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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

IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL?

This is the proverbial question that we must all face in life. Nothing is ever perfect in life or in the church. The pessimist looks at this and says it’s horrible; things are not like they used to be. The glass is half empty, remember when it was full? It just doesn’t seem worth it, things are not as good as they could be. The optimist looks and says, hey maybe it isn’t as good as it could be but it is not all bad; it could be worse. Look we still have half a glass of water left, things are pretty good. Then there is the pragmatist who looks at the glass, picks it up and drinks the water! Which one of the three are you? The real question is which one should you be? Well, which one do you think God wants you to be? I am thinking that being a pessimist is not on his list of things he desires. The reason being that pessimism is related to worry which is a sin before God. To be pessimistic is to show a lack of faith and trust in God. It is to bemoan the fact that the glass is only half full. It is to show a lack of appreciation for the fact, that well its half full. I mean it could be empty; then you would have a reason to complain!

God calls upon us to look at the glass as half full. There is water there to drink, there is something to work with, God has blessed us with some water! We can thank God for that, the future looks bright. God also calls upon us to be a pragmatist and drink the water. I mean it is not there to just look at and discuss; it is there to drink, so bottoms up! We need to use the resources and people that God has given us. We need to think this way both in our life and in the church. The fact is pessimism has never accomplished a thing, it hasn’t built anything, it hasn’t moved anything forward. Pessimism is a useless attitude that only feeds into self-pity and a lack of ability to get anything done. Optimism is one with faith and trust in God. It looks upon the glass and says God has given us something and we can use it to accomplish his will.

So as we start the school year and a new year in the church, let us do so as an optimistic pragmatist, trusting in God that he has a mission for us to accomplish in our community. The future is bright, the water is cold, and we have a glass that we can fill time and time again with God’s living water.

Pastor Fred

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