Dear friends in Christ,
Change, when you hear or read that word, change, do you understand it as a noun or a verb? My first response is to consider it a verb which then implies action on my part, as well as for those around me. Change, for me, often results in transformation and adaptation whether I initially welcome it or not. Many of us ordained clergy who receive calls in Word and Sacrament live a life in ministry and mission as ‘change agents’ when serving the Lord and His Church as ministers of the gospel. The words, ‘change agents’ are sometimes frightening to hear when a pastor begins a partnership in ministry with a faith community, but in my opinion that is what we have been invested in throughout these past eight years together, change. You and I, we, have been and are being spiritually transformed by the Word of God, and the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.
Julie and I are currently experiencing a major transition in our lives which is resulting in many changes. OSLC has begun a process of experiencing a major transition which will lead to changes. Knowing that fact of life we also realize that resistance to change is natural. But as Christians, we are taught to never overlook the fact that we are not only dealing with the natural things of this world, but the supernatural when it comes to the living a life of faith, whether that be as individuals or as a congregation. All believers are a vital part of the body of Christ that is changing people’s lives today and for eternity.
Please be aware of the fact that change can be a good thing especially when it leads to spiritual transformation. Remember that God has a plan and we need to pray to the Lord for discernment, for patience and for the courage needed to move forward in faith according to that plan. We all need to trust Him. Do not doubt Him.
It was world renowned author, Leo Tolstoy, who has been quoted as saying, “In our world everybody thinks of changing humanity but nobody thinks of changing himself.” As people of faith let us not forget that God’s mighty word in Revelations 21:5 boldly announces, “Behold, I make all things new.” And that the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” And as well, that Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In other words, faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is all about change. The challenge for Christianity is that research concludes that far too many of us who are part of the Body of Christ do not exercise our God-given potential in ministry and mission because we are frozen in time, frozen in our past, resisting spiritual transformation which results in minimum growth in faith formation. Let me state very clearly that we need to realize that unless we continue to grow in the fear and knowledge of the Lord, and serve Him faithfully and confidently, individually and together, we are at the risk of becoming ineffective in our kingdom proclamation.
My prayer is, “Lord in the midst of change, help us to depend upon you and honor you with all our heart, mind and soul!:
Dear friends in Christ,
As you are now aware, I have informed OSLC that Julie and I plan to relocate to Sandy, Utah. Julie’s last Sunday with you will likely be June 3rd. She will be living with one of our two children/ grandchildren who live in Sandy and begin working in the Salt Lake City area the following week.
I will move in late August or September, the exact date still to be determined. As was noted in my letter to each of you, the decision was not made in haste, but rather as a result of fervent prayer and discernment. Believe me when I say that it is never easy for us to decide that it is time to conclude a partnership in ministry and mission, especially one that has worked exceptionally well!
I plan to share my final farewell in a late summer or early fall Shepherd’s Staff newsletter article. One or more Sunday sermons will be planned for the same purpose. In the meantime, I would like to encourage each of you to visit the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae as OSLC looks ahead to a new beginning and seeks to continue to be a vibrant, healthy faith community.
In a recent article in The Lutheran Ambassador, I was reminded of the basic principles essential for moving forward as a congregation which St. Paul communicates for us in the four short chapters of Colossians.
. Paul instructs each and every believer to give themselves to the Lord’s service. In Colossians 3:23-24, we are reminded that if Jesus is Lord of our lives then we are to submit to the Lord’s will and desires to serve him as ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’. Our highest called in this life is to surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians also describes passions that characterize a mature and vibrant faith community. These are passions that we invest ourselves in as we continue in the faith transformation process, growing in the fear and knowledge of the living Lord Jesus:
A Passion for Jesus – Colossians 1:16-19, 3:1-3
A Passion for the Word – Colossians 1:25-29, 2:8-9
A Passion for Prayer – Colossians 4:2-4
A Passion to Bear With and Forgive Each Other – Colossians 3:13-14
A Passion to Reach the lost – Colossians 1:28, 2:1-2, 3:12-16
A Passion for Spiritual Life in the Body of Christ – Colossians 1:4, 2:2-4, 3:12-16
A Passion to be the Priesthood of Believers – Colossians 4:7-17
A Passion for Christ-Centered, Victorious Living – Colossians 2:13-15
In closing, my prayer is that we each are blessed with a personal relationship with the living Lord Jesus. My hope is that we are willing and eager to share the Good News of his saving grace with those around us. My desire is that we all remain faithful to his plan for the future.
God bless and keep you,
“Let the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts… and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
Dear friends in Christ,
Dr. Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, will be our keynote speaker at the Annual International LCMC Gathering in Des Moines, Iowa this October. He has written a book titled, Who Broke My Church?, in which he states, “It has been said that you can survive up to six months without food, a few days without water and only a few minutes without air. However, you cannot survive a second without hope.”
