Serve those who are in no position to reward you. You can almost see the disciples casting sideways glances at each other, with a mixture of shame and confusion in their eyes. They didn’t get it yet. But they would, after Jesus had made good on his promise to serve by suffering dying, and rising on the third day, and the Holy Spirit filled them on Pentecost. That means there is hope for us, too, as we grapple with God’s definition of greatness.
There is wonderful clarity in this idea; The Lord remains the Servant. He went to the cross and died for the sins of all people in service to all; and he still comes here to serve us by his means of grace, his Word and Sacraments. The Lord is a servant who sets you free from sin to be a servant. The Lord has placed you where you are to be a servant in that place. Parents; children; husbands; wives; employers; workers; retired; just getting started; teachers; students; wherever you are, God has placed you there to serve. The Lord may give you skills, assets, and wealth; should he do so, rejoice that t the Lord has entrusted these things to you so that you can serve others. On the other hand, if you have little in the way of resources, rejoice that the Lord has put you where you are, to serve with what you have, even if that’s just your two hands. This is the life of a Christian: Set free from sin by Jesus, the Servant who suffered on the cross for us, then conquered death by rising on Easter, we are set free to serve wherever the Lord has put us.
There is a special aspect of servanthood that Jesus brings to our attention in the Gospel lesson, and that is service to children. Obviously, Jesus places a great premium on “receiving the little children” in his Name.
Parents, this starts with you at home. In giving you children, the Lord has called you into the vocation of fatherhood or motherhood, and that means you have a multitude of opportunities to serve your children; and that includes serving your child’s spiritual needs. Read Bible stories at home. Look at the Small Catechism together. Pray together. Talk about the Gospel each day, and live it out as you provide both discipline and forgiveness in your home. Bring your children to church and Sunday School, but know that it is not enough. I hope you wouldn’t say, “Since the school hot lunch program feeds my child, I don’t have to provide food at home.” And so I also hope you wouldn’t say “Since my child gets a Bible story a week at church, that’s enough.”
The greatest service and the greatest gift you can give your child is to teach them God’s Word and to show them what Christian faith looks like, lived out day to day.
Receiving the little children is also played out here on Sundays at Sunday School. Sunday School is an overlooked treasure, too frequently thought of as a place to park the kids while the adults are doing something else. It’s far more than that. It’s a chance for children to be put in touch with their loving Savior through His Word. I want to take this opportunity to thank and encourage our Sunday School teachers. They are the unsung servants among us who are at the forefront of our efforts to receive little children in Jesus’ name. May we serve these teachers with thanks and support for their efforts.
And there are even more opportunities to receive little ones in Jesus name—our church has answered the call by supporting not one but two Lutheran Schools—St. Paul’s Preschool and Our Shepherd Lutheran School. In economically challenging times, it is easy to dwell on the expense of operating a parochial school. Let’s never forget why we should support and sacrifice for the good of our Christian schools: they are places where Jesus Christ is welcomed and present! Disciples are made as children learn the truth of God’s Word by heart. Future leaders, musicians, workers and pastors of the Church are being trained right now in our schools! I would like to recognize and offer thanks to the teachers of Our Shepherd who serve the children and families. Let’s serve those families also by continuing to strongly support Lutheran education in our community.
We are able to serve because the Lord Jesus has set us free to do so. Wherever He has placed you in life, make it your goal to serve as Jesus would serve, and do so knowing that you are fully and freely forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hymn Stanzas of the Week: Dear Lord, To Thy True Servants Give

Dear Lord, to Thy True Servants Give
W. Gustav Polack, stanzas 1 and 3

Dear Lord, to thy true servants give
the grace of Thee alone to live.
Once bound by sin, but saved by Thee,
They go to set the prisoners free,
The Gospel message to proclaim,
That men might call upon Thy name.

When all their labor seems in vain,
Revive their sinking hearts again;
And when success crowns what they do,
Oh, keep them humble, Lord, and true
Until before Thy judgment seat
they lay their trophies at Thy feet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Is Faith?

Faith means that we count ourselves as nothing and that we regard what God has done in Jesus Christ as everything. Faith does not look to itself, but it looks at Christ and says, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Faith gives shape and form to our lives, but, strangely, faith is never anything we do. Faith is not really a thing. Faith is not a quantity to be measured. Faith is not my personal decision to accept Christ; faith is God filling my emptiness with Christ. God lays hold of me before I lay hold of him. Faith belongs to me, but it is the Spirit's gift. Faith is not valued by what it is, but by what it believes, and it believes in Christ. When faith looks at itself, it is weakened.

