In these anxious and uncertain times, as usual, our LORD comes. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). He is our rock, unmovable and unchanging. His gentleness, kindness, love and mercy are constant, and even new to us every morning. Alleluia! I can’t tell you what this Fall Season will hold for you in school, at work, after the election. But I know God knows. He will work good out of evil. He will strengthen us when we are weak and tired. He will rejoice with us when we rejoice. He will forgive us when we sin. God remains in control. The church will prevail and God’s love, mercy and forgiveness will remain for those who trust in Him. Have a refreshing – blessed Labor Day weekend! Pastor Dave
September 2, 2020 - Life or Death
n 1991, a bloodless rebellion took place in the streets of Moscow. Russians who had grown up in totalitarianism suddenly declared, “We may be captive to the state, but we will act as if we are free.” So they took to the streets, stared down the threat of death by guns, and acted and spoke as if they were truly free. The result was the leaders cowering inside, fearing the masses outside who were shaking off their chains in freedom. Christian author Philip Yancey wrote of that time, “Watching the newsreels from Red Square, I came up with a new definition of FAITH: It’s paranoia in reverse. A truly paranoid person organizes his or her life around a common perspective of FEAR. Anything that happens feeds that fear. “FAITH works in reverse. A faithful person organizes his or her life around a common perspective of TRUST, not fear. Despite the chaos of the moment, God does reign. Regardless of how I may feel, I truly do matter to a God who loves me.” We live at a time in history where paranoia is rampant. We fear being condemned publicly for what we say or do. We’re afraid to speak up for what we believe lest someone ridicule or slander us. We believe God is with us and we trust Him, but we fear we’ll be shamed for saying so. Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.” As Christians we lift up and rejoice in God’s promises: “I am with you always, to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) Apostle John said, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Jesus also said, “Never be afraid of those who can kill the body but are powerless to kill the soul! Far better to stand in awe of the one who has the power to destroy body and soul.” (Matthew 10:28) We’re not afraid of God, because He loves us. So why should we fear people? Let’s shed our fears about what’s going on today. That’s what our Savior wants. He wants us filled with joy and peace! God’s Spirit, residing in us, helps us live by FAITH, not by fear. Fear destroys, but FAITH gives life. AMEN
July 21, 2020 - Broken and Healing
“Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas!” Luke 23:18 That is the way things must go, that is how things have always been since Adam and Eve munched on Satan’s lies. “Did God really say? … You surely won’t die.” And this is the railroad track the world loves to run down, 24/7. Satan has caused this to become fashionable in God’s world: that the more precious the treasure and blessing that God gives, the more hostile the world and the devil are to it. Gold and money are the least of God’s blessings; nevertheless, the devil cannot tolerate that it be used properly. So, he seeks to kill people through its misuse, gambling, and the darkness it creates is intoxicating. Working 85 hours a week to earn more and more weakens the family bonds and adds more stress. The wicked foe causes money to become an idol, ruin marriages, bring about bribery, theft, extortion and murder. He completely turns this lovely resource from God for good into selfish gain and pride. Of course he does. The father of all lies is gleeful. John D. Rockefeller was bookkeeper at age 16 and went into several business partnerships beginning at age 20, concentrating his business on oil refining. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870. He ran it until 1897 and remained its largest shareholder. Rockefeller's wealth soared as kerosene and gasoline grew in importance, and he became the richest person in the country, controlling 90% of all oil in the United States at his peak. He is America’s first billionaire. In todays’ dollars his wealth was equal to His peak net worth was estimated at US$418 billion (in 2019 dollars. He was once was asked how much more dollars do you really need? He answered truthfully: “Just one more.” Jesus said: “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Mt. 4:4) And "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Mt. 6:24) Well-ordered, law-abiding civil societies filled with people who listen to and follow authority and desire external peace are fine – absolute beautiful gems; but the devil cannot tolerate that beauty either. So, he stirs his pot again. Murder and bloodshed increase in his heinous kitchen spilling into communities. He works every hour to infect all homes and Countries with the poison. His recipe always bakes a wicked stench of chaos and hatred, with not a pinch of patience, listening, give and take, aka. good communication. Can you hear his heinous laughter? Satan and his demons cannot bear that human beings have naturally beautiful bodies, designed by his arch enemy our Father Creator God. All he sees are homes to rob, steal and destroy, in the womb or not, he doesn’t care. ‘Just pillage it’ is his motto. So God’s house temples prostitute and abort. Idolize drinking, smoking and drugging their bodies. They know not what they do. When it comes to the awe-inspiring gifts of God: the Holy Scriptures containing the Divine truths and promises of the One True and eternal God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the power and blessings of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, when these treasures bring righteousness and life to a soul and then more souls are added and peace and blessings flow from God’s heart directly to the human heart; it will happen just as our text says: “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas!” Rather than leaving well enough alone, “this man has done nothing wrong." (Luke 23:41) Evil must seek evil. They/us even killed Jesus Christ! WOW. Crazy times! Yes, but it has always been. Sin is insanity. Sheep killed their kind, gentle, healing, forever providing Good Shepherd. What? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9) God is the only one who utterly understands it and did something about it! Alleluia! God has and continues to do radical surgery and truly heal the human heart. History has proven God is an excellent, successful surgeon - Christians have left this earth better than when they found it. They built hospitals and orphanages and homes and communities where faith, hope and love had the final say. God is the proficient Physician of body and soul! Heaven is our forever home. God is our forever Friend, Savior, Shelter, Comforter with us and for us in the middle of the senseless mob - who would rather release Barabbas. Dear Lord, heal broken hearts. Protect your lambs. Come Lord Jesus. AMEN
July 16, 2020 - Pain is Good?
Pain works for our good because it is employed by God. Nobody escapes suffering. In this world you can bank on it. Jesus said it and we are experiencing it firsthand. “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer I have overcome it.” (John 16:33) The world over, all of us, are all hurting to some degree right now . . . some are in horrible pain. Some of our family members are experiencing the difficulties of old age. We have children not sure of their future. We have worries about walking to the grocery store and coming back with a terrible virus. Some are dragging a load of student debt; others hate their job. Some are in prison, some are bedridden, some are convalescing from surgery, still in pain but hoping for improvement. Where are you in this painfilled world from 1-10? What if this hurt never stops? What sufferings lay in waiting? But what’s even worse? It’s suspecting that all this hardship is in vain, that it serves no good purpose. St. Paul knew a lot more about suffering than any of us ever will, and he celebrated the amazing promise of God that none of life’s’ pain is wasted: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8,9). God uses our suffering to make positive changes in us. That’s a good thing. Our sufferings give us a platform from which to connect somebody else with Jesus. That’s a good thing. Maybe our pain and heart ache helps us to let go of this broken and peaceless world and lift up our eyes to Jesus - our real security and eternal home. Jesus gives us a solid living hope - “I’ve overcome this pain ridden world”. Now that’s a breathe of fresh air we all need! “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9) Satan started all this suffering on earth. But suffering is employed by Jesus, not the other way around. Satan is not in control of this world. He has a lot of influence. God is in control and has all authority in the highest heaven and over the lowest places on earth – even over suffering and pain. Pain has an expiration date for Christians. Alleluia!