He then goes on to remind us as missional leaders in God’s Church to equip others in the Body of Christ to reach a changing world, and in doing so he says, “The most important currency any Christian faith community has to spend is hope. If it gets spent down, there isn’t much of anything else left. Like their pastor, a congregation can lose hope and cease to believe that the Spirit of God is among them.”
Our hope, the hope of this fallen world, is in Christ Jesus the resurrected Lord and Savior! God acts to renew our hope individually, congregationally, nationally and internationally. It was well known theologian, Emil Brunner, who appropriated reminded us many decades ago that, “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.”
Are you open to what God desires for your life, for this congregation, for this nation and for the world as we know it? St. Augustine once stated, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage, Anger at the way things are and Courage to see they do not remain that way. This is the hope of Christ-centered faith that awakens us individually and corporately. Only then are we ready for the direction of the Apostle Peter to ‘give an answer to everyone who asks you, the reason for the hope that you have (the hope that is within you).’” 1st Peter 3:15 You, nor I, can share with others what we don‟t have or what we don‟t believe. No Christian can! We all need hope!
Now having said this I would like to share with you some positive signs of Christ-filled hope in North American as Dr. Hunter has observed and reported in his book:
- The growing number of Christian films, books and television shows, representing a high level of interest among the general population in issues of faith from the Christian perspective. (I recommend taking the time to see the movie “I Can Only Imagine‟ to confirm this reality.)
- The explosion of Christian radio stations over the last few decades. (Check out REAL 102.1 based in Carroll, Iowa, which began broadcasting in July of 2015.)
- The rise and proliferation of multisite churches using technology to multiply teaching, balanced with the personal touch of discipling. (All of my adult children have been, or currently are, being fed in the Word through this means).
- The baby-boomerang of spiritually lapsed baby boomers returning to God’s Church with a commitment to leave a meaningful legacy. (Evidence of that fact of faith is happening here at OSLC.)
- Congregations leaving bureaucratic denominations to affiliate with uncluttered networks focusses on mission. (LCMC exists for that very reason.)
- The revolution in Christian contemporary music and Bibles translated into the heart language of target people groups. (We celebrate the use of contemporary music in our worship experience and are partners in ministry in reaching people groups that may not yet know Jesus as Savior.)
In closing let me encourage you in the words from a hymn of the faithful, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; no merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
Dear friends in Christ,
It’s Friday…But Sunday’s Coming! That is the title of a powerful sermon preached by an African-American pastor many years ago. These very same words deserve our attention as well. They of course refer to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
In Matthew 16:21 Jesus began to tell His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and that suffering and death were awaiting Him there. The disciples heard the Friday story, that Jesus must “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed,” but it seems that the Sunday good news, “and be raised up on the third day,” did not register with them at all.
It was not only the words of Jesus that the disciples failed to understand, it was also the words of other accounts of Scripture “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” (John 20:9) Jesus spoke plainly to the Twelve, declaring that “all things that are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished,” His suffering and His death, “and the third day He will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33) Therefore the failure of the disciples to believe was a failure to believe Holy Scripture.
It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming. Sadly some of us in this world use these words as a source of comfort during difficult days of life or in anticipation of the coming weekend after a trying week. It is easy to fall prey to societal norms when we try to draw what may be called practical life applications from the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The disciples were waiting for Sunday with an expected coming of a triumphant conqueror, not the suffering Servant-Savior. They had been taught Old Testament prophecy, and even though they saw and heard the very words of Jesus, initially they still got it wrong, they needed help believing.
This leads me to the reminder for all of us, Good Friday is not about you or me, our troubles and trials of life. Good Friday is all about Jesus who took our place on the Cross at Calvary, and in so doing paid, in full, the price for our sins. Easter Sunday is all about Jesus too, as Holy Scripture boldly declares. He lives, and because of that fact of faith, we can see tomorrow, we can look beyond our years of this life to the day when faith becomes sight.
My prayer for all of us, myself included, is, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Amen!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Dear friends in Christ,
Psalm 103 is a well known Psalm of Praise. Portions of this inspiring Psalm include: “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Romans 3:23-24 reminds us that, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
That leads me to the 2016 survey by LifeWay Research which reveals that 67% of Americans admit they are sinners. Of that total only 5% are okay with that. But just 28% say they rely on Jesus in order that they would experience the forgiveness of their sins resulting in giving praise and honor to God and him alone. The remaining 34% are working on being less sinful and improving themselves on their own.
So then how do we escape from being in bondage to sin and unable to free ourselves as we confess in our most often used Sunday order of worship titled, “Confession and Forgiveness‟? How do we become people of faith who delight in praising the Lord with all that is in us? The answer: Believe that salvation comes by grace through faith, not by our own efforts. Believe that all victory over sin comes to us only as a result of the sacrifice of our Savior on the cross of Calvary. Believe that confession of sin and God’s forgiveness are both necessary.
