Do Good

Forecasts of severe weather again in the area. A fact of life in this part of the country. Most of us have seen first hand the devastation that can be caused by thunderstorms, torrential rains, hail and tornadoes. 

Members at Grace have decided to do what we can for those affected by the storms. We now have a disaster relief trailer thanks to a grant from LCMS Disaster Relief that was funded by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. It has an assortment of tools necessary to help in clean up efforts after storms. It has been deployed twice now to Canton with volunteers willing to help.  

We are doing this for Jesus.  He is the  one who told us, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). 

We hope to  get even more volunteers willing to deploy with us in the aftermath of disasters as they occur. If you would like to be a part of that, contact our church office. 

 

 

The Things I Have Seen

Last year I wrote that I had to have multiple surgeries. In fact, since the beginning of 2016 I have had surgery eight times. Six of those were on my right eye due to a detached retina. The (hopefully) last one was this past Monday. While my vision has been restored in that eye to some extent, scar tissue has been keeping me from being able to see things clearly. It has been impossible for me to read with my right eye for the past 17 months. It will be a couple of months before I know how successful this surgery was.

One of the things I have gained from all of this is an appreciation for what I do have. I still have one eye that is operating properly, which allows me to function normally. Were it not for the good vision in that eye, I would not be able to read at all or even drive! 

Good vision is something many of us take for granted. I know I did. I did not need any corrective lenses until I was 30, and even then, it was only minor.  While the prescriptions have changed to stronger powers over the years, including the addition of bifocal lenses, I have been able to see well with my glasses. In fact, I don’t need to wear my glasses at all when I am working at my desk – my left eye is still that good!

I wonder how many things I have not seen over the years because I have taken my vision for granted? I started thinking about some of the sights I have seen for which I am truly grateful.

I am truly grateful that I have seen my children grow to adulthood.

I have seen my children’s children.

I have witnessed the beauty of God’s creation around the globe.

I have seen the face of my lovely bride by my side for many years.

I have witnessed the power of God at work in the lives of people through His Word, through Baptism, and through the Lord’s Supper.

I have been able to read about God’s promises for myself in modern translations of Scripture as well as in the original languages.

I have seen dear friends and loved ones die, but they did so with confidence in Jesus as their Lord, which means I will see them again.

I have seen the expression on people’s faces when they have come to know and believe the Jesus died for them.

Oh, what these eyes have seen. Should my sight be taken from me this side of heaven, I pray God would give me the grace to realize that I still have the eyes of faith to see Jesus my Lord. And I know my vision would be restored when I stand in the presence of my Savior. And what will I see there?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him…” 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

 

The Power of Music

April 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

My taste in music is eclectic. One minute I am listening to country, the next classical. My digital music files include Kansas, Boston, James Taylor and Bread. There are contemporary Christian artists like Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, Mercy Me, and Casting Crowns alongside Bach, Handel and Mozart. As I write this, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is playing in the background.

Music has always been a big part of my life, whether it was singing or playing instruments or simply listening to it. And that was especially true in church. I grew up in a large church that had a fabulous pipe organ and someone who knew how to play it. There were large choirs that sang magnificent choral pieces. I sang songs in parochial school that sometimes were even accompanied by guitars! (Quite an innovation in the 1960s).

Something I have always known about music is the way it can touch your emotions and its ability to help you remember things. If I hear a hymn melody being played, I instantly start “singing” the words in my mind. Music is a powerful tool that enables people to recall a message.

We are about to celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Easter is the high point of the church year for me. It is the guarantee that I have forgiveness and eternal life because of what Jesus did for me.  “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

There are lots of hymns and songs that help us celebrate the Resurrection, and I’ll be singing those very soon. But right now, before Easter, I am remembering that Jesus died. And it was a terrible death. It was the death my sin deserved. And Jesus did it in my place. 

A favorite hymn of mine that helps drive home the enormity of what Jesus did is “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” I share some of the stanzas below and encourage you to reflect on them as you prepare to remember the death of Jesus on Good Friday, celebrate His resurrection on Easter, and live in the confidence that this makes all the difference for you and your future.

O sacred Head, now wounded,

With grief and shame weighed down,

Now scornfully surrounded

With thorns, Thine only crown.

O sacred head, what glory

What bliss till now was thine.

Yet, though Despised and gory,

I joy to call Thee mine!