July 10, 2020 - Shared by Pastor Dave
This is from my son, Peter Johnson, who is a Vicar, Youth Minister, and Communications Director at Faith Lutheran Church in Rochester, NY. He wrote this recently for His Church Newsletter: It has been a sad four months - for our church family, community, state, nation, and world. Over 500,000 people have died from COVID-19. Millions more have been infected. Many of us know families that have either had the virus or have lost a loved one to this horrific virus. We mourn with them and our hearts go out to them. Oh what deep sadness surrounds us. Lives have been changed. Many jobs have been lost. Surgeries have been postponed. Elderly parents can only be visited through glass windows. Family celebrations and birthdays are smaller. Schools and child care centers operate differently. Sunday worship is socially distant and also online. Our lives have changed. Our world has changed. But one thing has not changed: God’s love for you. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” (Psalm 34:18). Feeling brokenhearted these days? I do. The Lord is close to us. Feeling crushed these days? I do. The Lord saves us. Let God’s Word be a comfort to you today and every day - whether we’re in a pandemic or not. We need Him. The world needs Him. Thank God He is here with us today and every day. And we look forward to the day where there won’t be a pandemic, or cancer, or lost jobs, or social distance, or surgeries, or cancelled mission trips, or sin, or death… On that day, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away,” (Rev. 21:4). Our hope is in Christ alone. Let us share this hope through words and acts of service in our own homes, neighborhoods, and communities. Every day is a mission trip for Christians and God goes with us. May the world experience the life-changing love of Christ through our every day mission trips - so that others may know Jesus, too. Amen
July 2, 2020 - We are the Victors
“That they all may be one." John 17:21 This simple verse is the only thing on Jesus' bucket list. What say you? For to everyone who believes the Word of God, the promise of unity - real humble, kind 'oneness' will be made possible. It will happen. We will experience it - see it - taste it and live it with all the saints forever. How? By the power of this prayer that Jesus made long ago and is still fervently praying: Father help them that they all may be one with us. What does this mean? That He shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians, that what happens to him shall happen to all people on earth; that all the prophets, martyrs, Apostles, disciples, all Christians both on earth and with God in Heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him over the grave, over this evil earth, that all may receive the blessed exchange - their sins turned to dust, their unrighteous filthy rags are thrown away for the eternal white clothes of Christ’s righteousness freely and loving placed upon their shoulders. They will receive the eternal gifts of comfort and joy and blessings beyond all human comprehension….forever more! Real unity and peace with God and all who trust in Him. Now how could a man or a woman wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship and be made a member of this body, which is called Christianity? For who can harm a person who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering comes upon them? If a sin attacks him to frighten and bite and oppress his conscience, threatening him with the devils lies, death and hell, God speaks with the great company of heaven echoing the same behind him: “Sin, leave him to Me unmolested! Hell, leave him undevoured! Death, leave him alone! This one you cannot kill.! All this is true! To the utmost! But this cannot be done without faith, because to the eyes of the world and of human reason the opposite appears to be happening. We must remind the great arsonist Satan that the torch he uses to extinguish faith is nearly extinguished itself – his days are numbered. We are the victors in Christ. ‘One little word can fell him.’ The Word is Christ. "Oh righteous Father, even though the world does not know you. I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me MAY BE IN THEM AND I IN THEM" (Jn. 17:25-26) AMEN
June 16, 2020 - Lean on Him.
Will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you. He will give justice to them speedily.” Luke 18:7-8) “An earnest and fervent prayer, which does not cease and does not become tired but keeps on waiting up to the last moment, eventually forces its way through heaven and earth, and it is impossible for it not to be heard. For it is a sacrifice most pleasing to God when we pray in such a way that the prayer surpasses our comprehension and understanding, as is stated: “He is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think.” (Eph. 3:20) When the situation is hopeless and all plans and efforts are in vain, then be courageous, and beware of giving up; for God calls all things from the dead and from nothing. When no resource or hope at all is left, then at last God’s help begins. And so these are perfect prayers.” Leaning only on Christ who helps in the worst and the most trying circumstances. (Lectures in Genesis – Luther Works 4:361-62)
May 22, 2020 - He wants all of you.
When God asked the Israelites in the Old Testament to bring him offerings, they brought him sick sheep, deformed goats, and blind bulls. “After all,” they might have thought, “God owns everything, so why should it matter? We can keep the good ones.” God rebuked them, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. ‘Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me’” (Psalm 50:9,10,14,15). God gave quality sheep and bulls to the Israelites. More than that, he gave the priceless sacrifice of his Son who would come as their Savior. And ours. God doesn’t hold back his best. God asks us for good offerings, not leftovers. God wants our love and our faithful obedience to his saving name expressed in the quality of our gifts. He gives us so much that we have every opportunity to give back what is good. We want to give God our love, our joyful generosity, yes, ourselves. Our best. Not leftovers. You can’t out give God. So when he asks for your first and best instead of your leftovers, don’t worry. Give it to him. He can give you more. Perhaps even what is better. Watch and see what happens when in response to His Love and mercy - you offer Him copious amounts of your God given time, talents and treasures. Pastor Dave. Give God your best efforts in nudging someone to follow Jesus today.
