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  • Bible Presentation to 1st graders

    During all services on Saturday, October 28, and Sunday, October 29.


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    October 27-29 at Tall Oaks Conference Center


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    November 4th at 5:30


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    November 17-19


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Board of Elders

WHAT’S YOUR “FAITH IN GOD” MOMENT?

Everyone’s relationship with Jesus starts somewhere.  Whether it started at a church growing up, a low point in your life, after the loss of a loved one, or even after some event or turning point in your life where you realize your blessings are true gifts from God.  To start that relationship, you have to have faith, even just a little. Some moment in time when you realize and know that God is real and will do the things he has written.  Faith is mentioned in Hebrews 11:1 which says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Faith that Jesus died for your sins, Faith that God is always with you in good times and struggles, and Faith that Jesus will come back as he says he will.   For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8.  So through this gift of faith, we get to have a relationship with Jesus. When did your relationship start? What was your Faith in God Moment?   

Now I have found that Faith can be somewhat fluid as we go about our lives here on earth, a little like our relationships with friends.  What I mean by this is that for many, Faith tends to follow the experiences and changes in our life.  It’s not that we intentionally forget about God during the good times in our lives, but I have found that people more often turn to Jesus for help but forget to sing His praise.  For some with strong Faith, you may not have had many, if any, times of doubt and questions about the One True God.  Regardless of where you are in your walk of Faith with God, there was something that triggered you to look at and evaluate your faith and relationship with Jesus.

As I tried to get a better grasp on BSLC’s Growing up in Every Way campaign, I had to ask myself when my Faith really started.  When was my “Faith in God” moment?  Like many others, I have had several times of doubt in my life and have actually challenged my own Faith with God.  You see, I went to church pretty consistently when I was young and was also involved with Christian extracurricular activities, but still as I grew into my teens I had doubts.  So when I asked myself, “When did it start? When did I know that God was real and let his Faith work in me?”-- I don’t have a single event or date that I could say is my “Faith in God” moment.  What I do remember is a conversation with a man about his beliefs and, even though he did not believe in Jesus, I would have to say that this was the trigger that set me on a path to seek out a better relationship with my Lord. 

This wasn’t a normal everyday conversation with another person. This one actually happened in the back of an armored personnel carrier during the 2004 Battle of Fallujah.  We had just secured an area after a firefight, and the insurgents were loaded onto my vehicle so we could take them back to the main camp.  While my crewman secured the insurgents, we always did the same thing, asked questions, tried to get whatever intelligence out of them we could, and then pass it on.  After the normal questions (that went unanswered), I asked him why he wanted to kill Americans, to which he responded quickly in English “Because you do not believe in my god.”  I knew what he meant by this and kind of expected it, but I was completely set back by actually hearing it and didn’t know how to respond.  This was the first time I can remember my faith being tested by someone other than myself.  What could I say to this man?   You see, I believed in the One True God, but my Faith wasn’t very strong.  I had times of doubt, but I believed, or at least I thought I did until then. 

His response made me take a step back and look at my own beliefs; it made me question and challenge my Faith.  In the end, God answered my doubts by leading me to and through prayer.  I think James 1:3-4 explains this well, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  You see, this challenge to my faith resulted in my seeking out answers through God’s word and prayer.  In the end, it strengthened my Faith; it opened my eyes to this gift from God. 

Not everyone has this type of an event in their life, but I found that God had worked his amazing way into my heart.  So as we are all trying to grow in Faith, think about how God worked in your life to bring you closer Him.  Share it with friends, share it in your actions, and share it in conversation with people you meet.  It might just be the thing to start or help them with their “Faith in God” moment.

Let us pray. or

Lord I ask that each one of us can use our conversations with others to help them hear your word and open their hearts to Jesus Christ.  Through faith, I know you hear our prayers and that they will be answered in your time. Amen.

                        --Chris Davis, Board of Elders

A PRAYER FOR DAD
ON FATHER’S DAY

GOD OUR FATHER, WE GIVE YOU THANKS AND PRAISE FOR FATHERS YOUNG AND OLD.

WE PRAY FOR YOUNG FATHERS, NEWLY EMBRACING THEIR VOCATION; MAY THEY FIND COURAGE AND PERSEVERANCE TO BALANCE WORK, FAMILY AND FAITH IN JOY AND SACRIFICE.

WE PRAY FOR OUR OWN FATHERS AROUND THE WORLD WHOSE CHILDREN ARE LOST OR SUFFERING; MAY THEY KNOW THAT THE GOD OF COMPASSION WALKS WITH THEM IN THEIR SORROW.

WE PRAY FOR MEN WHO ARE NOT FATHERS BUT STILL MENTOR AND GUIDE US WITH FATHERLY LOVE AND ADVICE.

WE REMEMBER FATHERS, GRANDFATHERS, AND GREAT GRANDFATHERS WHO ARE NO LONGER WITH US BUT WHO LIVE FOREVER IN OUR MEMORY AND NOURISH US WITH THEIR LOVE. AMEN

Join us in the FLC on June 18 at 9:15 for pie and coffee in honor of all Christian fathers!

VANILLA ICE CREAM PROCLAIMS
THE GLORY OF GOD

And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth." And it was so. Genesis 1:11

 

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. Genesis 1:24

Until more recent times, Mexico was the only producer of vanilla.  In the 1520s Hernán Cortés traveled down to Mexico and loved vanilla.  So, he brought some back with him to Europe.  For the next 300 years, the Europeans tried but were never able to produce vanilla. 

See, vanilla grows up a tree as a vine.  Eventually the vine produces an orchid.  In order to make the vanilla bean, the orchid must be pollinated.  The problem is, it only blooms one morning per year for pollination.  If it isn't pollinated within 12 hours, it withers.  To make things more difficult, a hood-like membrane covers the part of the vanilla orchid which produces pollen. This makes the production of the vanilla bean very difficult.

In 1836, Charles François Antoine Morren traveled down to Mexico to figure out why they weren't able to produce vanilla beans in Europe. As Morren was studying the vanilla orchids, his attention was drawn to a little bee (the Mexican Melipona Bee). This bee landed on the orchid, lifted up the little hood like membrane, collected pollen, and then flew off to the next flower.  This bee was pollinating the orchids.  After some time, the orchid produced a vanilla bean. 

To this day, the Mexican Melipona Bee is the only insect that knows how to pollinate the vanilla orchid.  This simple fact puts evolution in an extremely difficult position. Without the Mexican Melipona Bee, we simply would not have vanilla today.  The bee and the vanilla vine had to be made at the exact same time.  Not to mention, this bee had to be given specific information about how to pollinate the vanilla orchid.  Again, no other insect knows how to do this.  This bee had to be made, designed, and purposefully created to pollinate the vanilla orchid, and thus, produce vanilla. 

So much of our world points to the Creator.  As silly as it sounds, even vanilla ice cream proclaims the glory of God.  We have such an amazing God, even the little things point us to how great a God we have.  God loves us so much that he sent his only Son into the world to save us from our sins.