God wants us to know his forgiveness and experience its reality. His forgiveness is freely received by faith in the only One who had the ability to pay the price for our sins at Golgotha. Let us remember that attempting to earn God’s forgiveness is an insult to God. Doing so minimizes the immensity of our debt and exaggerates the value of our good work efforts.
And for those who draw the conclusion that no one could ever be forgiven as a result of the horrible sins already committed, remember that that frame of mind minimizes the effectiveness of Christ’s sacrifice and the saving work of atonement, the redemption of one’s soul. It reveals a lack of trust in God’s Word where he clearly teaches in 2nd Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” May we all celebrate the fact of the Christian faith that forgiven people are brand new creations today, tomorrow, and eternally!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Lenten season continue to help us reflect on our need for a Savior and experience anew what is means to be forgiven sinners.
Dear friends in Christ,
As we begin 2018, I want to encourage you to take time to dig into God’s precious Word. Make it a priority to read your Bible and to live out the gift of faith through your very words and actions. Since we have just celebrated the Christmas season and begun the season of Epiphany, maybe it would be better to anticipate the year by studying one of the Gospels. As you spend time in the presence of the living Lord let me stress the fact that I believe it is important for us to know that all four of the Gospels provide an account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, but they each start the narrative in a different place. For instance, Matthew and Luke begin with Christ’s birth, while Mark launches into the adult ministry of John the Baptist and then introduces Jesus.
The Gospel of John begins at the very beginning with the creation of the world. Echoing the first line in Genesis and the theme of creation, John’s Gospel proclaims, “In the beginning was the Word”. The Word that was there at the beginning was not only “with God” but also “was God”. Just as Genesis 1 tells us that God spoke everything into existence, John now tells us that it was by this powerful, creative Word of God that “all things were made”. In other words, the Gospel of John introduces the main subject of all of Scripture, the Word.
This same creative, eternal Word “became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. The Creator God took on a human body and walked among us. Because of the Incarnation, the God whom “no one has ever seen” is now “made known” to all the world.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be made known throughout our church year as we soon turn our attention to the 2018 Lenten season. During the Lenten journey we are reminded once again of John’s proclamation that “we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”, culminated by His death on the cross of Calvary and the celebrated Easter resurrection! In closing I encourage each of you to continue in the Word. And remember always what John 10:10 proclaims, Jesus came that you may have life, and have it in all fullness (abundant life).
Dear friends in Christ,
Along with our new year comes the roar of information, opinions, oral and written words for us to make sense of. There is 24/7 chatter coming to us from what seems to be overwhelming sources. For instance I understand that there are now 27 national news networks, 69 national sports networks, 27 religious channels, millions of websites, facebook, twitter and yes snail mail.
Who and what do we listen to? Let us be reminded that most of the noise in our lives, no matter how well packaged, is fleeting. Yet there is one voice that is eternal. For two millennia Christ followers have drawn inspiration and direction from the timeless truths of God’s precious Word. As St. Peter taught us in the 1st century, All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass; the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord abides forever (1 Peter 1:24).
The Word of the Lord abides forever is one Biblical truth we must hold on to. It is Pastor Chris Brekke who has reminded us, The Word of our Lord Jesus and the principles of His Way have had far more impact on our western world than any army that ever marched or any invention ever developed.
Holy Scripture delivers God to us. It stretches our boundaries, it opens divine dialog, it announces grace and truth, and it guides our faith journey forward. If you desire a message of hope that comes from outside the competing voices that surround us, give God’s Book a look, a read.
A helpful way to become motivated to read the Word of our Lord is by switching a long standing perception far too many have, that it is not words about God, but primarily words from God. Once you realize the reason why it is vitally important to read Scripture then consider the most effective ways of how to dig into the life changing Word.
1 – Make a plan, pick a time and place and commit to it. By reading the Bible we get to know God, his voice becomes familiar, one’s heart and mind are marinated in the Word and faith blossoms.
2 – Bring a genuine desire to learn. An honest seeker will find God’s Truth. Pray that the Holy Spirit will create a desire to grow in the fear and knowledge of the Lord.
3 – Keep Jesus Central. The written Word bears witness to Jesus, the living Word. He helps us focus on faith, and where there is focus, life and salvation follow.
4 – Start small. The Bible can be overwhelming. Begin with one small section at a time, a smaller portion of Scripture to read and heed.
I close with the reminder from St. Paul when he wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is God-breathed useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Please do start to read or continue reading the transforming Word of God!
May the Christ of Christmas bless you today, tomorrow and throughout our New Year!
