Pastor’s Notes November 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Because it is so difficult in parts of the world to find clean drinking water, an organization called Water Is Life developed a wonderful resource called “The Drinkable Book.”  The paper in the book is coated in silver nanoparticles that filter out almost 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria.  Each tear-out page can be used and reused to filter up to 100 liters of water at the cost of only four pennies per page.

The Bible is also an unusually “drinkable” Book.  In John chapter 4 we have the story of the woman at the well.  She needed much more than just water to quench her spiritual thirst.  Because of the circumstances in her life she was desperate to know about “the living water” that Jesus was talking about.

Jesus said to her, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

The Lord gave us living water in our Baptism.  We need the “drinkable” Book as we face the circumstances of our life.  This “drinkable” Book points to God’s Son as the sole source of “living water.”  Those called and washed in the water through the Holy Spirit will experience “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Lord, help us discard the things that leave us empty and thirsting and exchange them for the blessings of the living water you offer.

In Christ,
Pastor

Pastor’s Notes October 2017

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After many years hearing and talking about the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we have now arrived at the month.  Lutheran churches around the world and other Christian denominations will celebrate this turning point in the history of the Lord’s Church.

This month of October 2017 is a very busy one for Good Shepherd and I would like to let you know of the many happenings at our church and within the circuit.

Sunday, Oct. 1 – LWML Sunday.  We worship together and thank God for this mission society within our LCMS.

Sunday, Oct. 22 – Mission Festival Sunday.  Rev. Charles Olander who is involved in prison ministry in our district will be here to preach and conduct Bible Class.  We will also have a meal after late service and learn more about our Central Illinois District’s Mission.

Sunday. Oct. 29 – Reformation Sunday.  Special Worship Service and our last collection for the new church sign we have planned on the south end of our property.

Sunday, Oct. 29, 3:00 p.m.  – Circuit-Wide Reformation 500 Festival Worship Service at Christ Lutheran Church, 311 N. Hershey Road.

We thank the Lord for these opportunities to gather and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We join in grace alone, faith alone, and scripture alone.  We are blessed to be part of this historic event and we look forward to your participation.

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes September 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In reviewing history, we find some amazing statements made by respected and knowledgeable people.  Charles Duvelle, Director of the US Patent Office in 1899, said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  In the days of silent movies, H.M. Warner, Chairman of Warner Brothers Pictures, said, “Who wants to hear actors talk?”  Gary Cooper said, “Gone With The Wind” is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history.  I’m just glad that it will be Clark Gable who’s falling flat on his face and not me.”

Jesus made many amazing statements, too, such as these:

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39)

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him.  And after three days He will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34)

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24)

“I must preach the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

            “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:22b-23)

All these statements made by Jesus proved to be true and are still true today.  We can trust the words spoken by our Savior.

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes August 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One of the things we enjoy about summer is the chance to “get away.”  What does that mean to you?  Are you getting away from work?  Are you getting away from home and the responsibilities that come with it?  Are you getting away from the monotony that is your life?

When we “get away,” our routines change.  Recently when I “got away” with the family at a baseball tournament for Holden, every day I was up at 6:00 a.m.  Yes, you read that right, your Pastor who loves his pillow and his siesta was up early!  But that is what happens when you “get away.”  The minutes and the hours and the days change from the usual.  I don’t like to sleep in when I “get away.”  I like to be doing and going and enjoying.  Some people, maybe you, are the complete opposite.  You “get away” to sleep later, lounge around and enjoy an adult beverage on a beach somewhere.  “Getting away,” means different things to different people.

Do you ever want to “get away” from your foolish actions?  Do you want to run to a beach and hide because of words you said in haste?  Would like to sleep in and not face the transgressions you displayed the day before?  Where can we go in those instances?  The cross of Jesus.  There we “get away” from our actions, our sins, because they’ve been placed on Jesus, and He removed them as far as the east is from the west.

Furthermore, our natural inclination is to wonder what we must do to be right with God, and that’s totally frustrating and wearisome, for it has no end.  Once again, the cross is the reminder that Jesus did everything necessary to make us right with God and we have perfect rest, at no price to us.  In Christ, our rest is eternal.

One of the blessings as a Pastor in “getting away” is the chance to sit with my family in worship.  I always enjoy visiting a sister church of the LCMS.  Have a good time when you “get away” but don’t get away from your life of worship.  We need the constant of God’s Word in our lives.

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes July 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Think of the soldier standing in the cold and snow of Valley Forge.  The men with their muskets in their bloody hands at Lexington and Concord.  They could not see then what we enjoy now, but they were fighting for it – freedom.

We have been blessed to be born into freedom.  We are blessed by those who sacrificed to give it to us.  We are not in North Korea or Cuba or any other totalitarian government where the state would be our god, and we would own nothing.  Leaving the country or even traveling within her borders is not safe.