So, the next time you sit down to enjoy a full bowl of vanilla ice cream, remember that you are enjoying a tasty treat which is only possible through the power of God!

 

Prayer:

Lord God Heavenly Father thank you so much for creating such an amazing world, evidence of your creation is all around us.  We thank you for loving us so much that you sent your one and only Son to die on the cross and rise again that we may have eternal life.  In your name we pray, Amen.

                                    Paul Lampe, Board of Elders

JUST DO YOUR BEST

Philippians 4:8 – 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.

There are times when I become overwhelmed. An awesome family, extended family, a full- time job, children’s sports, the maintenance of stuff, and the other opportunities that God has given to serve Him sometimes lead me to feel as though there just isn’t enough time. At times, my best doesn’t seem like enough to master all the things that the Master has placed into my life. The world is a fast-paced crush of responsibility. And then I’m reminded that many people juggle families, households, jobs and ministries.  For the children of God, it is part of life here on earth. While God brings great confidence into this world and imparts it to His children by faith, at times it feels as though we are one step from failure and unable to meet the demanding issues of life. It is human nature to self-evaluate and self-doubt.

And the good news is that God has not required perfection. The only things we are called to perfection in are the things that He does in our life.

For example, Isaiah 26:3, God will keep us in perfect peace. The responsibility falls on His Shoulders, not our own.  Godly character can often be overtaken by placing confidence in ourselves rather than him. Being overwhelmed is often caused by a stress overload of trying to do our job and God’s job, too.  Rather than following the path God has prepared for me, I often compare myself with other people.  This, of course, tends to make the issue worse. To live a confident life, a suggestion might be to routinely evaluate everything we do according to that which God has called us to do. When our confidence is firmly fixed in the Lord, God can produce the results.

We are all called to different vocations and function at different levels. In God’s eyes, no job is less or more important.  How much of a load that a person bears is not as important as how we manage what God has entrusted us. God is looking for us to do your “creative best” with what we have been given. The Word of God carefully outlines the most important things:  Love one another! Live by faith! Trust in the Lord!  If you are doing your absolute best and living to honor God and not man, this is all God requires of you.  But, of course, as we align ourselves more closely with God’s will, we can be at peace and achieve more than we could have likely imagined.

Consider making a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of us must take responsibility for doing the creative best we can with our own life.

                    --Joel Lampe, Board of Elders

It’s Well Worth the Struggle

Jesus…said to them “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14 ESV

A 5-year-old girl that appears to bring the drama of a teenager.  A 3-year-old that is all boy but is just the sweetest of guys at times.  And a 4-month-old that we catch ourselves calling our “easy” one most of the time.  This is our day-to-day life.  Some days run smooth as can be.  Others we are in survival mode.  This applies to the hour or so that we are in worship each week as well.  Some days the kids are truly acting like angels.  Other days we leave church asking each other, “what was the sermon about?” (Sorry, Pastor Jon and Pastor Chris.)

Between all of the requests for refilling snacks, I’m thirsty, my nose needs wiped, I want to color this, I don’t want that, etc. etc. etc., sometimes we wonder, what are we doing?  Is this really worth it?  I’m sure this is a thought that runs in many parents’ and grandparents’ minds with having children in worship.  But then when we are least expecting it, we get very clear answers to this very question.  However, the answer to our question, “what are we doing?” comes in the form of other questions.

Children are like sponges--they soak up anything around them.  They are constantly, and I mean constantly, asking questions.  In the midst of occupying the children during worship in the hopes they stay quiet, they are definitely soaking some things up; it just happens to come in the form of questions.

One time after communing, Abbie asked me at the communion rail, “Daddy, how does Jesus’ blood taste?”  Wow, how do I answer this to a 5-year old?  But to a kid, such a simple question to what she witnessed.  This presented a wonderful opportunity to share with her what Jesus did for us.

Like most folks, each night at bedtime we say our prayers as a family.  One day Abbie asks, “Can we say the prayer that we say in church?”  Right or wrong, we hadn’t worked on the Lord’s Prayer too much at home.  In spite of that, she could nearly recite all of it from hearing it in church or working on it in Sunday School.

Lastly, not too long ago, Jack was asking at Good Friday’s service, “Why is Jesus covered up?” in regards to the veil covering Jesus in the sanctuary and, “Why is Pastor Jon’s scarf black?”  Such simple questions from a 3-year-old noticing little things around him but wonderful opportunities to teach him about God’s love for us.

Children observe so much in their world.  They learn so much both in worship and Sunday School.  I encourage both parents and grandparents to continue “the struggle” with the little ones in worship because while WE may be distracted at times, the greatest gift that we can give our children is the knowledge of God’s love for us and the greatest gift He gave us in Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please provide us the strength and wisdom to continue to teach our children and grandchildren about your Son Jesus and all that he has done for us.  Amen

                                    Mike Borgstadt

                                    Board of Elders

THE PSALMS COVER EVERY EMOTION

The entire Book of Psalms tells the story of the journey every human being walks in life.  The 150 psalms speak of wonder, joy, and celebration, but also of the dark night of despair, desolation, and abandonment.  Places in which we sometimes find ourselves.

The Book of Psalms addresses every facet of the spiritual journey, both the ups and the downs.  The Psalms offer praises as well as curses, consolation, and desolation, boasts of strength and cries of weakness.

The Psalms reveal the many faces of God: powerful rock, shepherd, companion, comforter, provider, creator, judge, advocate, and deliverer.

The Psalms address every sort of inner and outer turbulence from crop failure to enemy attacks, from illness to loneliness.  All of them were meant to be sung, and if they were, it would be like hearing an opera of the Bible.

Psalm 23 is probably the most familiar psalm of all:  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23 is easy to remember and never fails to bring comfort.

For poverty, there’s Psalm 10:  “Lord you hear the prayer of the poor; you strengthen their hearts.”

Any employee could use a dose of Psalm 56:  “Have mercy on me, God, men crush me; they fight me all day long and oppress me…all day long they distort my words.”

Spouses can rely on Psalm 141 for restraint:  “Set, O Lord, a guard over my mouth; keep watch, O Lord, at the door of my lips.”

There is a monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania, where the nuns start each day with the same Psalm:  “O God, come to my assistance.  O God, make haste to help me.”  The monks at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, Kentucky, end every day with the same words, “I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

One of my favorite Psalms is simple and to the point:  “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

Prayer (based on Psalm 119:105):  Lord, your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  Thank you that we can live in Your light and walk in Your truth.  May the things that you have revealed and thoughts we have shared dwell in our hearts and stir us to action.  We ask all this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

                       

--Mark Larson, Board of Elders

“THE ONE THING”

In 1991, there was a hit comedy called “City Slickers” starring Billy Crystal as Mitch, the city slicker, and Jack Palance as Curly, the gritty cowboy. A conversation between Mitch and Curly about life goes something like this:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Mitch: No, what?

Curly: One Thing.

Mitch: Great, what’s the “One Thing”?

Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

My friends in Christ, “The One Thing” has already been “figured out” for us. The one thing is Love. In Mathew 22:34-40, the pesky Pharisees hope to “trip up” Jesus and ask “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”, “The One Thing” is Love.