May 14, 2020 - Peace
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 This is the work of the Holy Spirit, that He is given only to those who are sunk in suffering and misery. For this is the meaning of the text above. The world calls it peace when the suffering is cut off and taken away from a man or women, for example, when a man is poor he thinks of his bitterness because of his poverty and he ponders how to get rid of the poverty, thinking that if he can get rid of it, he will be able to live in peace and wealth. Again, when a woman is about to die, she thinks, if I could but throw off death I should live and have peace. But that is not the peace which Christ gives in either case. Rather He allows the evil which is laid upon us still and to continue oppressing us and He does not take it away, but He does something else: He changes the man and disconnects the person from the evil and not the evil from the person. It goes like this: you are held in the grip of suffering, fear, the unknown. God turns your head and heart away from it and gives you such courage that you would think you could fly like superman and such peace you thought you were in the middle of a rose garden with the Minnesota Chamber Orchestra playing ‘Ode to Joy” just for you. That is our lot in life, for a short while. There is life in the midst of dying, and peace and joy in the middle of horrendous troubles. This is why the Holy Spirit describes it as “a peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7) The God of all creation is merciful, kind, tender, gracious at hospitality and gives gifts of a thousand kinds to the just and unjust. He has His eye on us. He never slumbers nor sleeps. His mighty arms are ready to protect us and to carry us. This God of ours bled His heart out for us. “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,” (Ps. 33:18) “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him, … the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, (Ps. 103:11,17) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:6-8) All this He freely and loving and willing does. Daily! Even now, in the middle of our messes, this pandemic, our sorrows, our fears. What a Savior! What a Friend! What Peace! - Pastor Dave
May 7, 2020 - One Big, Glorious Package
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:3,4) Time keeps slipping through the hourglass of history, but the child of God has a foothold on something rooted in eternity. We live in this world but are not of it. We stand flat-footed on earth, but our citizenship is in heaven. That makes all the difference in the world. Others may fear what awaits them next month, next year and at death. We face the future calmly because our identity in this world is based on God’s action before the foundations of this world were set in place. Think of that. Our heavenly Father has chosen us in Christ before time began to tick away on the old grandfather’s clock, or cell phone; that we might serve him here in time and then after this world is gone. “HE chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Although we know the choosing is his work alone, we reason that the holiness must be our work. Wrong! That’s the trouble: We keep thinking that salvation is God’s department, but holy living is our department. No wonder things keep going from bad to worse in our department store: “Spillage - Clean up isle 12.” For we have no holiness in this world apart from the holiness designed before the foundation of the world. The only holy life we have to live here in time began in eternity back there, when our heavenly Father chose us in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be his own beloved children. “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6) Already, way back then, God had designed the whole wonderful master plan, which includes not only the payment for our sin, but also the very lives we live here in this world as His children. Jesus Christ is not only our justification and redemption, the Bible says, but He is also our sanctification. The whole kit and caboodle- as they say – salvation and works – is all part of a one-piece suit, God clothed us in! What God our Father wants us to do, he equips us to do in His Son, Jesus Christ our LORD. Not only has the Father redeemed us, he has also sanctified us. Not only has he made the payment for our sins, he has also given us a holy life to life. It is a holiness not of our own making but solely of the Holy Spirit in us and for us. The Father planned our salvation and our service toward Him and others. It’s about love, as you know. “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:23) Its’ all one piece—both faith and life, believing and serving, salvation and loving. And it’s all ours in Jesus Christ, wrapped up in one big, glorious package and delivered to us as a gift in His Holy Word and sacraments that we might receive it by faith. That’s what his kingdom is all about. God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit so that by his grace we believe His Holy Word and what follows naturally is leading God pleasing lives here in time and there in eternity – through His power, blessing and strength flowing through us!
We have all of eternity to sing His praises for His unending – merciful work for us and in us! What a Savior! You have been given a Rock certain eternal life with Christ. Celebrate! -Pastor Dave
May 5, 2020 - Jesus’ Mercy Covers Everybody
A classic Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy convincing Linus that he can’t be a doctor because he doesn’t love mankind. He clarifies: “I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.” We pray for world health in body and soul, cheer on our children’s successes, strive for harmony in our families, and support our government but then . . . criticize others who don’t consider our opinions to be the best, get irritated at family members whose ideas conflict with ours, blame the government for everything, (as if they are God) and generally decide to be loving toward some people but unloving toward the ones whose viewpoints differ radically from ours. Here’s something to remember today. That’s the way of the world, not the way of Christ who daily strives to win people over with gentle mercy, grace and forgiveness. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14,15). “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mt. 5:44-46) In other words, Jesus loves the person who drives slowly in the left lane. Jesus loves the one who gave you the finger and drives way too fast. Jesus loves the contractor who messed up your house. Jesus loves your dad who wasn’t there for you. Jesus loves your co-worker who is two-faced and just gossiped about you. Jesus loves your ex who blames you for everything and took everything. Jesus loves your friend who let you down. Jesus loves the hacker who stole your identity. Jesus died for them too. He has a lot of mercy to distribute to this messed up broken world. Do you? “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,” (1 Tim. 2:3-6) The next time you have difficulty showing some grace and mercy to someone: remember these words: “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (Jn. 1:16) Jesus’ mercy covers everybody. Even me! Stay hydrated. Drink in God’s Word daily! It’s hot out there! Pastor Dave
May 1, 2020 - God’s Gracious Reason for Allowing Suffering
Like the lamenting Psalmists, our souls still cry out seeking an answer to why a good God would allow evil and suffering. Martin Luther empathized with this line of questioning and addressed it directly with biblical wisdom. Writing to the Elector John of Saxony, who was deathly ill, Luther clearly conveyed how God uses tribulations, suffering, and pain to draw us nearer to him and make us more like him: “Suffering is the school in which God chastens us and teaches us to trust in him so that our faith may not always stay in our ears and hover on our lips but may have its true dwelling place in the depths of our hearts. Your grace is now in this school.”[xii] When evil intrudes into the usual rhythms of life, God brings us to a full stop and moves us to the verge of defenselessness—fertile ground for the growth of faith. “The most dangerous trial of all is when there is no trial, when everything is all right and running smoothly. That is when a man tends to forget God, to become too independent and put his time of prosperity to a wrong use. In fact, at this time he has more need to call upon God’s name than in adversity.”[xiii] “Therefore, we should willingly endure the hand of God in this and in all suffering. Do not be worried; indeed such a trial is the very best sign revealing God’s grace and love for man.”[xiv]
With Christ in the School of Suffering. Martin Luther wrote to the Madgeburg chancellor, Laurentius Zoch, after Zoch’s wife had died, explaining the mysterious, but gracious work of God. “Therefore, he often withdraws from us the comfort of visible things, in order that the comfort of the Scriptures may find room and opportunity within us, and not remain standing uselessly in the bare letter without exercise.”[xv] Luther recognized how difficult and painful it was to wait patiently on God when our flesh is crying out for fixed feelings and changed circumstances. Yet, this painful process teaches us dependent trust: “All of this, both such patience and such comfort, is the work of God and beyond our power. This is the school of Christians. They take lessons daily in this art and cannot comprehend it, much less learn it thoroughly, but they always remain children, spelling the A B C of this art.”[xvi] According to Luther, faith and trials are God’s healing medicine against the disease of self-trust: “Inasmuch as tribulation serves the same purpose as rhubarb, myrrh, aloes, or an antidote against all the worms, poison, decay, and dung of this body of death, it ought not to be despised. We must not willingly seek or select afflictions, but we must accept those which God sees fit to visit upon us, for he knows which are suitable and salutary for us and how many and how heavy they should be.”[xvii] [xii]Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 56. [xiii]Luther, LW, Vol. 44, p. 47. [xiv]Luther, LW, Vol. 42, p. 184. [xv]Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Advisor, p. 159. [xvi]Luther As Spiritual Advisor, pp. 160-161. [xvii]Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 165
A Prayer for Defense and Deliverance
We ask you, Master, be our helper and defender. Rescue those of our number in distress; raise up the fallen; assist the needy; heal the sick; turn back those of your people who stray; feed the hungry; release our captives; revive the weak; encourage those who lose heart. Let all the nations realize that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your Son, and that we are your people and the sheep of your pasture. Amen - Clement of Rome - (1st Century)