Freedom is not free.  Freedom is responsibility.  The Apostle Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free…For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:1a, 13)  When Paul wrote these words, he was living under a bloody despot, Nero, the Caesar who had become the Roman god.  Paul flew no banner but Christ.  He knew, as we know, that Christ has granted us the ultimate freedom.  Freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  Christ gives us strength and reminds us of His presence even as certain freedoms get taken away or limited.  We pray for those misguided souls who want to scream and yell the loudest in our country.  They need the reminder that having freedom means responsibility.  They can only do these things because they live in a place where it is allowed.

Paul gave the warning that we all need to heed in these days of being in everyone’s face and the rampant public discord.  “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal. 5:15)

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes June 2017

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Throughout the centuries, the relation between Islam and Christianity has been a challenge.  Within a hundred years after the prophet’s death, Muslim armies had conquered Spain and penetrated into France, only to be stopped at the battle of Tours in 732.  We think also of the Crusades to win the Holy Land back from the Muslims.  In Martin Luther’s day the Turkish Muslims menaced Europe from the east.  In the original German of the hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word,” the Reformer prayed, “put a stop to the murder by the pope and Turk.”

Today the struggle continues.  It is not to be won with weapons or money.  Rather, victory is in the Word of God and prayer, as Christians are urged to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3) and “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).  We as Christians should also know something about Islam in order to refute some of their beliefs.  We might even read the Qur’an so that we better understand their teachings.

The Qur’an urges Mohammad himself, “ask forgiveness of thy sin” (Sura 40:55).  Yet nowhere does it mention sin in connection with Jesus.  The Qur’an offers a fallible prophet who lies buried in Arabia.  The Bible presents a sinless Savior who has conquered death.  The Bible presents an eternal home that is given to us wholly through the merits of Christ Jesus.  As the thirteenth century scholar Riccoldo da Montecroce wrote in his refutation of the Qur’an (Confutatio Alcorani, which Luther translated into German and which is now available in English), “The fact is:  Christ lives, Mohammad is dead.”  A former Muslim from Iraq put it this way, “Allah calls on Muslims to sacrifice their sons so that they can go to paradise; God sacrificed His Son so that we can go to heaven.”

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes May 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We were blessed once again to have worshipped in the Lent/Easter season.  To see the dichotomy between those who wanted Jesus killed and those who believed in Him as the Messiah.  Think what it must have been like for the people of that time.  Who could they trust?  Could they share the faith with a neighbor or a friend?  The disciples didn’t even know who they could trust as they denied and hid.

The news of our world has been filled with the death of Christians practicing their faith.  In many parts of the world – whom do you trust?  I read of a missionary on the border of China who also did mission work in North Korea.  Pastor Han ended up being murdered and the crime has not been solved or probably not even looked in to.

Mrs. Han was also part of her husband’s ministry.  She had visited North Korea in 1998 and had brought people rice that they had shared the Gospel with.  But in a culture where people generally don’t help each other without personal incentive, her act of good will was viewed with suspicion.  And in North Korea, suspicion leads to arrest.  She was arrested.  Held in solitary confinement for 60 days and continually interrogated.  After 72 days she was finally released to Chinese authorities.

The Han’s continued their mission work with Pastor Han at the front line of their North Korean mission work.  Some North Koreans that had been led to the faith were executed, arrested and never heard from again, or are still in prison.

On April 16, 2016 Pastor Han received a phone call and left around 1:30 p.m.  By 7:00 p.m. that evening they had found his body.  He was found in his car in a remote area near the North Korean border.  He had been stabbed in the heart and an artery in his neck had been slashed – a method commonly used by North Korean assassins.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world need our prayers.  Where atheistic communism exists, where the Muslim faith dominates, where apathy and selfish motives enslave, and where people turn from the Bible to their humanistic philosophies.  Then let us not forget what a blessing and privilege we have to worship in freedom.  Will it always be this way?  Signs point to the fact that it won’t.  Who will we trust?  Our trust is in the Lord.  The Lord who rose again so we might live.  The Lord who overcame suffering and death with His suffering and death.  The Lord who loves us into eternity.

As you worship never take it for granted.  The Lord gives us these opportunities in freedom.  What are you doing with them?

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes April 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

Do you ever get distracted?  Some of you are thinking, when don’t I Pastor!  This morning I made my hot chocolate like I always do and I went to sit down and I hadn’t prepared my bowl of cereal.  What distracted me?  I was thinking about an editorial that I want to write to The Pantagraph.  Don’t be looking for it in the near future.  I won’t be writing it for a year and half from now.  God still has some planning to do.  Yes, we get distracted.  I write myself notes.  Some of you text yourself.  In our human nature our minds can wander even in a 9-minute sermon!