John 3:16, “For God so Loved the world”, God first loved us and provided for our eternal salvation thru His Son, Jesus Christ. So, loving God is “easy,” right?  Well, most of the time, when things are going our way. But have trouble enter our lives and we can begin to question God’s love for us and our love for God. In fact, we can get mad at God “for allowing suffering into our lives” even though we know this is not true.

So what about “loving your neighbor as yourself”? That’s hard. As Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, everyone is our “neighbor” – the household with the yappy dogs, the driver that cuts you off in traffic, the terrorist that wants to do harm to you – all need our love.

Jesus showed us the ultimate “love” by going to the cross – for my sin, your sin and the world’s sin.  John 15:13 “Greater Love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends” . Jesus demonstrated pure love by laying down His life and taking it back up again, so we might have everlasting life.  So, pray to God to send the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and the courage to love our God and Neighbor as ourselves.

Do the “One Thing”.

Prayer:  Thank you Holy Trinity for giving us the “One Thing” to guide our lives – Love. Help us to show Love to all we encounter in our daily lives. Give us the strength and courage to pray for love and mercy to all people. Amen

     Brad Holmes, Board of Elders

SEASONS OF CHANGE

Heading from summer into fall is a seasonal change that is expected each calendar year.  We know that once autumn arrives, we will enjoy milder temperatures and the changing colors of fall foliage. But as the changing from summer to fall is counted on each year, we all know that life itself is not constant, and we cannot expect to live our lives without experiencing change.  We will have curveballs thrown our way with some of these changes occurring unexpectedly while other events, even though previously planned, may also affect our lives unexpectedly. As we live through the various aspects of our lives on earth we will endure seasons of change that may test our faith.

These seasons of change might be related to a new position at work or the unexpected loss of a job, as well as changes affecting our health or those of our family members and friends.  We may be affected through change by experiencing the loss of a loved one or the blessing of a newborn in our family. 

Each August many families start another school year, and change may come in the form of adjusting to a new school, getting reacquainted with old school friends not seen since the previous school year, or heading off to college and being away from home.  Those serving in the military and their families often deal with many seasons of change.  The unknowns of military deployments and ensuring service members’ families are provided for and safe is an ever changing environment. 

In times of change we all need that something in our lives that we can count on to always be there for us no matter what the circumstances are.  In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we know he is unchanging, and He alone is always there for us whenever we need Him.  Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  So it is through Christ we can have confidence to always rely on Him even though events in our daily lives might not be what we have planned. 

The only thing certain in our life is that Christ’s love for us never changes and we should trust in him and praise him in all that we do.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  It gives us peace to know that we are always cared for regardless of the seasons of change we have in our lives.  

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, just as we feel we have things under control, we know that life can change far too quickly.  We all experience seasons of change, and even though we may not like change, we know that we can always count on your presence and guidance each and every day.  We give thanks for your mercy and grace in our daily lives. Amen.

 

Greg Tebbenkamp, Board of Elders

BOLDLY SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST
THROUGH UPWARD BASKETBALL

The 2016 Upward Basketball Season Opened Last Week!  Before you start looking for an email indicating that you missed the sign-ups, I should explain. 

Upward Sports is a national organization.  Their mission is to Introduce Children to Jesus Christ by creating opportunities to serve in sports.  They are well on their way to achieving their vision of having 4 million participants engaged in Christian sports leagues in a single year.  At Beautiful Savior we are on our 9th year of partnering with Upward Sports and for the past several years have hosted 360+ kids ages K-6th Grade in a basketball league.  In total the efforts of our church volunteers create over 14,000 individual God moments each year through practice devotions and game day devotions.

So the season started in June this year. What’s up with that?  The story goes like this.  I was visiting with Pastor Gruen on a recent Saturday night doing a little coaching on his jump shot and some conditioning work to help him dunk this year.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that it’s not meant to be.  During one of the breaks he hit me with a question.  What else could we do to attract more of the Upward attendees to visit church?  I shared a couple of half thought through ideas during the brain storming session that followed but ended up asking another key question.  What would it take to have more of our members involved in the program as coaches, allowing us the opportunity to establish better relationships and create the opportunity for an invitation to join us in our mission at BSLC? 

When I speak about Upward, I often bring up Galatians 2:20.  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Christ has given himself for us, we’re saved, but we’re still here on earth?  So…, the point that I take away from this is that we’re still here for a reason.  That reason is, in some way, to introduce people to Jesus Christ.  Upward is one way that Beautiful Savior creates that opportunity for you to actively be involved in our mission of Boldly Sharing the love of Christ.  If you happen to like basketball, coaching kids, or completely connect with the Upward mission I hope you’ll consider joining us this year.  If not, I pray that you’re able to bully your way into an active role in one of our other ministries here at Beautiful Savior.  Take the step.  The season starts now!

My simple prayer:  God please inspire me to take action.  Use me!  Amen.

                        --Joel Lampe, Board of Elders

“See YOU at the Office”

Many of us have fond memories of the times we spent with our fathers.  For me, it was fishing at the break of dawn early Saturday morning on one of our favorite ponds.  On one of my birthdays, I had asked for a Cox gasoline powered model airplane.  Having one of these flying wonders was pretty cool since you could control its flying pattern, master a few stunts, and even drop a small, plastic “bomb” from its fuselage onto your target.  My dad was right there with me helping with the takeoff and the landing.

Something else I remember well was having the chance to visit Dad “at his work.”  He worked at BMA, which was a health & life insurance company in mid-town Kansas City.  My brother and I would take the ride in the car on the way over thinking about arriving at the main reception area, riding the elevator up to the14th floor, and the anticipation of finally seeing him in his office at work.   He had a big desk surrounded by several chairs, a dial telephone with lighted buttons, and certificates of his academic and career accomplishments on the wall.  I always liked seeing our school pictures on his credenza behind his desk.  His office was on the north side of the building, which provided a great view of downtown KC, and the famous Coca Cola sign along Southwest Trafficway.   Seeing all of this from the 14th floor made you feel like you were on “top of the world” so to speak.

            Whether your father had an office in an ivory tower, the cab of an 18-wheel semi-truck and trailer, the seat of a farm tractor, a foxhole on the field of battle, or an assembly line, you looked up to him and wanted to be like him.

So it is with God our Heavenly Father.  Whether you’re a new Christian or a long-time child of God, we have some pleasant memories of our times we have had with Him at our side.  Did you ask Him to help you with an upcoming exam or final in school?  Was the weather so threatening at a time in your life that you called on Him to protect you and your family?  Did you invite Him to your son or daughter’s wedding asking Him to bless the union of their lifetime relationship?  Is He invited to your table to join you for your meal at home or at the restaurant?  Whatever the event, occasion, peril, celebration, or thanksgiving, He has been right there for you!

There will come a day and a time, my friend, when our Heavenly Father will call us to his “office.”  We won’t know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13), but when He does call, we’ll be ready to go.  God our Father tells us, including our earthly fathers, that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  And, even though our earthly fathers are super heroes in our eyes, the “business” of forgiving sins and offering us His Grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, is the exclusive work that our Heavenly Father does for us.  “He blots out our transgressions, and remembers our sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25).  