Dear friends in Christ,
The Good News of the Gospel in Titus 2:11-14 boldly proclaims, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
The study of God‟s Word ultimately points us to Jesus, the Christ, the Word made flesh. The precious and Holy Word of God undeniably communicates to us that our Lord Jesus came to us over 2000 years ago, that our Lord Jesus continues to come to us in the celebration of the Word and Sacrament, and that our Lord Jesus will come for us at the end of the Age.
In other words God is with us now and forever. God didn‟t wait until the world “got its act together” before he acted. Rather, as Galatians 4:4-5 reminds us, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters.”
We do not need to attempt to climb up to God in order to find him, to experience his presence in daily life, rather God came down to us in the person of Jesus Christ and promises to abide with us as we move forward in faith. The good news is that, you and I are saved by God‟s grace through faith here and now and forever, a precious gift from God rather than the result of our works.
May we all embrace the blessings of our Lord Jesus as He graciously bestows upon us His love, peace, hope and joy throughout the upcoming Advent and Christmas seasons! May we worship Him, and only Him, as the Christ-Child, as the Savior of the world, as King of kings and as Lord of lords!
Dear friends in Christ,
Earlier in the month of October four of us from OSLC had the privilege of participating in the LCMC Annual International Gathering, this year having been held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From my perspective it has always been a joy for me to join with 900 or more people from the LCMC Association of Churches who gather together each year from all over the world for worship, for Bible study, for fellowship, for networking and for church business. Next October 7th-10th, 2018, we are scheduled to gather in Des Moines, Iowa, and hope to have 10 to 20 of you join us as delegates, visitors and helpers as in the past when hosted in Des Moines.
This particular gathering included Pastor, Dr. Jo Kinnard as our Bible study leader. She was raised a Hindu in India and after facing a personal crisis in her forties while living in the U.S. came to know the saving grace of God, who later called her into ordained ministry and is now serving Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Inwood, Iowa. While soul searching in her forties she happened to visit Hosanna Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Illinois, where she immediately experienced a warm and friendly hospitality ministry along with the preaching and teaching of the transforming Word of God. Soon after her decision to continue worshipping at Hosanna Lutheran she was invited to participate in the life and ministry of that faith community which helped her come to the conclusion that each of us are to be grace-bearers to one another just as she was graciously welcomed.
Pastor Jo provided one of the most dynamic Bible studies I have ever been a part of based upon Romans 10, in particular verses 5-15, concluding with the Biblical acclamation of, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (v15) You and I are grace-bearers, we are the ones, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “the beautiful feet of those who bring good news” to others in the world around us.
If we are “saved by grace through faith” as St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians, let us then joyfully respond with heartfelt gratitude for the saving work of Christ as grace-bearers to those around us, our family, our faith family, our neighbors, our community members and those we encounter in our daily travels. As we venture out in faith each new day God so graciously gives, ask the Lord to help us put into practice the privilege of being grace-bearers. As we gather with family and friends during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays pray that God would give the desire and courage to be grace-bearers.
Let us always remember as St. Paul reminds us in Romans 10:17, that, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” And always remember that grace is the free and unmerited favor of God!
God’s grace and peace be with you all,
Dear friends in Christ,
Throughout this year, 2017, we have been celebrating the 500 Year Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This October, in commemoration of Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg, Germany church door on October 31, 1517, we are focusing our attention on that pivotal event in Church History. A short summary of what the Reformation was all about would be that there were five great principles, or five core teachings, that the church rediscovered. They are also referred to as “the hallmarks of the Reformation”. These five essential teachings are: Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone. We sometimes refer to them as the five “solas” of the Reformation because the Latin word sola means alone.
In addition to “the hallmarks of the Reformation” there are other major contributions Martin Luther has made, one being his focus on missions and the Reformation. “The Gospel is not to be kept in a corner but should fill the whole world.” It may be surprising that these words were not spoken by some famous missionary, but instead in sermons by Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation.
Luther saw the Bible as a missionary book. This was especially true of the Old Testament and his commentary on Genesis where he noted that the promise of blessing to Abram included all the families of the earth. The Book of Psalms was also taught by him as a powerful source of missionary instruction and inspiration.
Luther’s doctrine of vocation, which continues to impact Christendom today, is that every Christian is called to serve Christ regardless of his or her calling in life. Missionary service is not a separate category for special people, rather it is at the heart of the common calling of all of God’s people.
This missionary service begins at home, as Luther reminds us when he stated, “The noblest and greatest work and the most important service that we can perform for God on earth is bringing other people, and especially those who are entrusted to us, to the knowledge of God by the holy Gospel.”
We are also encouraged to learn more of the missionary outreach of Luther as a teacher. During his years as a professor at the university in Wittenberg, he shared his rediscovery of the Gospel with fellow faculty members and together they touched the lives of as many as 16,000 students. Approximately one-third of them were from other lands, equipped through their studies to carry the message of Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone,” to a lost world. Therefore, Luther’s university became the first missionary training school.
