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

Pastor’s Notes December 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After the birth of Jesus, how did everyone leave?  The magi departed another way because of what they had been told.  The shepherds left singing the praises of God.  Joseph went on his way knowing that he needed to protect his Child.  Mary was pondering all of these things in her heart.

How will we leave another encounter with the Christ Child?  If no change takes place then we have missed another opportunity like the innkeeper who could not find room.

The guiding star was not meant to flicker for a moment into the Baby’s cradle.  Its light was to lead men to Bethlehem and Christ eternally into our hearts and lives.  The song in the air was meant to continue as we add our voices to the melody.  Christmas joy is meant to be ours.  We become a new creation in Christ each time we gaze upon the infant Savior born to save the world from sin, Satan, and death.

Christmas is forever because Christ is an eternal gift.  A presence to adore, a Savior to worship, the King of kings to bow down to in honor and respect, Son of Man and Son of God that leads us into victorious living.

Will you be traveling the higher way this Christmas season?  May the Holy Spirit grow your faith as you go to Bethlehem once again.  Returning home reminds you of the eternal home that awaits you and all Christians who believe in the “Word of the Father now in flesh appearing.”

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes November 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Have you ever had one of those days where what you had scheduled gets changed but the Lord still uses the day for His purposes?

A month or so ago I had worked ahead and gotten my work done for the week because I knew I would be going to a surgery at the end of that week. I like to have a prayer with the patient and family and many times, if time permits, I sit with a loved one during the surgery. This particular morning I got a phone call that the surgery had been postponed. What to do now? Well, I had recently received some money for my birthday and I thought that I would go to the mall over the lunch hour and do some shopping. One of the few times that I ever do this.

I made a stop or two at a few stores and as I am walking the mall I pass a small store and it looks like it is someone I know. It is! I stop and have a nice chat and catch up on what they had been doing. Now this particular person was someone who had attended our church, had a death in the family, and then I had lost sight of them. I had written them a letter after phone calls were not returned and I was praying that they were all right. I was looking for an opportunity to invite them back to church.

That day the Holy Spirit provided it. In my original plans I was not suppose to be at the mall that day. Circumstances and God’s leading put this person and me in the same place at the same time. I recognized such as I walked away from the conversation. I chuckled to myself about how the Lord had done it again. He knew that encounter was going to happen even though, when I got up that morning, it is not something I would have been expecting.

Do you notice these same God-induced instances in your life? What encounter are you praying for with a person that maybe hasn’t come to be yet? Be ready because, like me, it may come when you least expect it. The Lord has a way of doing that, doesn’t He? Take advantage of the opportunity given knowing that our Savior will provide the words and thoughts.

By the way, nothing was bought that day at the mall. Something of greater value was received.

In Christ,
Pastor

Pastor’s Notes October 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

These words of Jesus are actually used twice in the gospels.  Here in Matthew and also in Luke 14 in conjunction with the “Parable of the Wedding Feast.”

As I write this, the Lueck family has had quite the week with the accolades Holden received with a football game he played in.  The night of the game he scored two touchdowns including the game-winner on an interception.  As you can imagine his father was quite proud.  I was feeling pretty good that evening.  After the game Toni and I watched Holden on the field being interviewed by the local newspaper and TV station.  The “exaltation” was sky high.

Then came the humbleness.  Toni said that we had to collect all the sweaty, mud-caked jerseys because she was taking them home to wash them.  I collected a good amount in a garbage bag and made my way to the car.  As I walked through the mud and muck the Lord reminded me of this verse I have put before you.  The father of the star player that night was “humbled” by carrying the smelly uniforms to said vehicle.  From proud peacock to the prodigal with the pigs in a matter of minutes.  You gotta love the Lord!

Jesus was exalted with a parade through the streets of Jerusalem.  Within a matter of days he was humbled through His obedience on the cross.  He took our sweaty, dirty, stinky, filthy clothes of unrighteousness over his back and made them clean again.  When He rose on Easter Sunday His humbleness had exalted us to a life of forgiveness and an eternal field where we will be clothed in the uniform of righteousness for His name’s sake.

In Christ,

Pastor

Pastor’s Notes September 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“’Let the little children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’  And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.” (Mark 14b-16)

We talk a lot about having a child like faith, but what does that mean?  A recent incident helps to illustrate the trust of children.

My family and I were visiting my dad (Doug) and my sister and family in Argenta where my dad lives.  As I was preparing to go out to the back porch to fire up the grill for lunch, a little shaver about 8-9 years old, rides his bike up, gets off, and proceeds to the back door.  I open the door and as he walks right in, he says, “Is Doug here?”  You have to understand that my dad had just met this little guy the day before out in the yard.  By the next day he was walking into the house like he was one of the grandchildren.  He walks in and starts talking to us like he has known us his whole life.

It was stated to him that we were going to eat and he could come back later.  He wanted to know when he was going to get to see the rest of the house!  While eating, here he comes again to the back door where he walks in and wants to know why it is taking us so long.  We invite him back once the dishes have been cleared.  He returns and joins us in a game of croquet.  His older brother eventually comes and gets him and the Lord provides another life lesson.

The trust of a child.  He had only met my dad, the rest of us were complete strangers, but he talked to us like we were his best friends.  I can’t describe in this transcription what a funny slice of life this scenario was.

We trust in our heavenly Father as His child.  He knew us from the beginning of the world; we were never strangers to Him.  He called us as His own in Baptism and keeps us in the true faith.  As we move into adulthood we lose some of our innocence because what we have seen or experienced.  This little fella reminded me of what complete trust looks like.  The Lord wants us to have that – come right in, talk to Me like you know Me, because you do, and know that My door is always open.  I am here for you because of My love and grace and mercy.

Now, how about a game of croquet?

In Christ,

Pastor