Of course, we don’t know exactly what our Father’s office in Heaven will look, or be like, but we do have a glimpse of our eternal home from what He tells us in Scripture.  Think about the “ride” along the way to that office building similar to a “City set on a hill” (Matt. 5:14).   Upon entering, the driveway to God’s Heavenly office is made of gold, as transparent as glass, and the walls are made of jasper.  The foundations are adorned with every type of jewel. (Rev. 21:18-20).  This is not your ordinary ivory tower!  After all, God created it and our earthly home (Genesis 1:1).  As you enter this beautiful “Office in the City,” you are greeted by the Heavenly Hosts and His angels for a warm and welcome reception (Nehemia 9:6).  As you make your way to meet your maker, you see many rooms in this Office Mansion and one that is prepared especially for you (John 14:2-3).  It is truly a sight to behold!

True to His Word, God tells us that His office chair is amazing!  “It is a great white throne, and He is seated on it.” (Rev. 20:11).   Sitting at His right in the other chair is Jesus Christ Himself.  (Lk. 22:69).   The welcome we receive at this Office in the great City is overwhelming, and Jesus confirms with us that “He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that He is the Mediator between God & Man!” (Jn 14:6, &1Tim 2:5).  We also notice on the wall that there is a beautifully framed sign signifying the life of Christ, and His recognition as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  And bringing tears of joy to your eyes, you see your own picture sitting on His credenza with the others of “the household of faith”!  The view from this Heavenly place is incredible.  We have only been able to see the stars from the perspective of earth.  Seeing them from Heaven’s perspective is absolutely indescribable!  “Is not God high in the heavens? See the highest stars, how lofty they are! (Job 22:12). 

My prayer is that you have pleasant memories, and a good relationship not only with your earthly father but, also, your Heavenly Father.   If there are some fences to mend, begin that process now, and don’t delay.  This Father’s Day, celebrate your dad in a special way, and remember your Heavenly Father thanking Him for his guidance and leadership in your life!  Tell Him that you are looking forward to seeing Him at “the Office” sometime soon!

                    --Joe Rinella, Board of Elders

"TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS"

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV

While traveling on business trips, I often put in my ear buds and listen to music to drown out the noise on the plane.  Most of my iPod is full of country music, but I have several gospel tunes as well.  On a recent trip, a familiar song came across with the lyrics “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”  The song is based off scripture from Hebrews 12:2.  While I have heard this song many times, the refrain really struck a chord with me this time.

Often our sinful nature tempts us to turn our focus on ourselves and our worldly position instead of focusing upon Jesus.  I myself often worry about earthly concerns far too much.  We worry about who likes us, what possessions we have, how we are going to impress the new neighbors, whether we are getting what we feel we deserve, and the list can go on and on.  We all too often worry about our earthly rewards.  This is what Satan wants.  Satan wants us to lose focus on Christ.  Jesus himself warns us of focusing on ourselves and earthly rewards in Matthew 6:1 as he instructs us “to beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

However, as the song reminds us, and more importantly as Scripture instructs us, we need to put our focus on Christ, not on our earthly world.  And when we focus on Jesus and recognize the salvation he bought us on the cross, it becomes clear how trivial our worldly issues can be.  Often times I will get a great feeling of relief knowing that I truly have nothing to worry about because Jesus has saved me from my sin.  Yes, we are still going to suffer hardships during our earthly lives.  But we have no hardships to worry about for eternity.  Jesus has saved us.  When I focus on Jesus and what he did for me, it gives me great peace of mind that I’m taken care of, here on earth and in heaven.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us to keep our faith focused on your son Jesus, who endured the cross for our sin, so that we may gain eternal life.  Amen

                        --Mike Borgstadt, Board of Elders

"Beyond Heroic"

(Jesus said) "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

Most of us love to go see a movie or read a book about a hero.  The stories about how individuals gave their lives in service to save the lives of others.   Our children love the recent barrage of superhero movies, and, yes, as a parent I must confess that I also enjoy them.  The tales of the Hobbit, Luke Skywalker, Superman, Captain America, The Avengers and I’m sure we could go on and on.  However, when a hero story is true that is what really makes it great.

The movie “Unbroken,” which was recently in theaters, tells the story of World War II hero, Louis Zamperini.  His struggles from a misbehaving child to an Olympian, becoming a bombardier on an airplane that crashes and floats in the ocean for 47 days only to be rescued by Japanese soldiers who test his will in prison camps.  I am told that the book “Unbroken” is even better than the movie, it goes on to tell about the struggles he faced even after the war and how he eventually comes to forgive his persecutors in the prison camp.  This is just one of the many true stories about our world’s heroes, their perseverance and personal sacrifice.

The stories of heroes tell of individuals willing to die; to win a battle; to save some children; to protect your comrades. These are all noble causes; however, the greatest hero story of all time can be found in the Bible.  Jesus is the greatest hero of all time! His story is unique in that He was born in a world that didn't want Him -- where the king of the country where He lived tried to kill Him. Members of His boyhood home tried to murder Him; religious leaders plotted against Him; one of His best friends betrayed Him; another denied Him; the rest deserted Him.

He was unfairly arrested, lied about by perjured witnesses, declared "guilty" by a kangaroo court where the verdict had been predetermined. He was beaten, laughed at, spit upon, whipped and condemned to die by a man who knew He was innocent. He was persecuted for our transgressions.  When He was crucified, another criminal challenged Him, and passersby mocked Him. It can honestly be said, with only the rarest of exceptions, from the beginning of His life, until the moment He breathed His last, Jesus Christ was misunderstood, misinterpreted and criticized. He was seldom respected and often rejected.
           Still, it is for the very people who didn't want Him, who hated Him, who detested and despised Him that Jesus was born. Search history and you will not stumble upon anyone like our Savior. In Jesus, the Innocent is traded for the guilty, the Perfect for the flawed, and the Eternal for the temporal, the King for the commoner.
            It is unimaginable and unthinkable, but it is nevertheless the truth. The Bible declares it. God has shown His love for us in this: Jesus Christ died and, just as importantly, He rose for sinners. And now, because of what He has done, we have been given a cause to live and die for. That cause? To thank, praise, serve and obey Him.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, how can we express our gratitude for a Savior who sacrificed His all so I might be forgiven and saved? Any gift I have is too small, too poor. Grant that I may say "thank You" with each day of my life in serving you better. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Submitted by Paul Lampe

Board of Elders

Submitted by Brad Holmes, Board of Elders:

By Dr. Dale A. Robbins

It happens in every church sooner or later. Eventually, the beloved pastor that many looked to for spiritual guidance will depart for one reason or another.

First, when it comes time for your pastor to leave, remember to keep your eyes on the Lord, not the man. As remarkably important as God’s servants are, we must always remember that they are merely mortals… and that our faith must be rooted in Christ alone, not in a man or any of His servants.