April 23, 2020 - The Master’s House.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose Master finds him doing so when he returns.” (Mt. 24:45,46) There are many who scuff at the idea that all we need is the simple Word of God and His sacraments. They suggest they have lost their punch – their effectiveness. They suggest for these modern times we must adopt an entirely different strategy at church with entertaining music combined with easy going messages without any Law as in: “Guilt free Services”. The Church then asks: What happens to the ten commandments? Throw them away? And if they get broken, I guess we just look the other way? Try that at home and see how it goes: “Hey kids be home by 10PM. If you don’t …. well .. I guess… that’s OK.” Yikes. But Jesus tells us what the Church is about in the above text. A few things – simple things mentioned: the Church is God’s household, faithful servants providing food, wise servants receiving food, Master coming back. It’s not a social service agency, a political power base, a theater, a concert hall, a marketplace, a card club, a place to find customers, four walls, a small or large business. The Church is an oasis of God’s life surrounded by death. The Church is a breath of fresh air in a world of toxic sludge. The Church cascades light down into the depressing darkness of sin and all its residue. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) And GOD DOES ALL THE TIME! God’s word (food) never returns to Him in vain. It always accomplishes His purposes. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty.” (Is. 55:11) The Church is placed in the middle of devastating sorrows. The Church is an outpost of eternity in this passing “breathe” of life. The Church provides healing, a refuge, an anchor, direction, discipline, edification and the comfort of God Himself. Notice what goes on in the church: The proclamation of the Gospel, the washing of water with the Word in Holy Baptism, the reception of Christ in the Holy Supper. These things are exactly what has gone on in the Church for centuries. Some would tell us, “That’s the problem.” Others say: “These things have lost their luster – their impact. We need something new and more interesting.” But what could be more interesting than to be in the presence of the Lord of all Creation? Just think of that!! What could be more life-changing than to be baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ?!! What could be more revolutionary than to hear God’s Powerful Word proclaimed by his own servants? What could be more astounding than to have Christ’s own body and blood placed in our mouths, the very sign and seal of the forgiveness purchased on His cross? What a Savior! He is no absent landlord! He is closer to us than our skin! Paid the price so our skin would walk along his someday! In God’s household there is life! It is the life of Jesus Christ for the death of this world, for all those who struggle with the suffering and turmoil of this world, for all those who demand their own choice and made the wrong choice, and for all those who see their sin and repent of it. For each one of us who bears a load of deep and ugly guilt, there is peace in exchange for guilt, forgiveness in exchange for shame, and life in exchange for death. That’s what we need in the world. And that’s what the LORD of the Church continues to extend to us forgiven sinners. “Jesus declared: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:33-35) The household menu is always the same. For there is only one food that satisfies and gives hope in a very hopeless world: Jesus Christ -suffering – dying – being resurrected. Our Lord would daily have us at his kitchen table to come, eat, and live! Stay hydrated and well fed in God’s Word every day! God is with you. - Pastor Dave
April 20, 2020 - The Best for Last
“This the first of His miraculous signs, (turning water into wine) Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:11) Jesus turned water into wine and wine of the very highest quality: it was a miracle. But when you come right down to it, this miracle doesn’t compare to his other ones. His other miracles seemed more important. For instance, giving sight to the blind, healing those with diseases and even leprosy, healing the deaf, giving palsied limbs the ability to walk again and so forth. I mean, running out of wine doesn’t seem to be the end of the world. Yet there is comfort in the fact that Jesus chose to reveal his extraordinary power for the very first time in a very ordinary situation. There comes a time for each of us, after all, when the wine runs out. Our problems are not necessarily all earth-shaking events or matters of life and death. Once in a while, life starts to unravel, and our neat little world starts coming unglued like the time the wine ran out in Cana. Mary knew what to do. She went to her son, Jesus. What he was going to do, she had no idea. But he would do something; she was absolutely convinced. I wonder if we have that kind of confidence. We have a lot to learn from Mary. We should lay our most common and ordinary frustrations before the Lord as well in utter simplicity. What do we usually do when the wine runs out? Complain? Fret? Or do we turn to the One who can do something about it? Mary told the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” She knew Jesus well enough to know that whatever he commands is right. Whatever he says is true. Still, how hard it is to do whatever Jesus tells us! When we come to him with our problems, we would like him to say: “Have it your way.” But instead, Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him. Jesus tells us to repent and to believe the gospel, but we are so proud, we would rather believe we got the strength to make it through this alone! “Do whatever he tells you”, Mary said. That’s good advice for the servants at the wedding feast and good advice for us too: “Do whatever he tells you.” Though it makes no sense to our natural mind, we believe His Holy Words. We trust in the forgiveness of all our sins that he gives us. We believe in the power of baptism and his Holy Supper – here we receive his pardon and his peace. There is always life in His Words! It is no different today than it was in Cana. Don’t let anyone fool you. Jesus still speaks His Word. And we do whatever he tells us. Come what may: in thick or thin, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health; He, the true bridegroom, has pledged us his faithfulness. He will never part from us. His love surrounds us, His compassions supports us. We do what he says and watch joy later unfold. Listen real closely … and you’ll hear the wedding banquet crowd begin to gather, laugh, toast, sing and dance. That celebration is coming …. Soon. Like wine in Cana, his gift, his miracle is the absolute best! On the Last Day, he will raise us all from our graves and give everyone who believes in him the life that has no end. Life with Him and with all who have gone before us trusting in His grace and mercy. God saves the best for last. Alleluia. He has Risen. He has risen indeed! AMEN Keep your Bibles open and leave the common and the not so common troubles with Your God and Jesus’ God, with Your Father and with Jesus’ Father and watch a few more miracles unfold – like less stress. Listen – Jesus will not let His dance with his kids be stopped! The Reception is going to happen! Alleluia! -Pastor Dave
April 17, 2020 -“We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)
How shall we live in this world that is passing away without being caught up in it? The answer lies in these seven simple yet profound words of God: “We live by faith, not by sight.” Our sinful nature replies: “that’s just religious gumbo-soup. What is all this talk about faith stuff? What good is faith? It doesn’t put food on the table or money in your IRA. Let’s get real,” we argue. “What’s really important is what we touch and see and above all, what we can feel. If we can feel something then we can believe it.” Just ask Thomas – he was just like most of us on earth. Seeing is believing. The natural – old Adam flesh and blood in all of us prefers sight over faith. There’s just one problem. The natural mind is an enemy of God, the Bible says. Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:4-6) Faith however, believes the Word of God, and the Word of God says that sin is a big deal. It is nothing less than idolatry and open rebellion against God. In fact, the wages of sin is death. That’s how serious it is. Therefore rather than honoring our reason and our feelings, we honor the Word of God. Rather than saying, “I thank you, God, that I’m not as bad as other people are,” we say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” We live by faith, not by sight. Reason tells us that when it comes to the forgiveness of sin, Baptism is just plain water – a mere symbol of a personal commitment to Jesus. God’s Word tells us that baptism is a grating into Christ death and resurrection (Romans 6) and the powerful gift of: “Washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) Reason says that no one on earth can forgive sins before God in heaven. God’s Word teaches us that Jesus has given His church the authority on earth to forgive sins (John 20:23). Jesus told his apostles: “He who listens to you listens to me.” (Luke 10:16) Reason tells us that the Lord’s Supper is mere bread and wine. God’s Word teaches us that the bread is a participation in the body of Christ, and the cup we drink is a participation in his holy blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. (1 Cor. 10:16) We live by faith, not by sight. Even when we can sense nothing in us but sin, misery, hurt, guilt, death, God declares something totally different! Jesus put all our grief, sorrow, guilt upon Himself on that cross. Our salvation and future is secure. Our salvation does not rest on our thoughts or emotions. Our salvation is absolutely certain. God has declared we are holy, perfect and righteousness because of Jesus work on our behalf. Who will make God a liar? Thank you Lord, my faith is founded on Jesus Christ, unmoved I stand upon Your Word. Believing – having a trust in you, is truly seeing! Give me confidence in your promises that my faith may withstand every test and every doubt. Bless all my brothers and sisters who are going through these uncertain times. Strength and increase their faith - knowing Your presence is Certain and Everlasting! AMEN. - Pastor Dave
April 16, 2020 -"He’s got this! He’s got you!"