 

What language shall I borrow

To thank Thee, dearest friend,

For this Thy dying sorrow,

Thy pity without end?

O make me Thine forever!

And should I fainting be,

Lord, let not me never, never,

Outlive my love for Thee.

 

Be Thou my consolation,

My shield, when I must die.

Remind me of Thy Passion,

When my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,

upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfold Thee,

Who dieth thus dies well.

Prayer is an Attitude

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

Prayer is an attitude of your mind and your heart that recognizes a couple of things about your spiritual condition. 

Firstly, you are helpless. Prayer is not for those who can do it themselves, who have everything together and figured out. Those people do not actually exist. Some may think they don’t need help or can do it all on their own, but no one can survive in this world or get to the next by their own strength and merit. Prayer is your last resort. Those who recognize their own helplessness are the ones whose hearts cry out to God for the assistance that He alone can offer you in Christ Jesus.

In addition to helplessness, prayer must come from faith, a faith that clings to the promises God has made in Christ and wants to take advantage of every benefit made available to us because of Jesus. Those who would pray to God must believe in Him. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

Prayer recognizes your own helplessness and goes to the source of help, believing that God will provide and care for all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Based on “Prayer” by O. Hallesby

Prayer is the Breath of the Soul

January 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

“Prayer is the breath of the soul.” What a great analogy! Air surrounds your body and is exerting pressure on it. When you take it into your lungs, it passes through your bloodstream and provides oxygen to the entire body. It is what you need to live. Try holding your breath for 10 minutes and see how that works out for you.
Prayer is the breath by which Christ enters our hearts. He is all around you, wanting to come in. When we try to keep Him out of there, things will not go well for us. This “breath of the soul” enables you to have an intimate relationship with your God.

(Based on “Prayer” by O. Hallesby)

Prayer

January 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

As this New Year begins, I am reading a book on prayer. I am taking my time reading it, because the author has a lot of incredibly deep and thought provoking insights. One of them is that prayer is simply asking God to be in control. It is not coercing God to do something, or forcing Him to act on our behalf. Rather, prayer is a way for us to vacate the throne of our life and let God take His rightful place there.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

When you pray, you let Jesus come into your heart, and you let Him be in control. Your prayer does not move Jesus. Jesus moves you to pray, knocking on the door of your heart, asking to come in.

Chew on that for a while.

(Based on “Prayer” by O. Hallesby)

Christmas Season

December 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

How’s Christmas going for you?

 

Seems like the question is late, but we are still in the Christmas Season until Epiphany, which is January 6. I like the chance to sing Christmas hymns for one or two Sundays after Christmas Day.  One that is on my mind today is “Let Us All With Gladsome Voice.” The final stanza mentions the New Year, which will begin this Sunday.

 

This hymn has a beautiful, simple message of praise to God for the wonderful gift we celebrate receiving at this time of year.

 

Let us all with gladsome voice

Praise the God of heaven,

Who, to bid our hearts rejoice,

His own Son hath given.

 

To this vale of tears He comes,

Here to serve in sadness,

That with Him in heaven’s fair homes

We may reign in gladness.

 

We are rich, for He was poor;

Is not this a wonder?

Therefore praise God evermore

Here on earth and yonder.

 

Christ, our Lord and Savior dear,

Be Thou ever near us.

Grant us now a glad new year.

Amen, Jesus, hear us!

 

(Lutheran Service Book #390)

The Main Thing

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

How are your preparations going? All of us are getting ready for Christmas in differing ways. People have their own traditions that they associate with this time of year. Some make special cookies and candies and foods that they don’t make any other time of the year. Others have parties. Lots of folks wear “ugly Christmas sweaters.” Many believe it would not be Christmas if you did not travel to be with other family members. You might take a night to drive around and look at lights and decorations. And most of us do some shopping for gifts.

There is nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves. As disciples of Jesus, I guess the question we need to consider when talking about traditions is, “Do they enhance the celebration of our Savior’s birth or do they detract from it?”

One little girl asked her mother, “If Christmas is really about God, why do we hear so much more about Santa?” Her mother responded, “God doesn’t advertise as much.” And there is some truth to that statement. Those of us who follow Jesus don’t advertise enough. We should be walking, talking, living, breathing advertisements for our Savior. We have the best news ever, announced by angels to shepherds over 2000 years ago, but just as relevant and important today: A Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord!