To be sure, no one will ever truly be able to replace your departed pastor. He was a unique person and will always be one of a kind… BUT his position as pastor can indeed be filled again. God will have another genuinely unique servant that He will send to lead the flock of God.

Change is a part of life, and although there will definitely be a need for some extra patience and flexibility by everyone in the congregation, you and your church will get through this change.

What do we do now?

1. Be Faithful to Attend Services – The lack of a permanent pastor can make some feel less enthused or connected with the church, and may promote more frequent absences or visitations to other churches. However, if there was ever a time your church needed you, this is it.

2. Be a Person of Prayer – People in the church must always be persons sincerely devoted to prayer… but even more so during a time that their church is without a pastor. If he can, our enemy, Satan, will attempt to use the pastoral vacancy to incite mischief, conflict and discouragement in the flock, so prayer and spiritual vigilance is especially important during this time.

3. Be Extra Patient and Understanding – An interim period for any church may become tense and stressful. Usually, once the pastor is gone, the congregation will discover many of the things he did. Suddenly, the organization may not be run as smoothly as it once was… tasks may fall through the cracks or be forgotten about. It is not a time to criticize or find fault, but be understanding and pitch in and help make up the shortfalls.

4. Continue to Contribute Financially – During a time of leadership transition, church finances can often become one of the first casualties to suffer… so it is vitally important for you to remain steadfast with your tithes and offerings. Remember, the tithe belongs to the Lord, and continue to be faithful to Him, regardless of the changing nature of his church.

5. Volunteer More than Usual – Sometimes people look at changes in church leadership, as an opportunity to make changes of their own... perhaps to leave the church or to give up a position or responsibility. Not only is this a poor time to abandon the church, but is a critical time to step up and volunteer more than normal.

6. Help Contribute to Unity – During times uncertainty within an organization, voices of discouragement and discontent can often be heard in the ranks… but this is a moment your influence of support and encouragement is so needed to help promote peace and unity in the body. “Talk up” the church among your friends, speak encouragement and help promote harmony.

7. Avoid Church Politics – Do your best to contribute to the harmony of the body of believers and cooperate with those who are duly authorized to lead. Do not contend with those in authority, but support and pray for them… and let God make whatever changes that are needed. If everyone will seek to humble themselves, love and serve, God has an amazing way to bring people together with an obvious awareness of those whom He has chosen to lead.

8. Don’t Waste the Opportunity – What about the interim time between the pastor’s departure and the new pastor’s arrival? God still has a vital purpose for every service, guest speaker or the ministry of an interim pastor… and it is important for the congregation to remain faithful and engaged, so that God’s intended work can be accomplished.

9. Finally, Don't Panic and Be at Peace! Do your part to pray, contribute and help as suggested... but the church will do better if everyone remains calm and steadfast in faith. Ultimately our Lord Jesus cares more about His church more than any of us do. Trust and rest in the fact that He stated that "He" will build His church... and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it! (Matt 16:18)

An Act of Valor

(Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

(Jesus said) “… I lay down My life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. …” John 10:17b-18a

            William “Kyle” Carpenter was a dead man.  It’s true.  Carpenter was declared “dead” by the officials at an Afghan field hospital and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  Although he was revived by the medical teams, he should have breathed his last because of the wounds he sustained on November 21, 2010.

            It was on that day that Carpenter and another Marine were stationed on the roof of a building during a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.  Manning his machine gun, Carpenter saw an enemy hand grenade land near their position.

            Rather than running away from the grenade, Carpenter ran toward it and used his body to shield his comrade.  The blast collapsed one of his lungs, destroyed his jaw, cost him an eye, and shattered his body in a horrible manner.  His injuries kept him in the hospital for almost two and a half years.

            Still, it should be noted this once-dead man is now leading a most exceptional life.

            Carpenter says, “The enemy killed me.  I came back, ran a marathon, completed a mud run, and jumped from a plane.”

            He didn’t mention the fact he has also thrown out the opening pitch at a Padres baseball game, and he has also stopped by the White House where the president has bestowed on him the Medal of Honor, the highest military award America can bestow.

            Reading Carpenter’s story, I was reminded of our Savior who sacrificed Himself so that those who believe on Him would be forgiven and saved.  Rather than running from death and saving Himself, Jesus dedicated Himself to the cause of offering His life so we might live.

            Now, because of the risen Redeemer’s gracious and selfless sacrifice, believers are freed from sin’s condemnation and are given new lives—lives that are filled with blessing and hope.  Looking past His resurrection, Jesus shared the purpose of His work when He said in John 10:10b, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

            And if you’re wondering how we who have been given an abundant life ought to respond to this great blessing of salvation, I would reply that our thanks will not come in the form of a most honored medal.  No, our response ought to be shown when we join our voices with the multitudes in heaven who say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (See Revelations 5:12.)

            --Submitted by Chris Troester, Elder

MOMS: SUPER HEROES

What thoughts come to your mind when you think of the word “mother”?  While we could easily define the actual word itself to mean caregiver, female parent, or child-bearer; this Mother’s Day, like all others, we ponder more on the love, commitment, and dedication of a mother. The devotion for this month of May focuses on those wonderful ladies in our lives that we, fondly, call “mom”.

What fond memories do you have when you think of your mother?  For me, it was having her at home in the morning before school, and after school, who would give me a reassuring hug for the day.  The unforgettable aroma of a roast cooking in the oven with mashed potatoes and gravy lingers in my mind to this day.  The recollection of a firm, but needed, warning when I had pushed the boundaries is something that I’d rather not remember.  But, most of all, it was the assurance that she was there for me when I needed her.

The birth of Christ lifted motherhood to the next level and idealized it for all time for His mother, Mary, and all other earthly mothers. The last thing Jesus did on the Cross was to entrust His mother to John "the beloved" as his special inheritance. What a woman is today, and what she is in particular in her motherhood, she owes wholly to the importance in the family in which the Scriptures have placed her.

I don’t think I could have expressed additional thoughts on mothers any better than to include this devotion from the Lutheran Hour Ministries May, 2012 edition entitled, “ Superheroes”.

"Superheroes”

May 13, 2012

Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.  From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.  Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.  Psalm 22:9-11

Superheroes are supposed to wear a cape.

            The superheroes I'm talking about today are pretty well disguised. True, they may seem to be like everyone else. They're not. The superhero we call "mom," using only two eyes, manages to see all the things that escape the rest of us. Sitting at the kitchen table, helping her second-grader with his homework, she can see in the living room her three-year-old, trying to stuff a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into the VCR.

Like the rest of us, these mothers have two lips, but those lips, when pressed to the forehead of an ill child, can accurately record a temperature to within a tenth of a degree. They can heal any wound that doesn't call for stitches. They can, with a smile, brighten up the darkest day, and bring down heaven's wrath upon the tot who is bent on misbehaving. The mother we're talking about has only two ears, but she can hear the silence that says something is not right in her baby's bedroom. They can pick up the first whimper of a child who is coming down with a cold. Like a patriot missile, they can zone in on a bad word that was spoken a half mile away. Mom's brain is different, too. She can hear your thoughts and knows when you're giving her lip, even when your lips aren't moving. They know when you haven't scrubbed your face, even when you wet the washrag. They know who started the argument, and who pushed whom, first. Moms know. I don't know how they know, but they know.

