Friday, November 20, 2009

Good Words to Remember Each Day

From God's Word, the Bible:
The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)
These are the words on which today's installment of Our Daily Bread is built.


Here. I wonder if LutheranCORE will make some effort to mesh with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), formed about nine years ago by congregations concerned about what they saw as the dilution of the authority of Scripture following the passage, ten years ago, of Called to Common Mission in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)?

See here.

[UPDATE: Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA has issued a video statement on the state of the ELCA here.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


in the world, in America, and in Ohio.

At Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, on Sunday, November 29, worshipers at the 10:15 service are encouraged to bring their offerings of nonperishable food items. They will be taken to the CHAP emergency food bank, providing food relief for area households.

This is a tremendous--and extremely important--way for us to share the love of Jesus Christ with our neighbors!

In 2009, in addition to our support for CHAP, Saint Matthew has had several new initiatives on behalf of our neighbors in need. There was our PSST food drive in which we left bags on the front porches of our neighbors, then picked them up, and gave the collected items to the county Job and Family Services agency. Later, we worked with the local Developmental Disabilities agency and County health department with our drive-through baby shower, collecting diapers and infant formula.

In 2010, we hope to serve our neighbors in need in more ways. May God bless us with active imaginations and deep commitment to Jesus as we find new ways to love others!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Invitation to a Meaningful Advent

[Below is my pastoral article for the December, 2009, newsletter of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, where I serve as pastor. The building of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church is located at 258 East Hunter Street in Logan, Ohio. If you find yourself in Ohio's Hocking Hills this Advent season, feel free to join us for Sunday worship or for the Advent midweek services mentioned here.]

The Advent Season, that four-week period before Christmas, begins this year on November 29.

The word, advent, literally means coming. You hear or read it used in phrases like, “With the advent of the Internet…," meaning, “With the coming of the Internet…”

Advent is also related to the word adventure. An adventure, whether in everyday life or in books, movies, TV shows, or video games, is a tale full of surprises, of events that we couldn’t have anticipated. Heroes in several of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia novels—fantasy adventures filled with allusions to the Christian life—will buck one another up by saying, “Let us take the adventure that is given to us.”

The Advent Season incorporates both of these meanings of advent, coming and adventure.

We remember the centuries when the world awaited the coming of its Savior.

We remind ourselves to live in faithful anticipation of when that Savior, Jesus, now risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, will come again to this earth to establish the kingdom of God for all eternity.

We commit ourselves to following Jesus through whatever comes to us—joys, sorrows, life, death—knowing that Jesus promises, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13).

This Advent, I invite you to take the adventure of this season. Fortify your faith with the incredible truth that God has come to be one of us on this earth, that this same God is returning one day, and that, through Jesus Christ, you and I have God with us always, come what may.

Make prayer a central part of what you do each day this Advent. Ask God to strengthen your own faith, to renew your commitment to loving and serving others in Jesus’ Name, and to help you share your faith with those without faith connections to Jesus and His family, the Church. I invite you to use the Our Daily Bread devotionals to help you in your daily prayers.

I pray that you will also get involved in Sunday School. We meet every morning at 9:15 and we have classes for every age. Soon, our adult Sunday School will be tackling new topics bound to expand and strengthen your faith, fortifying you for life and empowering you to love God and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Finally, I hope that you’ll come to our midweek Advent gatherings. This year they happen on three succeeding Wednesday nights: December 2, 9, and 16. We’ll enjoy potluck dinners. (More specifics on that elsewhere in the newsletter.) After the dinners, we’ll enjoy a brief devotional time in the chapel. We’ll engage in Evening Prayer, sing an Advent hymn, and hear an Advent devotional reading. For those who are interested, the chapel will be open for about an hour after that for silent prayer for our congregation, community, and world.

God has great plans for Saint Matthew, for you and your family, and for our community. In the Advent Season, let’s commit ourselves to taking the adventure that God lays before us in the certainty that the Lord Who came to us on the first Christmas will always be with those who trust in Him.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Mark

[This is a picture of the stained glass window on the south end of the Saint Matthew Lutheran Church sanctuary. Click on the image to enlarge.]

More About the Widow

Here. She made her most recent appearance on this blog here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Give Thanks Always!

[This is today's daily emailed inspiration from my coleague, Pastor Glen VanderKloot.]

OnLine with Faith

November 16, 2009 Issue 526a
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

WELCOME to the daily issue of ONLINE WITH FAITH.
ONLINE WITH FAITH is a ministry of Faith Lutheran Church,
2313 Whittier Avenue, Springfield, IL, 62704, Glen VanderKloot, Pastor.