Luther wrote the Small Catechism after experiencing firsthand the widespread ignorance of God’s Word and the work’s righteousness of those within the church as he would visit families throughout Germany. At the beginning of the Small Catechism, he wrote, “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”
As church history reveals, the Gospel that transformed the life of Martin Luther led to a wellspring of world missions. The Bible teaches us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, therefore all need to be saved. The missionary heart is renewed when we believe this simple message and trust in the power of the Word of God to make disciples of all nations.
In the coming weeks, as we gather in God’s Church to hear God’s transforming Word and sing hymns of faith written already in the early Reformation years, please do take note of the how our Lord can use even one person who is aligned with His will to help change the world for the sake of the Gospel. We will have the opportunity to worship together each Sunday, three of those Sabboth Days in October being, Consecration Sunday-thanking God for our lives of faith, Mission Sunday- thanking God for our calling to be missionaries in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, state, nation and world, and Reformation Sunday-thanking God that we are saved by grace through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Dear friends in Christ,
Throughout this year, 2017, we have been celebrating the 500 Year Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This fall, in commemoration of Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg, Germany church door on October 31, 1517, we are focusing our attention on that pivotal event in Church History. A short summary of what the Reformation was all about would be that there were five great principles, or five core teachings, that the church rediscovered. They are also referred to as “the hallmarks of the Reformation”. These five essential teachings are: Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and the glory of God alone. We sometimes refer to them as the five “solas” of the Reformation because the Latin word sola means alone.
The order in which they are listed is important. The place we start is with the Scripture alone because this is the foundation for everything else that we believe as Christians. All that we know about Christ and grace and faith and the glory of God is found in the precious Word of God.
When Martin Luther spoke of Scripture alone, his concern was for the authority of Scripture. Luther lived in a time when the Church didn’t view Scripture alone as the ultimate authority. Luther took a stand on the truth of the ultimate authority being the Word of God alone. This core teaching, Scripture alone, has been called the formal principle of the Protestant Reformation because it stands at the very beginning and gives form or direction to all that we Christians affirm. If we don’t get this principle correct, we will not get the rest of them correct.
In 2nd Timothy 3:14-17, The Apostle Paul gives Timothy three reasons why we must stand on Scripture alone. First, because Scripture alone is powerful. Paul stated, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (v.14-15).
Timothy had the blessing of a Christian grandmother and mother who taught him from the time that he was an infant (2nd Timothy 1:5). He had seen what the Word of God had done in their lives. But it wasn’t just Timothy’s mother and grandmother who convinced him of the power of God’s Word. He also had the example of the Apostle Paul. When you see the number one enemy of the Church become a committed follower of Jesus, it can’t help but impact your life. If the Word of God can change a man like Saul of Tarsus, it can change anyone.
Second, the Word of God is inspired. The phrase translated “inspired by God” (v.16) is literally “God breathed.” The words of Scripture come from the mouth of God. Though He used human authors, it is truly His Word, breathed out for us. Third, God’s Word is profitable. It teaches us. It reproves us. It corrects us. It trains us in righteousness. And as a result we are “equipped for every good work” (v.17).
This September 10th, Rally Sunday, as God’s people who are hearers of the Word and doers of the Word, we are once again gifting preschoolers and 3rd grade children with new Bibles. We believe that the inspired Word of God changes lives, here and now, and most importantly for an eternity. We gather as people of God for worship which is based on the Word and the Sacraments. We provide Sunday School for all ages with our primary source for instruction being none other than Scripture alone. We offer a youth Bible study which will meet on Wednesday evenings (more details with follow). We are encouraged to regularly spend time in the Word during personal prayer and devotion. We offer Bible study for men and women to help us grow in the gift of faith as disciples of Jesus. And we will provide additional opportunities this fall to learn more about the Reformation, its impact in the entire world then and now, and how God called, equipped, empowered and used men like Martin Luther to help reform the Lord’s Church.
I am praying that you will be active in worship, Sunday School for all ages, invested daily in seeking His Word, and encouraging others to do likewise.
Dear friends in Christ,
In my June 25th sermon I made a point of reminding our worshippers to not underestimate each of our acts of kindness motivated with a Christ-centered, servant heart. Jesus teaches us in Matthew’s gospel by stating, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me….And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Think for a moment about this portion of the Lord’s Prayer, the second and third petitions, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Now ask yourself, if I am courageous enough to pray this model Christian prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, shouldn’t I then be courageous enough to seek that his will to be done here on this earth with not only words but Godly actions?
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he converted good intentions/heartfelt compassion into action. He channeled his compassion into specific and deliberate action to engage the people whose circumstances touched his heart. Compassion drove him to break societal and religious norms in order to engage the world around them. We are to do that same.