            The only shortcoming moms seem to have is they sometimes creatively stretch the truth.  They can be up all night changing the bed sheets and pajamas of two children who have the flu, but still say they "slept just fine." When there are six members in the family and only five ice cream bars, they say that, in recent months, they've developed an allergy to dairy products. Moms also can say they don't mind their birthday being forgotten, or getting a new waffle iron for a 25th anniversary. Moms have a whole list of excuses why their children are too busy to call them on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. "After all, my children are very busy, and they do have lives of their own."  Saying this is hard for them to pull off, but moms say it with that tone that says you'd better not challenge them.

Mothers are special. No one can argue it; no one can deny it, or debate it. But as special as mothers are, I would like to spend a few moments talking to you about an exceptional subspecies of the maternal: I want to talk about the Christian mother. Christian mothers are unique. They are exceptional -- not because of any personal quality they naturally possess, or because of any extraordinary gene they've inherited. Christian mothers are unique because they know Jesus. Knowing Jesus means that Christian mothers see the world differently; they react differently; they behave differently; they hope differently. Every aspect of their lives is changed because they know Jesus and they believe His holy Word. Christian moms are special because they want their children to know the Savior, just as they do. And that is cause for thanksgiving.

WE PRAY:  Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of mothers, and especially our Superhero Christian mothers.  Give them strength and encouragement as they carry out their responsibilities each day, and keep them mindful of your loving presence in their lives.  We pray that your Will be done in the Name of the Savior who loves us with a greater love than mom.  Amen.

                        --Joe Rinella, Board of Elders

AN UNCHANGING CHRIST IN AN
EVER CHANGING WORLD

            Dear friends in Christ, have you ever noticed how rapidly things change in our world today? Think of how much the automobile has changed in the last few years. Our computers and the software we use are already out of date by the time it is put into production; by that time someone has already developed something faster and better.

           Some of us probably remember the old comic strip “Dick Tracy,” and they had the two-way wrist radio with a picture. Well, today we have them, 50 or 60 years later. This shows us that man's knowledge is very limited and we develop very slowly.  In contrast to that thought, how wonderful is it that our Heavenly Father, when He created this universe from His Word and us in His image, He already knew all that we would need for life. In the book of John, Chapter 1, verses 1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John goes on in verse 14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” With this said, how wonderful is it that Christ being the beginning and the end, the “alpha and omega,” came into this world to be one of us to take our place to suffer the punishment for our sinful life.  Through the last 2000 years since Christ's coming to fulfill the promise of salvation given to Adam in the book of Genesis, many have attempted to change or “upgrade” the plan put forth by our Saviour.

Five hundred years ago a monk by the name of Martin Luther was so distraught by his inability to secure salvation according to the rules set forth by the leaders of the church at the time. He began to discover that God's plan for our salvation came solely as a gift of His grace and mercy. This gift was not something that could be earned by works, money or any feeble attempts on our part. Again in the book of John chapter 14 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  How wonderful and amazing can this be, that the God who created the universe by His Word, who is just and Holy, would sacrifice his beloved Son to wipe out our sin and make us heirs to His kingdom forever.  In our present day world of constant change, some to be applauded, some to be feared, it is comforting to know that our Heavenly Father's love for his children has not changed or wavered since the beginning of time, and He watches over us and protects us always.

There is a song out on Christian radio currently named “One Thing Remains.”  In it is a line singing praise to God that goes, “Your Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”  God's love, His promise of salvation, unchanged for thousands of years, STILL REMAINS UNCHANGED.  Fortunately for us, our salvation is not dependent on technological upgrades or the limited knowledge of mankind.  For Your great mercy and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose again on the third day, thereby securing our salvation and a place with You at Your Heavenly table, we are forever grateful.    

            We pray:  Heavenly Father we humbly ask that you send Your Holy Spirit to guide us and keep us steadfast in Your Word and promise, that we may not fall prey to those who would have us believe in the next new lie this world has to offer. Guard and protect us and our loved ones from the pitfalls we encounter.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

                        --Norman Baldwin, Board of Elders

DECIDING TO GIVE, NOT RECEIVE

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  (2 Cor. 9:11)

Many young men dream of playing in the NFL.  They are willing to make almost any sacrifice for it and then jump at the chance to achieve it.  They seek for themselves riches and glory.  Keith Fitzhugh was no different...and yet he was totally different. 

A star football player in college, he played in the NFL with the Jets and the Ravens.  It was his dream come true.  Then he was cut by the Ravens and returned home to Georgia to pursue another dream and took a job with the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

After being out of pro football, he was presented with an opportunity to return, when the Jets invited him back.  Even though it was a potential Super Bowl team, Keith declined.  He liked his railroad job and felt it was his responsibility to avoid being selfish. He felt that he was rich in many ways, and he also wanted to be generous toward his parents.

With his father disabled and unable to work, his family needed the regular paycheck and ongoing benefits that Keith’s job provided. Supporting his struggling parents was more important to him than gambling on a chance at a Super Bowl ring. He set aside the pursuit of individual riches so he could help his parents.

God has given us all a variety of riches.  He has done it so we can do good for others and promote happiness around us.  By seeking ways to do this, we are glorifying Him and offering up thanksgiving to Him.  We are actually sowing seeds of goodness that will take root in others, enabling them to reach out to those who may be floundering and lost.   

           What better way to give thanks to God?

Thinking of others instead of himself, using the riches God gave him to help his parents, Keith Fitzhugh showed himself to be a winner.  Foregoing pursuit of his dream in order to support his parents shows the belief that it’s better to give than to receive, that riches from God are meant to be shared.

Heavenly Father,

Help us to recognize the opportunities you provide us for glorifying you by helping others.  Help us to use the riches you give us to assist and support those who need it.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Ron Zluticky, Board of Elders

PRAYER OR WORRY?

We have just wound down our Lenten, Holy Week, and Easter season of the church year when we ponder and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only a few months earlier we celebrated the birth of Christ, God’s only Son, to be born into this world as one of us, to live as one of us and to die on the cross as the Sacrificial Lamb in our place so we might have eternal life with Him in Heaven. Now to the point of this devotion: Many of us enjoy relatively good health, and for that we should give thanks to the Lord every day, but many of us have health concerns or have friends or relatives with serious health concerns. Quite a few of us have suffered loss of a loved one or of a good friend recently. All of these things weigh heavily on our hearts. We pray constantly to our Heavenly Father, asking Him to relieve our/their suffering and pain, and to bring healing and comfort to those in need. Our called staff spends much of their time during the week assisting, visiting and helping many in our congregation. You need only look at the prayer list in the bulletin on Sunday or the Prayer Warrior newsletter to get an idea of how many people in our congregation are in need or are suffering. Seeing all this pain and suffering, we could very easily begin to wonder if God really cares or even hears our prayers.  We need to be wary of these thoughts because this is how the evil one can begin to chip away at our faith and cause doubts to form in our minds.
            Matthew 6:25-34 gives us a clear account of how much the Lord really cares about us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
             If we think back on the Christmas story we realize how our Heavenly father sent his only son to become one of us. He suffered all the things we go through being human, so He knows our pain and suffering. He chose to heal the sick, the lame, those with troubled hearts, and those possessed with demons. He took our sins to the cross of Calvary so we would be able to inherit eternal life. Be assured He hears our prayers, he understands our pain and He will deliver us from this sin-stricken world to the place he has prepared for us in Heaven.

