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CAN WE PLEASE GET OUR HOLIDAYS IN ORDER?

There is always a big ongoing argument in our house this time of year and it is about Christmas music.  My family accuses me of hating Christmas music.  I don't hate Christmas music, I just don't like it before Thanksgiving.  I like things in chronological order, do one thing before you do another.  My daughter walked out of her room today, October 31st, wearing all red.  She looked at me and then went on to explain that is was Reformation Day and her Lutheran school was requesting everyone wear red today in memory of it.  I was fine with that, but told her not to get any ideas about that red Christmas stuff everyone seems to like to wear around my house this time of year.  So yes you could say that I am a little "bah humbug" about Christmas in October or November.

I mean, why run so fast past Thanksgiving?  What about pumpkin pie and turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie?  Did I say pumpkin pie twice?  Yes, I will take two pieces thank you, and don't skimp on the whipped cream.  My point is that we need to stop and celebrate Thanksgiving as its own holiday and not just throw it in with Christmas and even New Years.  So why do I like Thanksgiving so much, besides the food?  I like it simply because it reminds us to be thankful, and being thankful is important.  When we are thankful we see things in a completely different light.

So what do you have to be thankful for?  Take a moment and think about that.  We all have much to be thankful for.  We can list things like our family, our friends, our health, our house, etc.  The most important thing that we have to be thankful for is our Savior Jesus Christ, because through him we have forgiveness and eternal life.  That is even better than pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  The thankfulness we have in Christ even ties us in with Christmas, but one celebration at a time.

As you get ready for Thanksgiving, be thankful for everything.  Rejoice in Christ Jesus and remember your salvation.

September Message - SET

SET

There is that moment in track right before the race where it is eerily quiet.  If you have ever been at a track meet when they have run a 100 or 200 meter final or watched one closely on TV you have experienced this.  The runners have been milling about and finally they are called to the line.  For the younger kids they get in their stances, for the older ones they get in their blocks.  At this point things tend to quiet down and everyone waits.  There is usually some guy at the end of the track with a white flag.  When he raises it that indicates that the track is clear, the computer timer is set.  At that point the guy at the starting line yells out, “Set!”  This signals the runners to get ready.  At most tracks this is also a time of complete quiet and anticipation.  It is all about to go down.  What is going to happen is going to be fast and furious.  If it is a 200 it will all be over in 24 to 27 seconds.  If it is a 100 it will be over in about 13 seconds or less. If you have someone in the race the hair on your head is standing on end. Finally the guy at the starting line raises the gun in the air and he fires.  There is a crack and a puff of white smoke and an eruption of raw speed and power, and the crowd begins to scream.  A few seconds later it is all over. There are winners and there are losers and there is no arguing about it because the computer with its camera reveals all.

 As we enter September we are in the blocks, the white flag has been lifted and the starter has yell out, “Set!”  The question is, are you ready?  The starting gun is about fire and the church calendar is full of activity.  We have a lot of stuff planned in the coming months.  These are not just things to fill time or space but programs and activities that we pray will bring the law and the gospel to people’s lives.  It is why we exist as a church.  We need to bring the law to our world, so that they can see the sin that exists in their lives and their need for a Savior.  We need to bring the gospel to people who have been convicted of that law to show them the Savior in Jesus Christ.  We are praying that what we have planned will do those things.  Some of the things we are doing are ongoing programs that we have done for years, others are new ideas that we want to try out.  I hope that you will take some of these into consideration as your plan your September and the months ahead.

May Message - School is out! Or is it?

I love May.  It takes me back to all those years of school when May meant the end of school was near.  The darkness of winter was over and final papers were being turned in, final tests were being taken.  In grade school, May meant more time outside, school movies and games as it seemed the teachers ran out of things to teach.  I imagine they were looking forward to June as much as we were.  In college it meant final tests and by the middle of the month you were moving out of your dorm or apartment.  Eventually it meant you graduated.  I remember the May I graduated from college.  Two weeks before it happened I realized I didn’t want to graduate.  I loved college, I wanted to keep going, but I had too many credits and they said no you are out of here.  I suddenly realized how good I had it; graduation meant I had to get a real job!  I didn’t though, I went to Seminary instead.  

School does have to end, real jobs have to be taken and worked.  Learning, on the other hand, never stops. That certainly applies to our spiritual life.  We need to always be learning.  May does not have to signal the end of our education.  This summer will have many educational opportunities.  Ted Ware will be teaching a Sunday Bible class that I encourage you to take part in.  Vacation Bible School is also coming up in July.  Maybe you are too old to be a student but you are not too old to teach or to help.  The summer is also a good time to continue to read your Bible and do your devotions.  In fact, summer is a good time to get a book from Concordia Publishing House to read.  Just go to www.cph.org.  It is the 500th year of the Reformation so there are many books concerning that topic.  If it you read it in the summer you will be prepared for the 500th on October 31st.  So don’t stop learning this summer, just learn something different.