Holy Scripture teaches us to express genuine compassion as a way of joining our Lord in doing his will on earth here and now, not someday when we have the time. Compassion is a get-yourhands- dirty, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is response to real human need.
This world needs our prayers and our presence! Those who are struggling are looking for Compassion-driven care and Christ-centered concern for their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Jesus came to change the world. We are his hands, feet, eyes, ears and the voices of love and compassion that changes one heart at a time so that “his kingdom will come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
May our mighty and gracious Lord embolden and empower you in ministry and mission for His Kingdom sake,
Dear friends in Christ,
John Stonestreet, president of The Colson Center for a Christian Worldview has recently been quoted as stating, “Culture forms a person‘s identity and loyalty.” A question I would like for us to consider is whether today‘s culture is predominately influenced by God‘s Word or by a vast array of other man-made enticing options? If the Bible clearly communicates that we are created in the image of God and that our identity is found in Christ Jesus as Lord who claims us as his own in the waters of Holy Baptism, does not the reality of our modern day culture dominated by consumerism, secularism, and entertainment present a heartfelt struggle with where one‘s identity is found and one‘s loyalty lies?
One of the most important Church Fathers of Western Christianity, Saint Augustine, stated in the 4th century A.D. that, “We will not know who we are until we know whose we are,” and “Our heart will not rest until it rests in you, Lord.” Do not the popular culture mediums of media, movies, academia and even government, all which primarily promote a much different and at times opposing worldviews compared to a Christian worldview, present an heartfelt struggle with where our identity is found and our loyalty lies?
“Live and let live” has become the motto of our age, a post Christian era of history. Any Christian who has expressed his or her beliefs in public will have heard this countless times even though faith is personal but not private. The problem is that sooner or later conflicting beliefs collide. And as Alliance Defending Freedom Founder, Alan Sears tells us, it‘s usually Christian beliefs that are expected to give way.
Pastor Chris Brooks characterizes the present day reality of our culture and this nation by stating, “We are more formed by our partisan politics rather than by the gospel that embodies the completed work of redemption and the true nature of Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior.” What does that say about the direction our country appears to be headed, and yes, even some of us in God‘s Church? Pastor Chris reminds us that, “The hope of this country and the rest of the world will never come in Air Force One no matter one‘s political persuasion. Remember that the very thing that gives us value and worth in our earthly lives, if not God based, will likely come back to potentially mislead and possibly destroy us.”
Studies conclude that culture is critical in helping a person find meaning in life. Where are Americans turning to in order to find meaning and purpose in today‘s world? St. Paul writes in Romans 12, “So dear brothers and sisters…Don‘t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God‘s will for you which is good and pleasing and perfect.” NLT
As we approach and celebrate this year‘s 4th of July national holiday, let me remind everyone that the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives us freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Even though many in America think otherwise, our Christian faith is personal but not private. We have the right to share the Good News of the Gospel through our words and actions. We have the privilege of encouraging a Christian worldview in our personal life, our family life, our community life, in our nation and throughout the world. We need to continue to build up the body of Christ wherever that may be. We need to share the life changing, life-saving message of Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, who is the only hope we and the rest of the world have here and now and for eternity.
Dear friends in Christ,
In early May eight of us from OSLC attended one or both days of the annual LCMC Leadership Conference which happened to be held in Omaha this year. The theme for this valuable training was Discipling by Design. At the close of the final presentation pastors and other church leaders who are presently struggling with difficult personal or congregational challenges were invited to stand so that the rest of us would have the opportunity to pray for them. We soon surrounded each person who sought our prayer support. Laying hands on each one of them, a group of ten or more brothers and sisters in Christ offered intercessory prayer on their behalf. It was a marvelous sight and a powerful sign of God’s desire and design for prayer in His Church.
There have been times in previous parish settings that I have been one of those church leaders who has desired prayer support, and fortunately for me there were men and women of faith who responded quickly who encouraged me by their presence and the power of God at work through the prayers of the righteous. As leaders in God’s Church we want to stress the fact that we all need to be people of prayer. Prayer is the most important ingredient to a vibrant, growing faith, individually and congregationally. Prayer is a discipline of our Christian faith. Prayer is essentially communing with God. Prayer makes the difference in all aspects of life.
We are reminded in Holy Scripture that Jesus spent an entire night in prayer before he chose his disciples as recorded in Luke 6. Prayer is serious business. In this case, for the men who would walk with Jesus, learn from him and later carry the Good News to the ends of the earth. As Jesus journeyed with his disciples, he gave them and us a powerful example of how to pray in Matthew 6, providing us the Model Christian Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer. During Jesus’ earthly ministry he encountered many lost souls. He then encouraged his disciples to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest as recorded in Luke 10.