--Submitted by Norman Baldwin

Baptism

 
Romans 6:3-5 – 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
 
With the recent birth of my first grandson, I’ve had the occasion to think a lot about his upcoming baptism.  As a family, we’ve been discussing the attributes of Christian sponsors, gathering up information concerning the availability of key family and friends, and looking forward to the day when God will welcome our little baby Luke into His Forever Family.  
 
It is especially interesting to think about baptism during the season of Lent.  Every year, as we follow Christ’s journey to the cross, I find it very moving and meaningful for me as a Christian.  It helps remind me of my weaknesses, my flaws, my own personal contributions to His suffering, and ultimately of my sinful human nature.  Every year, it is good for me to be reminded of my desperate need for a Savior, and of just how incredibly helpless I am to save myself from sin.  And yet, it is exactly this recognition of our helpless state that is the key to our having the fullest appreciation for His Great Works.  
 
Yes, the season of Lent reminds us of our sinful human nature, our inability to help ourselves, and our need for a Savior.  What an amazing gift it is then, that despite the fact that we are so helpless to contain our sin, our God still loves and forgives us through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  
Likewise, what an amazing gift of forgiveness, life and salvation He gives us in our Baptism.  Just as we are unable to contribute to our salvation today, in our Baptism, God sees us in our helplessness and cleanses us through Water and Word.  And just as the Apostle Paul tells us, through this same Baptism, He also connects us to His resurrection and assures us of an everlasting life in Heaven.
 
When our children are small and helpless, we care for their every physical need, and we care for their spiritual needs by bringing them to the baptismal font.  Our Heavenly Father cares for us for eternity through his miraculous plan of salvation.  This Easter Sunday, let us all remember that it is our baptism that unites us to Christ in his Glorious Resurrection as we proclaim “He is Risen!!  He is Risen Indeed!!”
--Pat Pijanowski, Board of Elders

DECIDING TO GIVE, NOT RECEIVE

 
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  (2 Cor 9:11)
 
Many young men dream of playing in the NFL.  They are willing to make almost any sacrifice for it, then jump at the chance to achieve it.  They seek for themselves riches and glory.  Keith Fitzhugh was no different...and yet he was totally different.  
A star football player in college, he played in the NFL with the Jets and the Ravens.  It was his dream come true.  Then he was cut by the Ravens and returned home to Georgia to pursue another dream, and took a job with the Norfolk Southern Railroad. 
After being out of pro football, he was presented with an opportunity to return, when the Jets invited him back.  Even though it was a potential Super Bowl team, Keith declined.  He liked his railroad job and felt it was his responsibility to avoid being selfish. He felt that he was rich in many ways, and he also wanted to be generous toward his parents.
With his father disabled and unable to work, his family needed the regular paycheck and ongoing benefits that Keith’s job provided. Supporting his struggling parents was more important to him than gambling on a chance at a Super Bowl ring. He set aside the pursuit of individual riches so he could help his parents.
God has given us all a variety of riches.  He has done it so we can do good for others and promote happiness around us.  By seeking ways to do this, we are glorifying Him and offering up thanksgiving to Him.  We are actually sowing seeds of goodness that will take root in others, enabling them to reach out to those who may be floundering and lost.  What better way to give thanks to God?
Thinking of others instead of himself, using the riches God gave him to help his parents, Keith Fitzhugh showed himself to be a winner.  Foregoing pursuit of his dream in order to support his parents shows the belief that it’s better to give than to receive, that riches from God are meant to be shared.
 
Heavenly Father,
Help us to recognize the opportunities you provide us for glorifying you by helping others.  Help us to use the riches you give us to assist and support those who need it.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
 
Ron Zluticky, Board of Elders

Glad to Obey

 
As I read this devotion I found a refreshing reminder we are to be about His work. Let’s all be “employed.”
Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries                    By: Pastor Ken Klaus
"Glad to Obey"
 
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:2-3
In the business districts of some of our large cities there are times the fastest way to get a message to another location is by using a courier. 
 
A courier was what a lawyer needed to deliver some contracts to another firm five blocks away. Necessity dictated those contracts be there before closing time, less than an hour later. Unfortunately, no couriers were available, and all remaining office personnel were needed at their posts.
 
That was when the lawyer remembered the man outside of the building. The scruffy-looking fellow had been there for two weeks. The card in front of him said he was hungry.  The lawyer raced out to the man and offered him $50 to deliver the contracts. Having heard the offer, the unemployed fellow took a deep breath, stood up straight, and made his offended reply: "Sir, I sit here to beg, not to deliver contracts!"
 
Now there are a lot of legitimate reasons to be unemployed. You may be unemployed because your job has been taken over by a machine, or because your company moved, or because you are no longer qualified to do a job, which has been redefined.  But not wanting to be employed should never be considered to be legitimate.
 
That was something Jonah found out. When God said, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it" (see Jonah 1:1-3), Jonah went the other way because he wanted to remain unemployed.
 
You know the rest of the story, and you remember when "the Word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time" (see Jonah 3:1-3), Jonah obeyed and went.
 
So, what is your reaction when the Lord gives you a job to do? Would you, like Jonah--like our beggar -- prefer to remain in the ranks of the unemployed? Certainly, it is easier. It is more comfortable and convenient.  But it is not God-pleasing.
 
Can you imagine your future if Jesus had adopted such an attitude? What would our eternity be if Jesus had said, "No, thank You!" when the Father told Him to become a Man, so He might live, suffer and die to save sinful humanity?
 
Thankfully, Jesus said, "Yes," and He accomplished all that was necessary to save us. Now it is our turn to say "Yes" to God's commands -- not because we have to, not because we need to, not even because it's the right thing to do.
 
Christians obey God's commands because they can't help themselves. It's true! Gladly, willingly, cheerfully, we obey because it pleases the Lord who loves us so very much.
 
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, Jesus gave Himself for me. May I who have been redeemed by His great love, live for Him. This I ask in the Redeemer's Name. Amen. 
 
