God is in Control

Faith is meant to be centered in our Lord God and in Him alone. We live in a world that loves to focus on “unplanned” or “unwanted” pregnancies, often using each as if they are the same and have the same meaning. As we enter this season, let us remember that our salvation is centered in an “unplanned” pregnancy. By no means was the announcement to Mary by the Angel Gabriel of her pregnancy and that she, though a virgin, had the Son of God in her womb planned and, one could argue, necessarily wanted, but she received it with grace and faithfulness as we find within Scripture,

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38, ESV

These words are simple, but show a sense of humility and faithfulness. Now, of course, when I address this here, I am speaking to those who are followers of Christ and trust that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (I do question, however, how one could call themselves a Christian and not believe the Bible and pick and choose). Now I do know that this comment may cause some controversy for some readers, but I will move on from here. At the time of Mary, the a virgin being pregnant would be seen as it would today, not possible and a story that would not be believed. For her it could have affected her betrothal and her life could’ve been put at great risk. Some may argue that there would be no way out, but if one were to do a simple search on a search engine you will find countless texts on Greek and Roman views on abortion and you can find the many tinctures that they would use that would be the equivalent of a chemical abortion we would find today. The ending of pregnancy is nothing new, as the Preacher says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV) Sin is sin and it, unfortunately, requires little imagination. So, we can still appreciate Mary caught in a situation where her faith would have found “getting rid of the child” as anathema while still being aware that it could mean risking of her own standing and possibly life.

Now, I know I write this just before Christ the King Sunday and we will then be entering into Advent and one may ask, “Why?” We live in a troubling time as we look and see a reality that we may have a President and a Vice President that have publicly taken the most pro-Abortion stance of any predecessor, which is troubling. This is not meant to be a political statement and my prayer is that the rhetoric that has been put out there was more appeasement than praxis. My prayer is that the protection of innocent life is something that isn’t minimized or the voices are not silenced. I trust in God’s control and power, however, and do believe that regardless of the leadership of the day, our moral calling is to speak out and teach our faith families the importance of protecting life. As followers of Christ, we are called to be faithful and pray for our leaders while maintaining our views and stances that are central to the faith. We feed the hungry because that is what we do and who we are. We visit the sick, fatherless, imprisoned, and hospitalized because that is what we do and who we are. We proclaim the Gospel and the hope that is within us because that is what we do and who we are. Our mission does not change. Fundamental change does not happen through governmental mandate, but through faith families standing firm in the biblical Christian faith raising up disciples and teaching what we have been taught.

What this election has taught me, maybe more than others, is that it is my responsibility as well as those whom God has placed under my charge to be more vigilant in the proclamation of the Word and doing the good Work that God has called us to do. It is what has become a hot button word that sometimes does not have a great depth of meaning, Discipleship. Sitting at the feet of Jesus and seeking to do what we are called to do and be and focusing on raising up disciples to lead and evoke positive change for Christ in the world. We have some many issues that are systemic because sometimes we focused more on teaching societal ideals that may not have been entirely inline with God’s Word.

Life is a central ideal of God, particularly the preservation of life – namely the life of the eternal kind. When put in the context of eternal life we can see the differentiation of it as one could easily argue throughout the historical books of the Old Testament we find a lot of lives being taken by people of God and some at the command of God. I have actually had people tell me how evil that was and there is an atheist group that regularly protests the Ark Encounter in Kentucky because of how God wiped out life on earth sparing the few on the Ark. It is interesting to me how those that deny the existence of God or the reality that the main moral tenets that we find within the Western world are centered in the Word of God that they impugn the morality of God and the faith that we who believe in Him espouse with such arguments. Morality, without a foundation, is subjective otherwise. Why not do what you want to do? As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone that does not deserve it, right? We fail to see that there are those who struggle with the reality of what it is that God is doing, both Christian and non-Christian alike. God, being sovereign and all knowing, has a reason and an understanding beyond our own when it comes to the issues we find within the Old Testament, particularly in Joshua. God was seeking to preserve a select group people to be set apart from all other, but that would require that they not be influenced by other cultures that worshiped idols. God had seen what had occurred in Egypt and how His people had not been worshiping Him as He desired, yet they were oppressed. For a long time the people of Israel had become comfortable and complacent since, because of Joseph, they had lived a favored life for a time. In that time did they turn to God? We don’t know truly, but for a long period of time they lived in Egypt even after the death of Joseph and then we hear of their suffering at the hands of the Egyptians who had begun to see them as a threat. We have the story of how God provided protection for Moses who would become the one who God chose to lead His people back to the Promised Land. It is amazing how quickly God’s providence is forgotten and taken for granted.