The entire chapter of John 17 is known as The High Priestly Prayer. It is here that Jesus prayed that he himself remain faithful to the end, prayed that the disciples would remain faithful in their God-ordained calling as followers of Jesus, and then prayed for all who would come after them as followers of Jesus which includes each of us.
Even in the final minutes of his life on earth, Jesus continued to call out to his Father in prayer as noted in Luke 23, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” God calls each of us to pray as Jesus did. As we pray, God revives our passion for him, changes our hearts and helps us to grow in depths of wisdom and compassion for one another, especially the lost.
As these summer months begin, my prayer is that we seek to grow nearer to the heart of God through prayer when at home, when at work, when at play and when we gather in God’s house for worship.
I encourage you to invest your summer months searching the scriptures to learn more about the discipline of prayer. I pray that you memorize Bible passages such as James 5:16b which proclaims, “The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Dear friends in Christ,
Two institutions God has established by His authority are the church and state. The power of the church is one that rescues sinners from their sin through Jesus’ work of redemption, the Good News of the gospel we are privileged to celebrate again this Easter season and throughout our lifetimes as people of faith who are saved by the grace of God. Romans 1:16 speaks of this Good News with the words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” This power changes people’s hearts and minds from the inside and makes them desire to do what is pleasing to God and for the glory of God.
The power of the state however is one of preserving order & promoting public safety. It uses outward incentives to encourage acceptable behavior in people whether they want to contribute to the common good of humanity or not. Romans 13:1-7 addresses that power of the state. Verse one reads, “Everyone must submit to the governing authority, for there is no authority except which God has established.”
It may surprise some to know that both of these institutions are provided by God for our good. But given humanity’s fallen nature, we do not have to study history long to see how these gifts have been misused and abused by those who, rather than following our Lord’s desire for each of us to love one another and look out for each other’s wellbeing, have demonstrated instead the desire to control others for their own benefit and outcome. (Past centuries and recent decades of war, major global unrest, the threat of terror, international/national social unrest and overwhelming family upheaval are just a few examples) Imagine further the abuse that would take place if the distinction between these institutions and powers given them are blurred, whether that be state or church.
Early 16th century Germany was in this perilous state. People of the land were being told by the church and the state that if enough money would change hands their souls could be set free. Into this volatile situation a pamphlet came into the hands of the common people which was printed in their own language and called the 95 Theses, along with other writings from a Wittenberg professor named Martin Luther. Biblical teachings within these writings resulted in helping to undo the stranglehold power held over the common people living in that day.
By the grace of God people were set free from their sin and guilt through faith in Jesus Christ as they heard the Good News from God’s Word. That life-changing Good News proclaimed Jesus, the living Savior, as victor over our sin, over our earthly grave and the evil one. The Good News of the glorious Easter Resurrection saved lives for an eternity then as it does now! Let us live for God’s glory today! Let us be thankful that Jesus is the living Lord in this life and for eternal life!
This year is the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when people experienced heart and mind transformation due to the power of the Good News of the gospel proclaimed throughout the land. In coming months we will hear more about the Reformation and its lasting impact. May we invest our lives in sharing that very power of the gospel which leads to a heart-felt desire to do what is pleasing to God and is done for God’s glory here and now.
Dear friends in Christ,
“I hope…” What a positive and encouraging thought we convey when we say to someone, “I hope the best for you…” It might be a person facing a medical test or one who is excited about a developing relationship. We offer our hope that things will turn out well. Hope is always at the beginning of a new venture or a new start. It is also at the center of a restart after things have not turned out well. Even a pessimist hopes that the anticipated failure will not be disastrous.
Hope is more than being optimistic. There is a billboard near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, sponsored by an emergency agency that reads, “Hoping for the best is not an emergency plan.” You and I, this world, needs much more than hope for hope’s sake.
The word hope is seen, read and heard throughout Holy Scripture, appearing more than 180 times. True hope is always connected with the person of God. Hope is the primary operating word for Christians. Why? Because of Jesus, our living Savior, we are guaranteed the fulfillment of the greatest hope we can ever imagine, the hope we will one day be rid of sin and will live forever in a restored, loving relationship with our God of heaven and earth. It is the hope that transcends the grave! Jesus is the one and only true hope-giver this hopeless world has ever known.
Hope is something we have when we are anticipating what we do not have. As followers of Jesus, trusting in Him, we believe that when we die, yet shall we live. When our bodies are laid to rest, we believe we will be resurrected to eternal life. We are given the promise of this hope in the evidence of Christ’s own death and resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:23-25, “We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Easter is a time when we celebrate the Good News of Jesus’ victory over death. No one has ever died and then come to life again to live forever except Jesus. We can rightly place our hope in Him because He has backed up what He said with what He did.