Pastor Fred

April Message - Bad Memory Day

As you read this, March Madness is about over.  For those of you who are not into sports, that is a reference to NCAA basketball.  The middle of March starts with 68 teams for the men’s tournament and 64 for the women’s.  At the end of the month there are only 4 teams left and we head for the championship round.  The championship game for the women is traditionally the first Sunday in April and for the men the first Monday in April.  I love sports, if you haven’t figured that out yet.  I believe it is full of life lessons and even theological lessons.  One of the most important life lessons or theological lessons I ever saw taught happened during the 1997-98 college football season.  Darla and I were newly married and living in Idaho.  Darla was working at the time in Pullman, Washington where Washington State University is located.  Ryan Leaf was a senior that year at WSU and was in the running for the Heisman trophy.  Most people remember Leaf as the washed out QB from the San Diego Chargers.  Admittedly he had a short and horrible pro career.  He was a very good college QB though and WSU had an amazing year.  WSU is a Pac-10 school but they are always at the bottom of the league compared to the University of Washington at the other end of the state.  WSU usually had one losing season after another.  This year was different though; they were beating everybody, Stanford, California, USC and Leaf was breaking one record after another. They would end up going to the Rose Bowl and losing to Michigan in a tight contest.  Darla and I went to many of those amazing games.  They were usually exciting and many times WSU made a comeback at the end to win. 

After one close win, a reporter asked Leaf, “How do you guys keep coming back all the time?  You know previous WSU teams have always folded when they got behind.”  Ryan looked at the reporter and uttered some words that have stayed with me to this day.  He said, “We have a really bad memory.”  “What do you mean?” asked the reporter.  “Well after a big setback we just choose to forget about it and focus on playing well and winning.  We don’t let mistakes and bad plays keep us down.”  If you watch team sports, you will see this with teams that constantly win.  They don’t get down or give up no matter how bleak it looks. They just keep playing and many times come back to win.  When you look at the bench of a team that is behind, you can tell the difference.  If the team has their heads down, you know they are finished. In their minds they have already lost.  On the other hand if they are still paying attention, still cheering on their teammates, they have a bad memory and a good chance of winning.

So which one are you?  Are you dwelling on the bad score and the bad plays?  If you are, you have already lost.  Are you focusing on the future instead of lamenting over the past? Are you still thinking about how to win?  If you are, the game is far from over. All the skills in the world will never overcome a mind and heart that has already quit.  On the other hand, a mind and heart that won’t quit can overcome almost any obstacle.  Sound like a sports pep talk? Well maybe a little, but it is more than that.  In this season of Lent as we approach the cross, we are continually reminded of our sins; we are reminded of our mistakes, our bad plays, or lack of accomplishment.  Our sins can bring us down and make us hang our heads in coming defeat.  April though brings us something new, Easter.  In Easter we find that Jesus has a bad memory.  After his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, he forgets all our sins; he had no memory of them. He doesn’t hold them against us.  More than that he declares victory over sin, death and devil and through our faith he gives that victory to us.  Easter is bad memory day.  The past is the past, and we leave it in the past and we lift up our heads and with confidence we march on to victory in Jesus Christ and his promises.  So happy Easter, happy bad memory day!

Pastor Fred

March Message

 As I write this Jasmine’s basketball team is competing in the Bill Gibson Coaches’ Classic.  They won their first game this morning but it promises to be a long exciting weekend of bouncing balls and shuffling feet.  Jasmine enjoys playing basketball but enjoys winning more.  I understand that, I don’t like anything about losing.  People often say it isn’t about winning its about how you play the game, but that is usually said by people who have just lost the game, winners never say things like that.  Winners know the point of the game is to win.  Yes, you should play the game fairly, you never really win anything by cheating, but winning is the goal. 

Saint Paul it seems agrees.   In 1 Corinthians 9:24 he says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So, run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable.  So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 

The season of Lent is one of repentance.  It is not a season of feeling bad about ourselves or putting ourselves down because we are such bad sinners.  It is a season that as we realize we are such bad sinners we also repent of it and go to the foot of the cross to receive God’s forgiveness through the sacrifice and blood of Jesus. It is a season that we refocus our Christian lives to run the race that God has called to us run and to run it to win, not to just show up or to just compete or to just place, but to win.  In this race, there is only one winner, second place is just the first loser.  The great thing about this race though is that we do not run it under our own power, it is the power of Christ in us that carries us to victory.  In fact, Jesus has already won this race for us, through our faith the trophy is ours in Christ. All believers in Christ are winners.  During this season though we are called to train like winners. 