Maybe some of your traditions can help advertise the Good News of His birth. We have a group from our church that goes caroling every year to share the message of Jesus’ birth in song. My wife and I give gifts to the members of our congregation that reinforce that Good News. And our worship services point to Jesus as the only real hope for people. How do your traditions share the wonderful message of our Savior’s birth?

The reason we need to keep our focus on Jesus during this time of year is simple: without Jesus, we would have no hope. We would be doomed to destruction and eternal separation from God because of our sin. But God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them (2 Cor. 5:19) That was all part of God’s plan. He was crucified to pay for the sins of everyone. That’s why He came. His resurrection sealed the deal, proclaiming His victory over death and the grave for everyone. Faith in Him assures you of forgiveness and eternity with Him. All that started with the birth we are about to celebrate.

A favorite quote of mine comes from the late Yogi Berra: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” I hope you all do that this Christmas, keep Jesus the main thing, and that we all say together: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” 

All’s Right With the World?

November 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

I wrote this while the elections were still taking place, so I did not know the outcome. Now that they are over, the results are in and winners have been declared. Some are elated, others despondent. Some ambivalent, others despairing, and some do not care one way or the other.

Despite one side declaring doom and gloom and the other declaring the end of all problems on earth, the results are always somewhere in the middle. And regardless of who holds power here on earth, we know the one who holds the universe in the palm of His hand.

Robert Browning wrote a poem entitled “Pippa’s Song.” While you may not be familiar with all of it, it has this phrase that you have probably heard: God’s in His heaven–All’s right with the world!  The poem conveys the message that as long as things go the way we expect them to, we can attribute that to God being in control and doing His job. But what about when things don’t turn out the way you had hoped? Does that mean God is not in control?

When Jehoshaphat, one of the kings of Judah, was facing invasion by a vastly superior army, he prayed to the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:6. “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. (NIV)

His words leave no doubt that for him, God’s presence in heaven is equal to God being in control and ruling over all things. Jehoshaphat understood that God rules everything. And this attitude was not limited to Jehoshaphat.

  • After he had safely crossed the Red Sea and escaped from Pharaoh, Moses offered a song of praise that concluded with “The LORD will reign for ever and ever.” (Ex 15:18)
  • Job speaks of God’s as being able to topple the strong, make the wise man foolish, and nations prosper or fall according to His will (Job 12).
  • In a sermon he preached in Athens, Paul spoke of “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…

God does rule.  God reigns. God’s In His Heaven. So does it follow that All’s Right With The World? We definitely have evil all around us. We encounter it every day.  What makes the difference is that at one point God came down from heaven to be among us and take care of that problem for us.  When Christ died, bearing the sins of all men, yours and mine included, He took care of the problem of evil once and for all. He defeated the Devil. It did not end with His death. Had He remained in the tomb, Satan would have been victorious. But Christ declared His victory by rising from the dead and showing that the Devil had no power over Him. Through faith in Christ, you share in this victory. You rule with Him.

Once you accept the merits of Christ as your own through faith, all is truly right with the world. More importantly, all is right in your relationship with God. Even when you sin and fall short of God’s expectations, you have the forgiveness of sins as sure as you know that God’s in His heaven. Jesus has already paid for sin, and you believe in Him. Therefore, when God looks down on you, he no longer sees men and women condemned to death. He sees men and women who are cleansed and saved for Jesus’ sake.

And because of your faith in Jesus that looks to Him alone for your forgiveness and salvation, you can live with the assurance and confidence that God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world!

Battle of the Ax

November 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner, Pastor's Thoughts

November  4, 2016

Tonight is the 118th “Battle of the Ax.”. This long-standing football rivalry between Sherman and Denison has been part of my life for almost 30 years. I look forward to attending the game because I love high school football.

 

This morning as I was listening to the local news personalities talk about this “battle”, I was reminded that every day of our lives is a battle.

 

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

 

While Christ has won the victory over sin and death for us through His life and death and resurrection, we still have to struggle with sin and its consequences here on earth. It is our daily battle. Evil is a present reality. But we don’t face it alone.

 

The hymn sung by many this week in celebration of the Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress,” has the line, “but for us fights the valiant one whom God himself elected.” He is still with us, by our side, every step of the way. He strengthens us, picks us up when we falter, encourages us to press on, and FIGHTS FOR US!

 

While we still have our daily battles, we keep it in perspective when we remember that the ultimate battle was won for us by Jesus. And He is still with us.

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