How often do we talk the lives we are given for granted? The sad reality is that we don’t know what potential has been lost in our world because of the loss of life. God knows and God even knew the prospect that the lives would be lost. Each person who elected to abort did have a choice – turn to God who will show a path or turn to the World who will take care of the “problem.” For those who chose to take care of the “problem,” God is still there to heal them but, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, they often feel the overwhelming impact of what they have done they flee from God or those who carry His Word because of fear of being seen naked/exposed. As the Church, followers of Christ are meant to be a source of comfort to those who feel exposed. Unlike Ham, who went and told his brothers about their father, Noah, and the shameful act he had committed to become drunk and lie naked/exposed, Shem and Japheth cover up their father’s nakedness and do not look upon him and we are to do the same for those who feel the overwhelming sense of shame for what they have done. “Peace to you” means exactly that do not be troubled or feel like you are exposed but let us cover you in Christ’s love and let you know the door which leads to eternal life.

I write these words as I reflect and celebrate the many victories for life that have been won over the past four years as funding for abortions have been reduced as well as the number of abortions being performed annually. We still have the battle to be fought against the abortion pill and other abortifacients that are in our world, but ultimately those battles are not won in the courtroom but in the hearts and minds of people. The greatest tool we have for transformation is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is as the writer in Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV) That is why many do not like to be in the Word of God or do all they can to discredit it because when we submit ourselves to the Word, it kills us. How so? It kills that old sinful self, i.e. the old Adam, then Christ can raise us up, i.e. the new Adam. That is its purpose and power. In it we find our hope and in it we bring salvation to a fallen world.

We, as people of faith, are reminded that Christ is King and we are His people. Let us stand up in our faith and pray that our leaders will know Him and follow Him. This is something that we, as a Nation, should have been doing all along.

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A New Home

Preparing for the Future

Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

1 Corinthians 9:10–11, ESV

In every place that I have been blessed to serve as a pastor, I am aware that there have been those ahead that have sown seeds that I will have a great harvest. Sometimes, those seeds were less fruitful and other times there were some great things laid out. I have also seen the Sower of Weeds’ work that has stunted the good seed that had been put out. The great thing that I have learned is that not all that is good or that is bad that may come from the people of each congregation can be directly related to the prior pastor. The spiritual growth of any people is reliant upon the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, it is my calling to be faithful in the work to which God has called me to do.

Each call that I have received has been different with different blessings and different challenges. I have always made some great relationships and have been sad to leave parishioners behind. At times I can reflect to some extent and understand more fully the words of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem as a hen gathering her chicks (Matthew 23:37) because my heart aches for their smiles and their presence. That is the heart of ministry, I believe. I also love the excitement of a new Call and the hope of “what is in store.” As I begin at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Gillett, WI, there is a lot of joy in my spirit. Now it didn’t begin the way I had hoped, catching Covid-19 was certainly not in the plan, but the love that has been poured out by many from the congregation after hearing the news and then throughout has been wonderful.

Officially, I am out of quarantine but most of my family will remain in quarantine until the first week of November and I am thankful that those of us who tested positive in the the household have only suffered what would be considered minor symptoms (though some of those symptoms are not pleasant and others, like the loss of taste and smell, are odd and a little annoying). This is the season we find ourselves in today and will be a defining and redefining of how we will do things from now on. The great blessings that I have received in this has forced me to recognize my own limitations and some of my shortcomings, i.e. I don’t often like to sit and wait but like to get things going. I have been blessed to see what God has been doing in this congregation and the wonderful foundation I am being given an opportunity to build upon. Developing a group of loving and faithful people to better understand and further live out their callings that God has placed on them. Some are at points of life that are transition points which can also be a difficult thing to navigate as, in life, we are called away from one calling into another. This I understand, as it is difficult to leave behind something that you “know” into an unknown full of pitfalls and uncertainty. It is the finding of a new home and new surroundings in a sense. Like my family and I moving into a new Call with a new home and community, if we constantly were to look back we may miss out on what God has in store for us and ahead of us in our lives.