Dr. David P. Scaer

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parker Place Devotion Time

Yesterday I did my first devotional service at Parker Place Independent Retirement Village in Mentor. It is a beautiful facility, right at the corner of 90 and 615.

Using the large print bulletin from the past week's services, we did an abbreviated form of Divine Service 3 in Lutheran Service Book. I preached a message on John 3:16 and at the end of the service I distributed business card-sized Scripture verses to those in attendance. It was a good experience and I look forward to returning once a month for the rest of this year into the next.

Special thanks to Wren Cavender for helping to make the connections that enabled me to offer devotions at Parker Place, as well as providing musical accompaniment and joining me in a duet!
At left are some of the nice folks who joined us in the Parker Place Chapel.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today's Prayer: In Temptation

Lord Jesus Christ, stay with me. There is evil around me, and I am so often attentive to it. It is beautiful sometimes, and sensible, and practical, and friendly--or so it seems.
Lord Jesus Christ, stay with me. There is evil within me, and I am so often attentive to it. I am easily overcome by my own desire to get away from you and be free to have everything I want and to do everything I want.
Lord Jesus Christ, give me the real freedom of your life in me. By your victory over temptations make me victorious. By the power of your love make me strong.
Lord Jesus Christ, without you I will fall. With you I can stand against the enemy. Stay with me. Amen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Servant of All

I often think of one particular seminarian from several years ago who obviously will remain nameless, as he himself would prefer. He was a quiet sort of man; you hardly knew he was around. But somehow he always appeared out of the woodwork when something needed to be done. Whether it was conducting the liturgy or reading the lessons or ushering or lighting the candles, he was there to do it. At a potluck supper he would be the one setting up tables and chairs and then seeking the end of the line filing past the buffet table. One day I asked him why he wanted to enter the ministry. Out of all the profound theological things he might have said, the only answer he could muster sounded like an incomplete sentence: "I...want to serve." May the Holy Servitude be filled with an army of such men who see the ministry as their work and not a status.

Dr. James Bollhagen

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Believe; Help My Unbelief (Sermon on Mark 9: 14--29)