The most frequently used words in John’s account of Easter morning is . . . “saw” or “looked” (John 20:1-20). Mary saw the stone rolled away. John looked into the tomb. Peter saw the strips lying there. Unlike our modern emphasis on feelings: Mary didn’t say, “I just felt God saying to me . . .” Peter didn’t express his emotions or feelings by saying: “I just believe that Jesus was reaching out to me.” No, these people gave their eyewitness accounts of the events they saw. This wasn’t another subjective story, this was objective – real – factual events. Which has become a part of World history!
I love that detail from the first Easter morning. Don’t you? In a world of varied beliefs and opinions, this is refreshing. This is concrete truth. This is rooted in real events that happened on earth. This is vital information, to say the least! Jesus really rose from the dead and He is literally alive right now! He is present for the real events that you will go through this week. The sleepless nights. The staff meetings. The visits to the ER. Everything bad this is going to happen this year! Christians never face anything alone, because the Gospels report the real event, which has altered every real event that followed – for them and us! Events going around us now and in the future may cause us to think and feel that God isn’t concerned. But the truthful statement, He has Risen, proclaims the joyful news HE DOES! Alleluia! Are you worried about an upcoming event in your life? The Easter event says: Don’t be. Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is alive, well, and with you always, working out everything for the good of his church. His followers. Just ask Mary, John, and Peter and the other 500 people he visited after his resurrection from the tomb! “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:3-6) Why did Jesus show himself to all these people after His death and resurrection? The same reason He shows up in our devotions and worship and in the sacraments. We need to be assured He is real – that His love and mercy is directed at us. Guess what? It is! What love. What Grace! What a Savior! Amen Love you all. Keep your Bibles open and continual prayer on your lips. He’s got this! He’s got you! Pastor Dave
April 7, 2020 - Keep Hydrated
The Christian life is one of devotion to God in good and bad times. We were created to personify a devotion to our Creator in the rhythm of stillness and movement, rest and labor. Perhaps it’s why we all want some lakeside property and we love our baptismal waters’ grace. Think of it, at each of our baptismal fonts, on that very day, water was carefully poured into that bowl, it lay still for a while and then combined with God’s word and our little noggin, that quiet still water turned into a moving – loving wave of the Holy Spirit and we were “united with Christ’s death and resurrection”! Yes we were! And we haven’t stopped talking about that splash of grace since!!! So totally refreshed – grafted into Christ - we move out in joy and confidence to labor in God’s spoiled – rotten and polluted harbors (ravages of sin). Here by no accident we are to labor as His servant – to tend and care for our neighbors body and soul as stewards of God’s gifts . God continues to provide for his world through many servants who are doing their best to care for lives on earth. We labor in our prayer for safe keeping of nurses, doctors and care providers right now! We bless the truck drivers who are supplying valuable commodities. We bless the grocery store workers! People are busy figuring out the next step. In the midst of daily updates, difficult news, and uncertainty about the future, our minds are also filled with anxiety. So busy with these thoughts, make sure that you stifle them often, so you can continue to receive from God. Baptismal waters was God’s beginning of our walk in faith and now we need His fuel to keep that God given grace alive! “Man does not live by bread alone but, by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father.” – Jesus. Living in isolation will not be enough to give us much needed rest—to keep us healthy, to take care of our minds, souls and bodies! We need to rest in the mountain with God in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving – often! This earthly garden is filled with thorns and thistles. We need to retreat to the mountain, so the anxieties of the moment will not rob us of our time with the Father. Retreat not to leave the world, but to be fed with the Word in order to participate in the world rightly. Crises always suck the life and joy out of people. The after math leaves us vulnerable to deep depression and losing the ability to play and rejoice in God’s gifts. In restless times, we need to reclaim the playground of God’s creation: play the guitar, learn the piano, invent a new board game with your family, do a pop taste testing with the kids. What does a Coke and a Pepsi mixed together taste like? We will need to make a victory garden, What’s that? Something 3 or 4 months from now that will display God was faithful in this pandemic and will always treat us better than we deserve! Create a piece of art using some things you usually throw away, catch up with friends on snap chat and texts. Drive by your neighbor’s house honking – when they look – display a card board sign with a wonderful message on it to cheer their hearts. Take a ton of time to pray - A real down on your knees one, with doors closed prayer for the church, the world, your neighbors, and vocally thanking God for His nearer than your skin presence and unending loving kindnesses!! Write a poem. Go for a nature walk, jog and take lots of pics and send them to people with a Bible verse. Exercise two times a day! (Lord knows I need to) Sing out loud – often - seriously make the dog howl with you, listen to an old favorite tune your grandparents loved and sing it! Write out your earliest memories of worship life and the first time God’s Word started to sink into your soul and share it with your children and grandchildren. Make a video of your family singing an Easter hymn and send to all your family and friends. Seriously. Really. Do it. Send it to me: email@example.com. I will be playing these back at the Easter Morning service which will be viewed for all the world to see! Or just tell make a video simply sharing what Easter is all about to you and your family! Share a Bible verse. Get creative and send it! Thanks! These are acts of defiant hope against all hope, acts of bold faith in the God of Jesus Christ, who’s got the whole wide world in his hands. Yes, You know He does! Always has, always will. From the very beginning to the very ending. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” ……. “I will be with you to the end of the ages.” - God Stay in the Word and watch how the Word stays in you. Love you!!! Stay hydrated in the knowledge of your eternal baptismal grace and hydrate others! Pastor Dave
April 4, 2020 - He Hasn't Left Us
“He went down with them and stood on a level place … and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.” (Lk. 6:17-19)
Have you ever noticed how important human touch can be? When we meet someone, stranger or friend, we grip each other’s hand; it establishes and keeps a bond of between us. Researches tell us that premature babies do much better when they are held and touched. Elderly residents of nursing homes seem to hunger for the touch of a human hand. It’s no surprise that the people in the text were trying to touch Jesus. It wasn’t enough for them to hear Jesus. They wanted to touch him. Oh how we ache for the day we can bear hug and embrace our families and friends again!!