In Lent, we have a chance to get rid of some of the things, temptations, and sins that lead us away from Jesus, that disrupt our spiritual growth.  So, I challenge you during the days of Lent to go into spiritual training.  Develop some spiritual routines like reading the Bible and times of prayer, maybe avoiding that TV show that tempts you.  Spend some time with Coach Jesus working out. 

A year ago Jasmine was competing at a track meet and they were selling a shirt that said, “I am the reason your coach makes you train so hard.”  I wanted to buy that for her but Jasmine is much humbler about her abilities than I am of them and she said she wouldn’t wear it.  I challenge you though to be that person.  Open your Bible, or close your eyes and fold your hands and begin training.  See you at the starting line.

February Message

A number of months ago I agreed to lead a study in a circuit pastor’s meeting for March.  I am doing the study on Frederick the Wise.  He was the Elector of Saxony and is known as Luther’s Prince and protector.  This is of course the 500th year of the Reformation, so it is the topic that everyone is focusing on.  Lutheran Hour Ministries came out with a little booklet entitled, “The Reformation Twelve.”  The Reformation twelve are people who played a prominent role in the Reformation.  They include both the good guys and the bad guys.  I have several copies of this booklet if you would be interested in having one.  The twelve are as follows.  Johann von Staupits, Pope Leo X, Albrecht of Mainz, John Tetzel, Johannes Gutenburg, Cardinal Cajetan, Frederick the Wise, George Spalatin, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Johann Eck, Charles V and Philip Melanchthon.  A brief couple page summary of each of their lives is given. 

The study I am doing comes from another Lutheran Reformation place which has Bible studies on some of these characters and even more.  I am planning on using some of these for the Men’s group that meets the third Saturday of every month.  I would also like to consider using them in other Bible studies.  They list twenty-five Reformation contributors.  They include in addition to many of those already listed, Ulrich Zwingli, Lucas Cranach, Katharina van Bora, John Calvin, Jan Hus and others.  As you learn more about these people, you begin to realize the tremendous sacrifice that was made to reform the church. 

The story of the Reformation is really the story of God calling his people to stand up for the truth.  The personalities and motivations of these people were all different and yet God used them to get done what needed done.  They are an example for us today as we do church in the twenty-first century with it is challenges and opportunities.  Five hundred years have passed and we live in a very different culture today and yet the principles of the reformation are still the same.  The Bible is still the Word of God and our only source of authority, God still saves us by grace alone and he still does it through faith alone.  The church is also always in need of reformation.  We are still called to stay focused on the main thing, the Word of God.  So join me this year as we celebrate the Reformation, as we celebrate the glory of the Gospel that God has given to men in Jesus Christ. 

New Year's Resolutions

Promises, promises that is pretty much what New Year’s resolutions are.  Promises we can never seem to keep.  We always start off with the best intentions but then life gets in the way.  Three-hundred-sixty-five days is a long time to keep doing something or to stop doing something.  Usually we don’t even make it past the first two or three weeks.  I think the entire fitness industry is funded by resolutions to do better this year.  I without fail always make New Year’s resolutions and I always without fail, fail at keeping them. One year I even resolved to not make any resolutions and well you can guess how that turned out… big failure yet again.  Making a New Year’s resolution is kind of akin to promising God that you are going to be completely righteous this year or that you are going to stop sinning this year.  2017, no more sin! Yeah right, tell me how that works out.

The New Year is a good time to make new plans though.  It is kind of like getting a clean slate to start over.  Part of the problem with resolutions is that they require hard action from you.  They usually require you to do something that you really don’t want to do, like stop smoking or stop eating so much, or start exercising.  No one wants to do that stuff because it is hard; it requires lots of work and is uncomfortable.  That’s why most resolutions just don’t work.  If they were easy we would already be doing them.  So let me make a suggestion for you this year.  Instead of making a resolution to stop something or to do something, make a resolution to receive something.  Yes I said receive something. 

I always get real excited when the mailman shows up with a book I just ordered. I love receiving the book.  So resolve this year to receive something.  Resolve to receive God’s grace.  Resolve to be open to God’s Word and his sacraments.  Resolve to take advantage of them and receive God’s constant forgiveness and strengthening of your faith.  Resolve to come to church every Sunday to hear the Word of God read and preached and to receive the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  This shouldn’t be that hard, because if you are reading this article you are already a member of the church.  Resolve to attend Bible study and learn more about how God has forgiven you and blessed you and how he is always with you.  Again this is pretty easy stuff; all you have to do is walk in the room and sit down.  Resolve this year to spend time with God doing devotions, but don’t look upon these as a chore or something you have to accomplish but as an opportunity to receive more from God.  Let God fill you up daily with his strength and support before you head off into the world to face who knows what.  Resolve to receive, not to do, not to stop, but to receive.  God wants to give you his love, so this year of 2017 resolve to receive it. 

Pastor Fred

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