We encourage you to worship and be involved in a local congregation

If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests
please be in touch with us at

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Thought for the Day

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.
No Americans have been more impoverished than these who,
nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.

H.U. Westermayer

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 NIV

Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.


Lord, help me to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances.


What We Need

"Self-sufficiency distracts us from pursuing the things we really need...If you’d rather have cash than character, if your credit cards are maximized and your righteousness is minimized, if you’ve become smart but aren’t wise, then you’ve been shopping in all the wrong places." That's Joe Stowell. Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All That Matters

[This was shared during worship with the people of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, this morning.]

Mark 13:1-13
A few years ago, I heard a couple tell about a party they had for three other couples at their house. All eight of these people were committed Christians who were also highly successful. Much of their conversation revolved around the latest job offers, the houses they were building, the new cars they'd just bought, and the latest gizmos and gadgets they'd acquired. Their conversation took a more serious turn though, when one of the men reminded them all about the fate awaiting this earth according to the Bible. "One day," he said, "this will all burn."

Let's pray.

God: Remind us this morning of what is truly important. In Jesus' Name. Amen

In last week’s Gospel lesson from Mark, you’ll remember, Jesus contrasted the large offerings to the temple made by powerful religious/political elites (what one of the kids during last week's Children's Sermon called bishodents, mixtures of bishops and preidents) to the paltry offering made by a poor widow. Jesus said that because the widow gave all she had to live on, while the bishodents put in their leftovers, the widow's offering was worth infinitely more than theirs.

That should have been a warning sign to the disciples (and to us). God doesn’t value the things that we often value.

Bigger isn't necessarily better.

Influence doesn't mean moral rightness.

A seminary diploma doesn't indicate deeper faithfulness.

God doesn't always look at things the same way that the world does.

This is the same principle that God revealed to the ancient judge Samuel hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus.

Samuel had gone to Bethlehem in order to anoint a son of a man named Jesse as the new king of Israel. Samuel was about to give the honor to the handsome Eliab. Eliab evidently looked like a king. But God said, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature...for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart..."--that is, on the faith and the motivations a faith relationship with God creates in people.

Even if the disciples didn’t remember an incident which, even for them, would have been part of their ancient religious history, they might have understood that big isn’t always better or that outwardly religious or successful doesn’t necessarily mean closeness to God, from Jesus' encounter with the rich man.

There, you’ll remember, Jesus told an evidently religious wealthy man that his riches were getting in the way of his eternity with God. But apparently, the first disciples were as thick-headed, slow-hearted, and faithless as I am much of the time!

In any case, our Gospel lesson for today finds a disciple, Jesus' words extolling the faithfulness of the poor widow still ringing in his ears, commenting on the beauty of the large stones and large buildings of the temple. (Maybe he was trying to change the subject.) “Look, Teacher," he says, "what large stones and what large buildings!”

The temple complex in first century Judea was enormous. It was also visually stunning. Many world travelers of the day saw it and declared it to be the most beautiful building they’d ever seen.

Setting at the top of Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the one-time site of a threshing floor purchased by King David one-thousand years before, this particular temple had been built more recently by King Herod as a symbol of his dubious claim to the throne of David.

The temple was the center of Jewish worship, the place where the dispersed Jewish population from throughout the Mediterranean basin came for festivals like the Passover.

For first-century Judeans like Jesus’ first followers, the temple was not just the place where they believed the presence of God lived in the holy of holies. It was also a focal point of national pride. The Romans may have conquered them, they felt, but in the cavernous temple, the God of all creation met them.

“Just look at this place,” the disciple tells Jesus. Jesus doesn't miss a beat. He asks all of the disciples to do some looking themselves.

“Do you see all these great buildings?” Jesus asks. “Some day, they will all be thrown down. Not one stone will be left.”

Jesus is right, of course. In 70AD, thirty plus years after His death and resurrection, the Romans would destroy the temple. Today, it’s the site of the third holiest mosque of Islam. All that’s left of the temple is the Western Wall, which you see pictured in books and movies, a place where pious Jews and others pray and also leave written prayer requests in the crevices between the ancient stones.

Bigger isn’t better.

What we think to be holy and inviolable may not be what it seems.

By the time Jesus was born and conducting His ministry in Judea, God’s people had walked far from God. So far from God, in fact, that when the real presence of God Himself showed up on the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, they joined with the rest of the world in a conspiracy to kill Him on a cross.