We have a living hope. It lives because Christ lives. We have a joyful hope. Our joy will be complete when we meet Jesus face to face. We can live in peaceful hope. We are at peace with God, reconciled to Him in Christ through the forgiveness of our sins, and at peace in the midst of life’s storms because we know who holds us securely in His mighty hands. We trust Him, and our trust is strengthened with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We overflow with hope as we share our joy of salvation with others through word and deed. This hope is powerful, so powerful that we sing, “Hallelujah, Jesus lives!” May the rest of the world hear your hope, my hope, our hope that is eternal!!
Dear friends in Christ,
Lent is almost here! Wednesday, March 1st, we begin the 2017 Lenten journey. You are invited and strongly encouraged to gather at OSLC on Ash Wednesday for worship, which includes the celebration of Holy Communion and the Imposition of Ashes, as well as the following Wednesday evenings during Lent for a new Lenten series.
This Lenten season we plan to continue to offer a new approach to the five Lenten services that follow Ash Wednesday. We are including a short message from well-known Bible teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan, followed by additional teaching from Pastor Doug. The title of the Lenten series is: The Mission of Jesus – Triumph of God’s Kingdom in a World of Chaos. Together we will be on a journey in Israel and Rome exploring what it means to be a kingdom of priests in a prodigal world by discovering the mission that God gave his people many centuries ago and how that impacts us today. Filmed on site in Israel and Rome, you will see and hear Ray Vander Laan weave together the Bible’s historical, cultural, religious and geographical contexts,providing insight into Holy Scripture’s significance for present day believers.
The 2017 Lenten schedule includes the following:
Wednesday, March 1st – Ash Wednesday Worship, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 8th – Lesson 1 Capernaum: Jesus Binds the Evil One
5:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. OSLC Aebelskiver Supper, 7:00 p.m. Worship
Wednesday, March 15th – Lesson 2 Decapolis: The Other Side-Jesus and the Man from the Tombs
6:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. Supper, 7:00 p.m. Worship
Wednesday, March 22nd – Lesson 3 Crucifixion: The Coronation of a King
6:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. Supper, 7:00 p.m. Worship
Wednesday, March 29th – Lesson 4 Ascension: The King Takes His Throne
6:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. Supper, 7:00 p.m. Worship
Wednesday, April 5th – Lesson 5 Pentecost: God Changed His Address
6:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. Supper, 7:00 p.m. Worship
Our Sunday bulletin cover always includes the reminder that, Worship Will Never Rise Higher Than Our View Of God. Come and worship, continue to grow in the fear and knowledge of the Lord of heaven and earth. The seasons of Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Advent and Christmas all provide wonderful opportunities for you and your family to draw closer to God, to grow in appreciation of His sacrificial love, and to continue in your own faith formation process.
God bless and guide you,
Dear friends in Christ,
During the month of January two of our Sunday gospel lessons just happened to instruct we who are God’s Church to be invested in disciple making. As most, if not all of us, know Jesus spent over three years of his earthly ministry making disciples and then instructing them to do the same as the Great Commission reminds us, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19) This is our commission at OSLC as well. Jesus followed a simple process, employing five invitations, each one followed by experiences and instructions. His invitations provide us a framework for fulfilling that responsibility in the Body of Christ here in Audubon and beyond.
Invitation 1 – Come and See John 1:29-42 Those making disciples for Jesus today can draw attention to the whole life and ministry of Jesus, not just the preparation years. But making disciples still starts with the invitation to, “Come and See”.
Invitation 2 – Follow Me John 1:43-51 Following Jesus can prove to be challenging since we are encouraged to live outside of our self-imposed comfort zones. Answering the call to “Follow Me” draws the believer into a relational foundation building phase of discipleship. This phase can lead to deepening faith and a greater understanding of his kingdom work.
Invitation 3 – Come Fishing Matthew 4:12-23 For Jesus, making disciples was lifestyle based. By living among his early disciples he was cultivating a deeper relationship with them. Jesus exemplified and followed a path that was experiential, relational and participatory, not simply disseminating information. The same is true for disciple making today.
Invitation 4 -Deny Self Matthew 16:21-28 This fourth invitation is radically countercultural. Following the footsteps of Jesus means choosing a path of sacrifice and self-denial. Both disciple makers and those they lead to discipleship walk the path of self-denial.
Invitation 5-Receive the Spirit John 20:19-23 and Acts 1:1-11 Receiving the Holy Spirit draws Jesus’ disciples into replicating his mission. During Jesus’ earthly ministry he had been making disciples by inviting, modeling and equipping them in ministry and mission. Through the presence of the Spirit they were to multiply his work of disciple making.
Jesus’ five invitations referenced here are entirely compatible with our present day, postmodern ministry environments. These invitations provide us a framework based on God’s Word for making disciples who in turn make disciples! That is our goal within LCMC. That is God’s plan for us here and now!
May our almighty God strengthen and guide us as we continue to become maturing disciples of Christ and invest our lives in disciple making.