I suppose there would not be enough room in the US BANK Stadium in downtown Minneapolis if Jesus appeared there and allowed “power to come from him” again. Can you imagine the traffic on 94, 694, 494, 35 highway 100? There would be millions of people streaming in – flying, carpooling from every Continent and every Country. Cars, buses and planes would be backed up all over the place. No one would care about social distancing then – not for one second. Who cares if you touched someone really sick, Jesus is here. So no worries and look at the smiles and hugs!!!!! It’s a New Day!
But He isn’t doing that in Minneapolis today. We are here, in quarantine. Many of us are still contending with sickness and other diseases before COVID-19 came on the scene. Some are struggling with loneliness and depression. Others do battle with alcohol and drugs. Others have been fighting MS, Dementia, Diabetes and fibromyalgia. Some are battling the devastating effects from an accident, a fire, from child abuse that happened years ago. Every one of us battles with temptations brought on by the devil, the world and our flesh every day. We could use some power and healing today. Big Time! It would be nice if we could reach out and touch Jesus, but we can’t. What’s the alternative? Are we left to muddle along as best we can? Do we simply read our devotions and do some praying, cover our heads and hope for the best?
Thank God that the same Jesus – Lord of all things on earth and in the highest heavens has tons of power, complete authority over nations and cells and galaxies and the best news….. He hasn’t left us! His power hasn’t diminished since this account was recorded by Luke. Our Lord Jesus who reached out to touch the sick and hurting in his day, still reaches to touch us. What?
Time and space are no barrier to him. (Read that again) In His Word and holy sacraments, he breaks through the barricade of history to touch us with his healing mercy, peace and love. Yes He does! He places His mighty Word within earshot and eyesight so that by the power of His Spirit we may hear and believe. He puts his very body and blood, under and in the bread and wine, right in our mouths as a pledge and promise of sins forgiven. In his Holy Word and sacraments, the King himself comes to meet with us – who are poor, weak, frightened and sinful and heals with the words of forgiveness. The thief experienced healing words of grace ad mercy: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And He did and so shall we.
We are forgiven of all sins and promised our bodies will be healed miraculously there and then in the resurrection of all flesh when He comes again. If that is not power and healing, nothing is. We are no different from the crowd gathered with Jesus that day. We come seeking healing, hope and strength from the Lord as well. Worn from struggle and fear, battered by sin and sorrow, we come with empty hands to receive his good gifts. Power comes from him to heal all people in the touch of His Holy Word and sacraments. Thanks be to God. It’s a New day. All is not lost. We have Christ and He has us. His grip does not slip. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28,29)
Love and hugs. Keep your Bibles open and your heart felt prayers directed to the Healer. Pastor Dave
April 1, 2020 - Is There Another Way?
Luther reminds us that life is heavy, sorrowful and confusing and yet that is why He has filled us with faith, so we trust in HIM alone, despite what we see and feel. Have a listen: “Mark this: whenever faith begins, temptations are soon to follow. The Holy Spirit does not leave you to rest in quietness, but soon throws you around into temptation, like Jesus was. Why?... In order that your faith may be confirmed – strengthened, for otherwise the devil would later blow you about like chaff in the wind. But if God comes and hangs a weight on us, making us weighty and heavy, burdened and stressed, then it is made known to the devil and all of mankind that the power of God is at work. Thus God manifests His glory and majesty in our weakness, therefore He casts us into the desert, that is as if we are deserted of all creatures and can see no help. We even think that God himself has utterly forsaken us. For He acts towards Christ, even so does He act towards us. Life does not run smoothly. Our heart must faint within us.” Ok Luther, we get it, God sends these hard times to strengthen us. But couldn’t he do it another way we ask? We plead!! And apparently God says: Nope! “The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom Shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1) Ha ha. The answer is: NO ONE. No virus. No person, not even death! Good Good Father, strengthen your lambs. We are afraid at times. Forgive us. Grow our confidence in You. For we know, You are strong and loving. Blessed be Your Name. AMEN. -Pastor Dave
March 31, 2020 - God Isn't Social Distancing
Thank God He is the only person that isn’t social distancing! “Never will I leave you, nor forsake you” He is doing just the opposite. “but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24) That brother to all of us is Jesus! This brother of ours refuses to follow man made laws and is walking around like He is boss! Cause He is. The boss/Lord of Love and healing! “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let th...em not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22) God’s practice of NOT social distancing is bringing life and health to our bodies and souls! Praise God for that! The Trinity is working at a fervent pitch. “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleeps.” (Psalm 121:4) The Friend of sinners is persistently reaching out to aching hearts, broken dreams, sick bodies. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:18,19) God is not distant. He hears all our prayers. “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:6,7) God is by the bed side through the doctor and the medical practitioners diagnosis and loving treatment. He closes the distance between heaven and earth by a personal visit directly to us at the office, in the car, in the living room through His spoken Word – the Bible. He is as close as the whispered prayer offered by the kind hearted nurse. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” (Romans 13:8) He is closer than our skin. He brings the joy in the laughter of children and FaceTime with family and friends. He keeps reaching out through all the channels of social media for which He so wisely designed them to connect us with Him. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.” (Col. 1:16) We are God’s treasures. His attention is laser focused on us! Our Good Shepherd promises to keep us connected to Himself and with the One True Christian Church (each other) through all eternity. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Phil. 3:20,21) So sorry – I don’t think you are going home to heaven any time soon. You got too much work to do at Grace Lutheran Church first - spreading God’s Love. Hee Hee. -Pastor Dave
March 27, 2020 - Martha, Martha
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41,42) I think Marth has gotten a bad reputation that she really doesn’t deserve. She wasn’t wrong in what she was doing. She just went at it with a very poor attitude. Jesus didn’t condemn Martha for her work. Instead, he gently restored her priorities. We need our share of Martha’s in the Church and in society, or no work would ever get done. We can’t always be reading the Bible; someone has to take out the trash, change the baby, make parts, protect the Country and deliver the packages. These works of love in daily life are part of our Christian vocation. The faithful Christian is an arm of God’s love as he or she serves others in faithfully doing the ordinary, routine things of daily life. Father, daughter, employer, employee, banker, lawyer, senator, dishwasher, custodian, painter, factory worker, truck driver – the vocation of every Christian is a holy calling. Yes, it is! The reason is simple. Within the responsibilities of daily work and daily life, you and I serve as instruments of God to do his work. We provide for the needs and wants of our neighbors in the name of Jesus Christ! So let’s set the record straight. It wasn’t Martha’s vocation that bothered Jesus, it was her attitude. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” We understand. We too get worried and upset about many things. Especially now, when it seems as if God’s loving hands are tied because his workers in so many different occupations have ceased or have least greatly reduced to “Essential”. Now we are tempted to focus on the topsy-turvy world and not on Christ. God and his power can easily be pushed aside as we focus (like Martha) on our efforts and abilities to solve this and do that and and and and. Listen carefully and you can hear Martha yell: “Get in the kitchen, fuss and pull your hair out like me and do something!!” Jesus condemns our worry. Only one thing is needed. That’s where Mary comes in. While all the bustle and craziness was going on all around her, Mary sat quietly at Jesus’ feet, listening to his Word. That was the one thing needed. It still is. But of course our sophisticated society has better things to do. Jesus still speaks and the tired and the broken-hearted listen. He has reconciled us to the Father and declared us holy. This really is not our home. Though there may be chaos all around us, there still is peace within. Peace established at the cross—sign, sealed and delivered in the blood of Christ and conveyed to us in His Word and Church by the gospel preached and the sacraments administered. In that peace, joy and strength we lay our burdens down to listen when Jesus speaks, then we serve all people in the joy and peace of Christ! Let’s see if I got this straight: Listen to Jesus first, watch worry dissipate and then serve in Christs’ name. It’s time to shut off the COVID-19 news for a while, read God’s Word and pray for God’s world. Lord help me daily to choose what is better, like Mary did, and watch everything else fall in place. Forgive me my worries. Heal your world. Help everyone to listen and know that YOUR Amazing grace, mercy and forever protecting arms - includes them! AMEN God’s grace and peace are yours in super abundance! Crack open God’s Book and then serve your neighbor! Really! Pastor Dave
March 24, 2020 - We Aren't Alone in the Wilderness
“Taking the five loafs and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people.” (Mt. 14:19) One simple verse. One simple story I’m sure you heard a thousand times. But wait! There’s more hidden. The crowd had gathered in the middle of the nowhere to listen to Jesus speak, it was getting on toward evening. It was time to break up and head home. The disciples informed Jesus of this-so that people could go into town and get something to eat. Surprisingly Jesus said: “They do no need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Mt. 14:16) You know what happened. That day Jesus used five loaves and two fish to feed a whole army of people. That’s just what happened. To a tee, long, long time ago. But it has a lot of meaning for today. Jesus still feeds his people when we are in a desert place -- look around, oh that’s right we don’t care to any more. We don’t like what we see or hear. I think that was true of them back then. They needed some – GOOD NEWS. Some hope, something to get their mind off of the suffering and junk of life in them and all around them. A solution – I say, is what drove them out of their homes in the first place- to follow every word and syllable of this man- Jesus. We know there is a time and place for being alone in the Christian life. In Fact, when you’re alone with God, it is good. Could this be what this virus is about? But when you’re alone with yourself, it’s not so good. And many of us know all about that too. We tend to wall ourselves and nurse hatred or just be selfish or we have allowed simply the BUSYNESS of life get out of control. I’ve seen so many lives busy and so full that there wasn’t one-minute left for God – and being alone without God is real dangerous solitude. Real sad loneliness. And anything without God in it – is not good. We need this reminder that Jesus Christ is still with His people to feed and nourish them with His Word and the Sacrament, just as surely as he fed the crowd in the wilderness and in countless homes and in the local synagogues. Yet so often we forget that. Sometimes we think that Jesus is sitting off somewhere on the rim of a distant galaxy. We think that he has left us alone to struggle with our fears and doubts. Then we become even more plagued by sin and temptations with nothing but our own courage and inner resources to carry us through. We try to be more godly people, and we fall flat, quickly. Like Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit writes in Romans 7, we find that the good we want to do, we don’t do, and we wind up doing the evil things we don’t want to do. Our inner resources are pretty flimsy when it comes to building a relationship with God. That’s why Jesus fed people then ….. and still does now – in these wilderness days! He feeds us with His Word. You might feel (the whole world might feel) like we’ve been deserted by God, but we’re not! The Savior still comes to feed us in these private – wilderness places just as He did long ago on that day in Galilee with a few loafs and fish. He doesn’t care that our lives are interrupted. What? He mourns with the sick and dying of course. But He is a God “who seeks and saves the lost” still. He has allowed a great interruption. He is all Powerful and all good at the same time. He just loves feeding people – all these years later without interruption - His meal. TRUTH. The truth! Truth that have been buried through the devil’s lies and the world’s influences and our own sinful desires. To the world of us sick – either inside or outside or both, imprisoned in the bondage of decay, sin, death, sorrow and sicknesses of a thousand kinds. God provides the supper – the meal – the real good food. Namely: Himself. Digesting His words of law and Gospel. What did the 5,000 plus people carry away? A full stomach but also a full joyful sprit of knowing: They were God’s forgiven and glory bound children! Free from death and damnable sins. They walked away after the meal and back to their homes and they slept well- knowing their future in, with and under Christ was eternally secure. They knew this man/God “would never leave then nor forsake them.” The same is true for us! Pull out a blanket in the desert - Sit down and believe it. Savor it. Let it linger in your heart for a while, like a great tasting fish sandwich. Come and be a child of hope and faith again. Come and believe He is with you in this strange wilderness and be satisfied, confident, delighted, prayerful, thankful! “At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Mt. 11: 25-30) Love you all. Savor Christs’ presence in this crazy wilderness. Keep your Bibles open and drink in Christ daily!!! Pastor Dave
March 21, 2020 - Memorial Stones
I’m a visual person, and I bet you are too. When I receive a gift or a thank you card from someone, I like to display it for a while where I can see it so that I think about that person. Our fridge at home is full of special magnets, and photos of dear friends and relatives. It reminds me I am loved and blest to call them family. After the entire Israelite nation had crossed over the miraculously dry Jordan riverbed, the Lord instructed Joshua to have the tribal elders carry out one stone for each of the 12 tribes and create a memorial on dry ground. “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off” (Joshua 4:6,7). What a stimulus for retelling that story over and over! No Israelite child should ever have been ignorant of the miracle river crossing. We have “memorial stones” in our church! I bet you have them in your home! I don’t mean literal river stones. I mean visual reminders of God’s great acts of salvation in our lives. You’ll find several crosses, of course; and other paintings throughout the fellowship hall and sanctuary celebrating and teaching God’s merciful acts. We are all working on another one together as you walk into the fellowship hall. People are bringing their creative plagues and the entire mosaic is becoming so beautiful. Keep them coming!!! Treasure the stores in the Bible. You and I have a lot of free time now quarantined at home, to read the Bible. Think of every page of God’s Word as a “memorial Stone” the Holy Spirit has laid down for us to remember the loving kindnesses of our God. Read a few of God’s miracles in the Bible this week and make your own “memorial stones”, out of paper-mache, play dough, wood, plastic, drawings, cardboard, a hand written note. Make a “Memorial stone” from the story of Elijah who prayed to God to stop the rain (it did for three years) and then later he asked God to bring the rain back and God did. Read how God feed Elijah food through ravens in 1 Kings 17. Make a “Memorial Stone” to remember what happened when Joshua prayed to God to make the sun stand still in the sky so he could defeat the nasty Amorite army. And God did. Read all about it in Joshua 10. Later when someone asks you what that object on your counter or table means. You can tell them the Bible story! WHY? So no Israelite child should ever forget or be ignorant of the miracles and blessings of God on behalf of His children. Do all things to God’s glory and with all your …. Art. (See what I did there? LOL) Love you all, Pastor Dave