 

What about Jesus?  Did He ever get distracted?  If He did, it would be hard to find it in the words of Scripture.  He was the guy awake on the boat in the storm and in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The crowds or the Pharisees or the teachers of the Law didn’t distract Him.  Pontius Pilate and Herod and Caiaphas couldn’t deter Him from His eternal mission.  We would say He had a laser focus.  Death.  Dying.  The Cross.  The Resurrection.  Forgiveness and Eternal Life.  Before that the beatings and the mocking’s and the crazy justice system.  None of this could get Him to detour from the path the Father sent Him on.

 

Why?  Because of His love for you and me – the crown of His creation.  When He was tempted to take His eyes off the cross, He saw you.  He saw me.  He loved the whole world.  Nothing, not even the power of the devil, could get Him to waver from what He needed to accomplish.  The next time you get distracted, maybe even while reading this, thank your Savior that He didn’t.

 

In Christ, Pastor

 

Lenten – Holy Week Schedule

 

April 5                          Lenten Meal – 5:30 p.m.

Lenten Worship – 7:00 p.m.

 

April 9                          Palm Sunday Worship – Holy Communion in both Worship

Services – Sunday School and Adult Bible Class at 9:15 a.m.

 

April 13                        Maundy Thursday Worship w/Holy Communion – 7:00 p.m.

 

April14                         Tre Ore (Brief Service of the Word) – Noon

Tenebrae (Service of Darkness) w/Holy Communion – 7:00pm

 

April 16                        Easter Worship w/Holy Communion – 7:00 a.m.

Easter Breakfast served after the early worship until 9:00 a.m.

Sunday School and Adult Bible Class – 9:15 a.m.

Easter Worship w/Holy Communion – 10:30 a.m.

 

Pastor’s Notes March 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When Manhattan criminal defense attorney John Jacobs died, his wife, Marion Seltzer buried him with his cell phone fully charged.  It has been a few years now but she still pays the monthly phone bill and she still leaves him frequent voice mails.  Marion actually went so far as to have John’s cell phone number engraved on his headstone, so that people stopping to visit the grave site can ring him up and leave a message.  He, of course, never gets the messages.  The phone’s battery – not to mention operator – stopped working years ago.  But Marion is hardly alone in this.  Being buried with one’s cell phone has become commonplace in our tech-savvy culture.  It is just one more way that society tries to cope with death.

Jesus offers a better way, a way that works.  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26).  Can we hear Jesus now?  Yes!  And forever!

In Christ,

Pastor

 

LENTEN SCHEDULE IN MARCH

 

Mar. 1, 7:00 pm – Ash Wednesday worship with Holy Communion and Imposition of Ashes

 

Mar. 8, 5:30 pm – Lenten Meal

Mar. 8, 7:00 pm – Lenten Worship

 

Mar. 15, 5:30 pm – Lenten Meal

Mar. 15, 7:00 pm – Lenten Worship

 

Mar. 22, 5:30 pm – Lenten Meal

Mar. 22, 7:00 pm – Lenten Worship

 

Mar. 29, 5:30 pm – Lenten Meal

Mar. 29, 7:00 pm – Lenten Worship

 

The theme for our messages during Lent is “The Ironies of the Passion.”  See you in church during this penitential and humbling season of the church year.

Pastor’s Notes February 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Did you ever stop to think that you have the United Nations hanging in your closet?  I recently did laundry and as I was hanging up my shirts I noticed where they had been manufactured:  Bangladesh, Honduras, Egypt, Hong Kong, Guatemala, and Mongolia.  These are all brand name shirts from Chaps, Geoffrey Beene, and Nautica.  It was a reminder once again of how our world is shrinking.  I wish I could trace back where just one of my shirts came from.  What an interesting story that might be!

The Lord has brought us to this time and place in history.  Instant communication.  World travel.  Much of the world knowing English.  Our recent international student from half way around the world in Indonesia had seen many more recent American films than anyone in our family.  Yes, it is a different world from when I would watch the Olympics growing up and the only people speaking the language I knew were the people from the United States.

While the world continues its rapid changes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not change.  We are blessed with so many opportunities to share the saving message of the cross and grace and mercy.  Because of weather delays the Lord opened up doors for us to do this last month.  I just sent an e-mail to the Hilbert’s, Lutheran Bible Translators in Botswana that made it there in an instant.  They say letters can still take up to two months!

While some doors may be closing in our country, many doors are being thrown open in other parts of this grand sphere.  People clamoring for the Bible and the message of a Savior.  Men and women who want to confess Jesus as Lord.  Children who want stories about the man who walked on water and healed the sick.  We continue our prayers for missionaries and others on the front lines doing this work.

What might the Lord be calling you to do?  Now where did I hang that shirt from Vietnam?

In Christ,

Pastor