As I reflect and look ahead, I can look back and see how God has continually provided for my family and for me and be thankful for where He has placed me. I can see the great work that He has been doing and humbly pray for His guidance to proclaim His glory in order to be a blessing for this congregation and this community. I see the seeds that have been planted that are bearing good fruit and am preparing to plant new seeds that will continue the good work with His people. We are all in His hands, let that give us peace.

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Message Minute – July 28, 2020

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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Message Minute – July 27, 2020

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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As Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17 is one of my favorite verses to think about growth in faith. I am sure that is true for many of us, especially guys. It is a good word of how we lift each other up in the faith. Most modern translations write it this way,

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17, ESV

I decided to study this verse a little more and found that the KJV places the word “countenance” in the verse as does the MEV which is the Modern English Version of the King James which says this,

Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17, MEV

Looking at the Hebrew, the change from the countenance or face of a friend would be more true to the text, so why does the ESV and NASB change it? The reasoning could be for ease of understanding, but I think that something was lost. The other may be understand as “friend” in the word “another,” but it does not highlight the need of a friend to someone that seeks to better their friend as well as to see a friend as one that not only speaks the positive words to you, but also the difficult words that may not be easy to say but necessary for positive correction.

As followers of Christ we are called to lift each other to live our lives in a way that glorifies the God to whom we belong. This means not only supporting us with positive words of encouragement, but healthy encouragement. I know what it is like to have people say negative things about me behind my back, as I am sure that many of us are. I am also have enjoyed the positive things spoken to me. A friend, however, will say the negative in private in a way that is not meant to discourage and tear down, but to lift up. A friend will speak the difficult words that are meant to enable us to be better.

I love to reflect on things, not that I love to hear negative, but I do like feedback. I have been open to this for most of my life because of the many Counselors that I have seen in my life. As a child, my mother placed me in counseling to help me with anger that I had to work through because of my parents divorce and things that I had to process because of some of the things that I had witnessed. In the beginning, this taught me a lesson on how to be open about my feelings and express things, unfortunately, I had to learn another painful lesson in learning to be careful about with whom I shared. This is the reality of this verse.

As followers of Christ, it is vital for our faith walk to find brothers or sisters, I would recommend that the greatest confidants aside from that of a spouse should be of the same gender to prevent any inappropriate affections to develop, with whom you can walk and talk about issues of faith. Develop that relationship with clear boundaries and understanding with hopes that as time progresses that they will be respected. It is a difficult journey, but one that is important because the faith we walk within is not an easy faith but needs to be supported. As we build up and sharpen to faith of our friends, we are to build them up to put you in front of them at all times. That they may be built up to reflect more of you in every aspect of their lives and the friends that sharpen us are to build Christ up more and more in our reflection too. With that the Church is lifted up and more and more will see the face of Christ.

The Benediction that I give after every service is one that another pastor shared when I was preparing to enter my first call and it is this,

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet, walk with you to the end of your road.

May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, teach you to serve one another.

May the Christ who loves with a broken heart, be your love forever.

May you find the face of Christ in every one you meet and may everyone you meet find the face of Christ in you.

Amen.

These words have resonated with me since the first time I heard them and my hope is that they resonate with all who hear me speak them and all who read them on this Blog. As we are sharpened in the faith by our close friends of the faith, we are being sharpened for a purpose, to glorify God. That is the greatest gift and opportunity that we are given as followers of Christ. We should not desire that people see us first, but that they see in our lives and actions the One who we worship. He is the hope for our daily living and the salvation we should strive for within our lives. My prayer is that each Christian seek out that friend, if they don’t already have one, and that the work of the faith be worked out together. In our world today we have too much division, let us be united in the One who will always be faithful!

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July 10, 2020 Message Minute

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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July 9, 2020 Message Minute

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 Washington, IN
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July 8, 2020 Message Minute

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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July 7, 2020 Message Minute

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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July 6, 2020 Message Minute

Originally aired on WAMW Memories 107.9 FM Washington, IN
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