It is horrifying for any parent to consider. Your child is sick. Worse than that: Your child is actually possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. It controls his behavior. It tries to kill him. The parent who approached Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson was living every parent’s worst nightmare. Something’s terribly wrong with my child and I’m powerless to do anything about it.
The father of the possessed boy speaks up and reaches out to Jesus. He’s heard the miracle stories; he fumbles for words as he formulates his request: “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus replies: “If you can? All things are possible for one who believes.” And in that moment the boy’s father, desperately battling his own doubts and fears, says just about the most honest thing a human being ever says in the Bible; he says: “I believe; help my unbelief.” There was something Jesus responded to in that wrestling, awkward, transparent request—and he honors it. He does what his disciples could not—he extracts the demon from the boy; he gives the boy and his family a new life to live. Through Jesus, God is putting His broken creation together again one person and one family at a time.
“I believe; help my unbelief.” What a simple way to describe the war that goes on in our hearts and minds. It is a classic Christian paradox. We believe and we disbelieve. We trust and we trust no one. We build on the Rock and we build on sand. That’s us. And it’s not necessarily bad news. Well, unbelief is bad, but a spiritual struggle—an inner tension—is proof that faith is fighting for life. Faith that is gasping for breath is still faith; the thing we ought to really fear is no struggle—the fool’s gold of disbelief and the ethic of service to myself as the highest good.
In other words, to have faith in Jesus is to experience spiritual turbulence, because faith that trusts in God goes to war with the sinful self, and the sinful self doesn’t appreciate being fought against. It hates being exorcised. Only Jesus can cast out our sinful nature and fill us with something far better. And as I said, spiritual turbulence is better than no spiritual turbulence. Spiritual turbulence means that faith, which the Holy Spirit gave me through the gospel of Jesus and baptism, is alive and is beating down my sinful impulses. A complete lack of spiritual turbulence means I’m spiritually dead. It means I’m foolishly confident in myself, or I just don’t care about the things of God at all. Both those ways lead to destruction and finally separation from God.
“So Pastor, what you’re saying is that we either live with spiritual turbulence, or die eternally? Sounds pretty hopeless.” And I agree with you. That would be a bleak outlook on life. Let me suggest there is an upside to experiencing spiritual turbulence; the times when your struggling faith is nurtured, fed, and strengthened by a word from God. When we admit to our double-mindedness—“I believe; help my unbelief,” we are confessing sin, and when we confess sin, well, you know what God promises: “If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus is quick to apply his mercy to our doubts. He is quick to forgive us our lack of trust; the prayer “help my unbelief” is one that it pleases Him to answer. But how? How can the Lord help our unbelief? The answer is elegantly simple. He wants to talk to you. Listen to these words from Isaiah, and imagine that it is Jesus speaking these words. It really is; he is the servant speaking in chapter 50. He says: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” Here’s a slightly different translation: “The Lord God gives me the speech of the learned, so that I know how to talk to encourage the weary.” The encouragement and the knowledge that we need are found in the words of Jesus. The Word of God is the thing that is going to sustain our faith and keep it vital. Holy Scripture gives us the prequel to Jesus’ arrival; the main event of Jesus’ rescue mission to earth; and the sequels, where his followers take His good news into the surrounding world. The Holy Spirit breathes life into us through this story of Jesus! The Word of God is the antidote to fear, doubt, and worry. The Word of God replaces those things with peace, trust, and faith. The Word presents Jesus to us, inviting us to trust in Him not only for eternal life in the future, but also for the forgiveness of sins and help in our battles today.Kind of appropriate, then, that we find ourselves at another Rally Day, with the idea being that we rally around the Word of God and make it a priority. Here’s another place where it would be right to pray: “I believe; help my unbelief.” We might very well pray, “Lord, I believe that it is important to study your Word; help my unbelief that finds all kinds of way to prevent that from happening.” There are plenty of excuses for not being in the Word—I’m not going to go through them all, because we know what they are, and we know they are excuses, not reasons. Will we really rally around the Word of God on this Rally Day? Will we as individuals—as families—as disciples of Jesus—make learning the Word our top priority in the months to come? Will we as a congregation allow Jesus to speak to us in His own words? There’s an awful lot at stake, as our gospel lesson makes abundantly clear. Evil is real. The devil wants you to be his possession. He wants our children, too. And the stark reality is that you’re either Satan’s slave or God’s dearly loved child. There’s no neutral space. We’re either filling ourselves and our children with poison or purity; garbage or grace. We can fill ourselves and our children with junk that kills faith, or holy things that cause faith to grow deeper roots and stronger shoots. May the Holy Spirit inspire each of us to listen to the encouraging Words of our Lord Jesus. If you’re not doing that at all, make a fresh start. If you’re doing a little, push past that and do more. And let’s see what happens when we really listen to and act on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hymn Stanza of the Week: Preserve Thy Word, O Savior

Preserve Thy Word, O Savior
Andreas Gryphius, stanza 4

Preserve, O Lord, Thy children,
Thine own blest heritage;
Resist, disperse and scatter
Those who against Thee rage.
Let Thy commandments guide us,
Grant us Thy heavenly food;
Clothe us with Thy rich garments,
Bought with Thy precious blood.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Scripture Meditation for 9/11

Luke 13:1-5 (English Standard Version)

1There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Today's Prayer: For Pardon and Peace

Grant, we ask You, merciful Lord, to Your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins and serve You with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit; one God, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hope For Pastors

Being Christlike in one's ministry always remains a distant and elusive goal, whether a man has served as a pastor for two years or forty years, but through Confession and Absolution he is daily empowered, not to give up, but to work in that direction. Ironically, the more a pastor works in his own life to conform his ministry to the ministry of Christ, the more attention will be drawn away from his own life.

Dr. James Bollhagen

Monday, September 7, 2009

Prayer for Labor Day

Lord God, our Father and Creator, we deserve to labor among thorns and thistles; to eat by the sweat of our brow; to work without reward; for we confess we have spoiled your creation by sin; we have marred our work by our neglect; we have hurt your work by our rebellion. We pray you, bless our labor by Him who came to be our servant, by Him who saved us to serve. For His sake keep us and all who labor from false dealing and unfair practice. Help us to labor with love anf faithfulness. Teach us that the best labor we give you is to believe in the One you have sent, and to love and serve our fellow man. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Loose Our Tongues to Tell Your Kindness