March 19th, 2020
Hi Grace family - Thinking my next painting will be Jesus tears. We cry in grief over loss. We cry in anger over conflict. We cry in fear over tragedy. I was tearing up yesterday when my friend, our missionary Bob Lutz called me to say he may have the Coronavirus, though not officially confirmed yet (He should know tomorrow – yes, pray for him and Paula). We cry in loneliness, regret, sorrow over death. We can all relate to Psalm 6:7 “My eye wastes away because of grief.” Yet how often do we think of Jesus tears? Can you imagine His tears right now? As He sees his world fretting and anxious, losing their jobs, some their health and some going to their death over this virus?! Let alone His tears and heart ache over a world filled with sin and evil of a thousand kinds! It’s comforting to know Jesus cried too while He was on earth when he found out about the death of his dear friend Lazarus. I’m sure there were many other times He cried, which were not recorded in the Bible. If anyone is overwhelmed with grief this world is going through right now – totally overwhelmed – it is our God. Our dear Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit mourns with us! So what hope is there? Can’t He do something? Psalm 6:9 says: “The Lord has heard my plea; The LORD accepts my prayer”. Our weeping rises as prayer to our LORD, who listens and understands. More than that, He has done something about those tear-filled prayers. Jesus died as the tears of His loved ones fell near the cross he was dying on. And for the ones falling on desks, hospital rooms, funeral homes today because of this worlds sicknesses. Jesus rose from the grave three days later guaranteeing all sickness will come to an end someday! Can you imagine the tears of JOY that flowed that day – on the first Easter? Tears of Joy and peace are still flowing from the tear ducts of believers today! When Jesus comes back soon, He’ll rid the world of all the sorrow and grief, diseases and wars. Yes He will. And Jesus will – can you imagine this? “Will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (rev. 7:17) What a day that will be!!!
Lord Jesus, thank you for seeing every tear on a million faces right now and doing something about it. Thank you Lord for the sure and certain fact that You hear our prayers and will never leave us, never forsake us! Strengthen us and all Christians while we are away from each other and not being able to worship You together in Your Sanctuaries! But we can worship you at home. We can read our Bibles together as a family. And just as importantly, we can pray for others and take care of our neighbors in need. Thank you LORD you answer all our prayers! Heal our land Lord. Heal our hearts. AMEN
“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Bring the morning … soon LORD. Amen
Love you all. Pastor Dave ….. time to paint some Jesus tears on canvas….. to remind myself …… He’s got this… He’s got YOU!
March 17, 2020
Dear members of Grace Lutheran Church This week we have witnessed extraordinary events around the world since the spread of the coronavirus. Vice-President Mike Pence who is the head of the National Task Force in combating Covid-19 Virus; briefed Americans at 10:30 am this morning (March 17 Tuesday). He emphasized compliance with the CDC and many professionals in the Health Care industry to follow the 15 Day guidelines. (Issued yesterday 3-16-20) These are stringent guidelines. The cancellation of major sporting events, the closure of many schools, restaurants, fitness centers, and bars in the United States, even nationally all McDonalds are closed for inside dining - only drive thru service will be provided. This has millions of not only Americans, but the world over, wondering about the long-term impact of this disease. While this is an uncertain time, we are all relying on prayer and God’s grace to bring about calm and healing, physically and spiritually. The American National Task Force is urging social distancing Following these guidelines is for the future health of everyone. We are to treat ourselves as if we have the virus and not to socialize with others. This is about washing our hands often. Avoiding mass crowds and dining out. A strong emphasis to self-quarantine in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, urging gatherings to less than 10 people. This practice of social distancing has been working in China, with less outbreaks and deaths lowering considerably. This is a great time for the Christian Church to shine and reflect the peace and reassurance God’s presence and love. With that in mind Grace will continue to provide God’s Word to people through Grace Facebook and web site: gracebecker.org. and through printed materials in the form of Bible studies and devotions available at church. Pastor Johnson can be reached anytime by cell phone: 763-360-0464. His office hours at church: 8 AM - 2 PM every day. Reach out to him at any time. This is a great time for witnessing! We encourage you to share the news that our loving and all-powerful “GOD is our Mighty Fortress and strength in all troubles.” (Ps. 46) Here’s how you can stay connected to God’s Word: 1. Check out messages from our own LC-MS National office in St. Louis, MO. LC-MS.org 2. Check out latest messages from our own MN. North District office in Brainerd, MN. mnnlcms.org 3. Check out awesome devotions, Bible studies and sermons on the Lutheran Hour: lhm.org 4. Worship service on Wednesday’s are cancelled. Go to Grace Lutheran Facebook or Gracebecker.org and find the service at the 7pm regular worship time. 5. Lenten meals are canceled. 6. Worship services for the next two weeks are canceled (Mar. 22, and 29) Go to Grace Lutheran Facebook or gracebecker.org to find the Worship service at the 9:AM regular worship time. 7. Holy Week services on April 9 and 10 are still scheduled. Stay posted 8. Easter Worship Service on April 12 is still scheduled. Stay posted. 9. Pastor Johnson has prepared several Devotions on various topics in hard copy (paper) and can be found in the fellowship hall by the Sanctuary doors. You will also find “The Lutheran Witness magazine and Portals of Prayer devotion booklets. 10. Wednesday morning Bible study at 9 AM remain open. (Usually under 10 people) 11. Women’s Bible Study and Men’s remain open. When these groups exceed 10 we will separate them into different parts of the building. 12. Many, if not all, senior living places including Shepherd of Grace is on lockdown. But that doesn’t stop us from phone calling, E-mailing, Facebook messaging and checking on an elderly neighbor or friend to be sure they have what they need and pray that our seniors, along with all of us, get through this healthy and quickly. 13. Please stay in prayer for our church and the World. Pray for wisdom in the medical field to find a vaccine. Prayers for those who have lost loved ones. Pray of peace and health for those with the disease. Prayer for those economically affected, losing their jobs and businesses. Pray God’s Holy Spirit uses use this time to turn people’s heart back toward home - to God where true health and healing has always flowed. 14. Send your regular offerings to Grace Lutheran Church PO BOX 252 or drop off at Church office. ON THE POSITIVE SIDE Grace Lutheran has two Baptisms scheduled. We have had wonderful youth led skits on Wednesday Lenten services. Faithful Sunday School teachers and kids showing up. Attendances and offerings are up. We have a 20 plus new members being welcomed into our Church membership.. Christ like joy in the air even in a World crisis!
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”(PS. 46) God’s Peace is yours now and forever! Pastor Dave