In His flesh, Jesus was the real holy of holies and Jews and Gentiles saw in Him the chance to get rid of God and to be their own bosses. They put more stock in the things of this world that can be seen—buildings, mortar, personal strength, power, money, military might—than they did in God, Who when they finally caught a glimpse of Him—was a carpenter from Nazareth they thought they could easily kill off.

But as Jesus speaks with the disciples in today’s lesson, all of that lay a few days ahead. Right now, they’re frightened by His words. They want Jesus to tell them more about the future. “When will the temple be destroyed?” they wonder. “What signs will point out that it’s about to happen?” For them, these questions were more than queries about the future of a building. For them, the end of the temple was tantamount to the end of the world.

People have always wanted to get special insight into the future. There's a whole cottage industry built around people's interest in knowing when the world will end and how it will come about. The Left Behind books are in that category. So is the new film evidently based on ancient Mayan mythology, 2012.

But whenever Jesus was asked for insights into cataclysmic events like the destruction of the ancient temple or the end of the world, He gave no inside information. He didn’t tell us to hide in caves, commandeer a nuclear weapon, or drink a steady diet of spring water and Tofu.

And in today’s lesson, in talking about the signs associated with the demise of the temple, Jesus simply gives a series of signs that had already happened repeatedly in history before He speaks and which have happened repeatedly since. He says that counterfeit preachers will come along claiming to speak for Him even though their words have nothing to do with God’s revealed Word in the Bible. He says that there will be wars and rumors of wars, enmity among nations, earthquakes, and famines. Those things were prevalent then; they’re prevalent today.

So, what is Jesus telling us? Just this, I think: We live in an imperfect world; but don’t let it take you in.

Your faith cannot be built on the fleeting things of this world, even those made of granite, stone, or marble.

We need to build on the God Who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

True story of two young preachers, friends, each regarded as among the best at their trade: They specialized in reaching out to young people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. They spoke to teenagers and university students across the country. Thousands came to faith or experienced a deepened faith through their preaching.

Each though, early in their careers, went through crises in their faith. They each began to question the authority of Scripture, dogged by things they couldn’t fully understand or explain in the Bible. One renounced his faith, becoming an atheist.

The other, in California, where he was on a preaching and missionary tour, took a walk through a field. He agonized in prayer over his doubts. He came to a large rock. He set his Bible on the rock and kneeled in submission to God. Pointing to his Bible, Billy Graham told God, “I don’t understand everything in this book. But I intend to trust in You and in this book.” Through the access he gave to God, God built up Billy Graham’s faith. And through his ministry, millions of people have come to faith in Jesus or had their faith in Jesus strengthened.

Every day, you and I confront the same issues that confronted Billy Graham as he took that walk some sixty years ago and that confronted the disciples as they walked through the imposing temple grounds in Jerusalem.

Who and what will you trust?

Who or what will you live for?

No matter when cataclysm or the end of this world may come, we each need to know how we’re going to live. What will be most important to us?

What will be our highest priority? Will it be the paychecks, the safe life, the best house, the nicest car, the greatest applause, the most power?

These things fade, die, crumble, or pass away as surely as the temple in Jerusalem did.

In Mark 13:13, after telling His followers all that they were likely to endure just for being His followers—persecution, trial, betrayal, death—the very things He would endure just a few days after He speaks these words--Jesus says this, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

The one whose heart is fixed on Christ rather than on the rewards of this dying world, will live with God forever.

As a younger man, I had absolutely outsized ambitions. I wanted to be a best-selling author. I wanted to be President. I wanted to be a big shot.

But I can honestly say today that when I see the love and grace of God given to me in Christ despite my sinfulness and when I see that God has, thankfully, never given me the punishment I deserve, I have finally arrived at only one ambition in life.

All I want is to endure in faithfulness.

I just want to live each day to the glory of God, no matter what God asks me to do.*

I’m comforted by the fact that, even though I fail and sin each day, those who turn to God in repentance and make faithfulness to Christ their aim--those who endure, will be saved from sin and death and hopelessness by the God Who went to a cross for all who trust in Jesus.

Endure in trusting in Jesus.

Build your life on Him.

That’s the way of salvation.

As we prepare for Consecration Sunday next week, don’t worry about the future. Make following Christ today—each day, one day at a time--your one and only aim in life.

That’s all that matters.


*I should say that most of the time this is what I want. Or better yet, it's what I want to want. But I am a selfish sinner and there are times when I want to glorify myself--or at least be comfortable--more than I want to glorify Christ.