Did you notice the link between the Old Testament and the Gospel lesson today? We have prophecy and fulfillment going on here. Isaiah proclaims that when God comes to settle the score and save His people, blind people will have their sight restored; the ears of the deaf will be unstopped; the lame man will leap like the deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. Some six hundred years after Isaiah’s poetic proclamation, Mark reports in his gospel that a man who was deaf and who had a speech impediment was taken aside by Jesus and healed, in the words of the text, “his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” God was doing what he said he would do, in Jesus, His Son. God had come to save. God had come with vengeance and with recompense. In other words, it’s payback time. Satan’s defeat is imminent. And God is already beginning to put his broken creation back together again, one person at a time, like the deaf man in the gospel of Mark.
When God comes around and acts in people’s lives, look at the response: “then the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” When God’s gifts hit home, there is a response of joy—an impulse to express our thanks to God, and, in the words of our liturgy, to “tell everyone what he has done.” The crowds who knew the deaf man in Mark’s gospel could not help themselves. The more Jesus charged them to keep this miracle on the down low, the more zealously they proclaimed it. Jesus had generated major buzz in the region of Decapolis. 1900 years before Arabella Katherine Hankey wrote her famous hymn, the people of that region were “Loving To Tell The Story,” saying “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” That’s just what happens when Jesus touches a human life. Or is it?
Is it true that people who have received the blessings of Jesus can’t stop talking about Him? Or have we learned to live in a different way? Are you quick to share with others the things that Jesus has done for you, or are you more likely to keep such things to yourself, obeying our culture’s dictates to keep “religion and politics” out of polite conversation? Now it is true that when we share our faith, we want to be tactful, winsome, and as gracious as possible. But it is also true that there have been times that the Lord put the ball on the tee for me; all I had to do was swing, and I didn’t. I didn’t speak even a simple word about what the Lord is up to, and I am haunted by that failure. Some of you may be able to relate with my predicament and the guilt that goes along with this type of inaction.
Our self-defensive nature shoots back: “But I don’t have some big conversion testimony to tell. I was never miraculously healed of a disease. I was never amazingly spared some accident. What do I have to share with people?”
Well, first of all, are you sure you’re not forgetting anything? Certain that the Lord did not come through for you in a major way at some point in your life? And, follow me on this, how exactly do you know that God never saved you from a disaster if it didn’t happen? More importantly though, can any Christian really say that God hasn’t done anything “dramatic” in his or her life? What about Jesus leaving the security of heaven, being born of a woman in an animal shelter, having to be hidden from paranoid rulers who wanted him dead? What about his baptism in the Jordan River, with the voice of the Father booming out and the Holy Spirit visibly appearing? What about his fulfillment of prophecy after prophecy, such as the one here in Isaiah 35? What about his clashes with the religious establishment? What about his unjust trial, the cruel beatings, the scathing words, the catastrophic effect of the Roman whip, the agony of his hours before the cross? What about his death on that Good Friday? What about coming back to life after three days in the grave? What about the fact that it was all for you? All so that your sins could be erased and forgotten? All so that you could live knowing that God has made peace with you? All so that you can die in confident expectation of heavenly joy and a future resurrection of the body? What about those things? What about your baptism, by which a life-giving connection was forged between you and Jesus? What about the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus serves you his own body and blood for the assurance that your sins are completely forgiven? You may or may not have a riveting “personal testimony,” but one thing is sure: you have this—Jesus lived, died, rose, and still rules so that your ears could be opened to hear his Word of truth; your eyes could be opened to see things His way; and your mouth could be opened to declare His praises. Since He has done all this for us, let’s be open about our faith and open to share His story—which is of course, our story now too.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hymn Stanza of the Week: Salvation Unto Us Has Come

Salvation Unto Us Has Come (TLH 377, stanza 9)
Paul Speratus

Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone
and rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
with love and hope increasing.
Yet faith alone doth justify,
Works serve thy neighbor and supply
the proof that faith is living.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Today's Prayer: Bless Us in our Baptism

Heavenly Father, remember your children everywhere, as you keep them in your baptismal grace. Help us put to death the old nature, as we were buried with Christ in baptism. Raise us again to new life, as we are risen with Christ in baptism. Help us to grow in knowledge of your Word, that Christ may be formed in us. In His name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pray for our Preschool


Our Preschool year informally began with last night's Parent Orientation. Please pray for the families who have chosen our Early Childhood Center--that they may be exposed to the good news of Jesus Christ here in word and deed. Pray also for our teachers and staff, that they would be strengthened in their tasks and enabled to share the joy of salvation in Christ with the children and parents they serve.

Today's Prayer: For Wise Mentors

Heavenly Father, I thank you for those people who have been Christian role models for me; as well as for those who actively mentor my growth in Christian living. Continue to send Christian mentors into my life, who will guide me in the way of truth, correct me when I need correction, and walk by my side as a fellow redeemed sinner in friendship and unity of faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. Proverbs 11: 14