--Bob Nelson, Board of Elders

ENTERTAINING ANGELS

 
 
I try to read my “Portals of Prayer” booklet on a daily basis.  In this quarter’s publication, the devotion for Monday, November 5th seemed to really catch my attention; the title… “Entertaining Angels”.   Since you may not have your “Portals of Prayer,” I decided to re-print a portion of this devotion written by Bradley R. Stoltenow, Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
“In the city where I was a vicar, there was a large maximum security prison.   Inmates were readily identified by blue jeans, blue shirts with a number, and brown work boots.  On release, the newly freed received a one-way bus ticket and strict instructions to leave town.
On the way out of church one day, I saw such a blue clad fellow sitting in the choir loft.  Quickly, I told my supervisor we should banish him from the sanctuary.   Pastor Campbell’s cautionary response to me was to be hospitable, as you never know when you are entertaining an angel…”
How often have we, as Christians, encountered a person, a total stranger to us, and have been too busy to take the time to listen, lend a helpful hand, try to help and share the love of God.  We just have too many things on our plates. 
A similar encounter happened to me this past weekend.  A stranger with a small dog approached me with a request.  I was by myself, startled and was totally speechless.   I was unable to think of, or to provide a good solution to his request.  After the stranger left, I remembered Matthew 25:40, which reads:  “And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Was my experience a “special” visit?   Was my action representative of a Christian, sharing the love of God?  I will always wonder.
As the Christmas season rapidly approaches, one never knows the paths traveled and/or burdens carried by another member of God’s family or how hard or difficult those travels may be.  As I connect with my family and God’s people that I come in contact with daily, I will try to listen more carefully, willing to lend a helping hand, a kind word of support or the opportunity to just be a friend when needed… as you never know when you are entertaining an angel.
Prayer:  Dear Lord, use me as a witness to those in need.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.
 
   --Jim Hensiek, Board of Elders
 

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

 
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” a hymn we sing every year at the end of October on Reformation Sunday, was written by Dr Martin Luther around the early 1500 's. It has been called the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation” for the effect it had on the reformers cause. There are several theories about its origin.  One was that it was sung by Luther and his companions as they entered Worms on April 16, 1521, for the Diet. Another was that it was sung by the German Lutheran princes as they entered Augsburg for the Diet in 1530 at which the Augsburg Confession was presented. There were others, but that is enough history for now. 
 
“Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott,” Luther's paraphrase of Psalm 46, is a very powerful statement of Faith. I know we sing this hymn with lots of gusto and enthusiasm, but do we really think of the meaning of the words? 
 
Verse 1: “A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon”--just think of how powerful and mighty the creator of Heaven and earth is and how we can rely on Him to fight our battles. “He helps us free from every need that has now overtaken us”-- the things we stress about, the worries that keep us awake at night, those things that are beyond our control (the things that take over and seem to rule our lives). “The old evil foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; on earth is not his equal.” He's out there, he is sneaky, cunning, a master of deception, the father of all lies and with the new technology available today he has so many new tools at his disposal. 
 
Verse 2: “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected”; we don't have the strength or the ability to fight him on our own. “But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God himself elected. Ask ye who is this? Jesus Christ it is. Of Sabaoth Lord, and there's none other God; He holds the field forever.” Our Heavenly Father sent His only Son to be our Savior, to save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil; He controls the battlefield forever.
 
Verse 3: “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us. We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us. This world's prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he's judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him.” Even though this world is filled with evil, danger, snares and stumbling blocks, we don't have to live in fear because he really doesn't have the last word. Because Christ suffered and died on the cross for our sins, was buried, descended into hell, defeated Satan, rose again on the third day, we have a mighty and powerful weapon on our side; that is the name of Jesus Christ our Savior  (the one “little word” that can defeat the devil). Just think of how powerful a “faith statement” this hymn portrays!
 
Final verse #4 “The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it; He's by our side upon the plain with his good gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.” Know that the Word of God will remain true and stand strong through time, even when there are those who wish to disprove and destroy it. Be confident that no matter what the world can throw at us, He is by our side with His good gifts of Grace, Mercy, and Salvation, also His Holy Spirit to guide us, strengthen and comfort us, and above all there is no power that can take the Kingdom of God from us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to you in the name of your precious Son Jesus Christ asking that You send your Holy Spirit to guide us and help us remain firmly grounded in your Holy Word, and remain focused on the Light of Christ in our daily lives that we may reflect that light on to others trapped in this sin-darkened world that they may be filled with your peace that surpasses all understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
   --Norman Baldwin, Board of Elders
 

REAPERS, OR JUST SOWERS?

 
Late spring & early summer, arguably a favorite time of the year for many of us.  The dreary days of winter have gone, everything around us is bursting into bloom --- flowers, trees, etc. etc.
So what happens?  If you are like me, you get the bug to begin your summer gardening.  A trip to the farm supply store or gardening center for seeds, tomato plants, etc., then we plant our seeds and hopefully they will begin to grow and produce the fruits that we long for.  Last year I told many friends that my tomatoes were the best I’ve ever grown.  Was it just a twist of fate, or did I actually have a hand in their growth?   I actually prepared the soil well, planted the plants, picked off the “suckers” from the plants, applied fertilizer and watered regularly, and guess what!  Abundant and very nice tomatoes!
But I must admit that there have been times that I purchased the seed and then laid it on my workbench in the garage and forgot about it.  Do you know what happened?  Absolutely nothing!!!
The very same thing happens to our spiritual life.  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us “To everything there is a season …. a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”  For all of us, our salvation begins with a seed.  Some of us were fortunate to have our seed nurtured with regular attendance at church, Sunday School or Parochial school, good and faithful parents, etc.  However, some of us did not have our seed nurtured until later, and some have never had their seed nurtured. 
Here at BSLC we are blessed.  On April 27 seven youth were confirmed in their Lutheran faith.  If you read the worship folder that Sunday, you will notice that for some of them the seed was nurtured from infancy, but for several of them it was not until later in their youth.  Since January 1, 2012, we have had 10 children and 5 adults baptized and 10 adult confirmations.  It behooves us all to be good stewards and assist all of these in their spiritual growth with our Christian care and love in addition to encouraging them to participate in regular Word and Sacrament ministry --- a seed will stop growing without nourishment.   We need to follow the examples set for us by master gardeners Pastors Schwartz and Gruen and DCE Korey Danley to develop these seeds of salvation.
Our salvation is like a tree that begins with a seed.  When the seed germinates it reaches down to cracks and crevices that may be buried deep in our souls.  That searching seed finds nourishment that begins to grow branches that produce fruit that now produces new seeds.
2 Corinthians 9:6 tells us “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  The fruit that is produced is capable of producing more seeds that seek their own pathway to salvation.  
 
Bob Dustman, Elder
 

DOES EVERYONE KNOW YOU ARE
A CHRISTIAN?

I am a police officer. My job comes with many inherent dangers both on and off duty. As you may know, a lot of people don't appreciate what the police do. Some people even hate the police and want to hurt officers and their families. My main concern off duty is to protect my family; therefore, I try to keep what I do for a living a secret. I have even gone to the point of telling people that I do something else for a living. It brings to mind an interesting point, though. How many times do we conceal the fact that we are a Christian? Even if we don't conceal it, how often do we just “forget to mention it” or even sometimes just plain deny it?

The fact that we may deny being a Christian or conceal the fact that we are is as old as Christianity itself. After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus.

The Bible tells us that we should proclaim the word of Jesus to all people. In Mark Chapter 16 Verse 15, Jesus tells his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” This, at times, can be a difficult calling. It's easy to come to church every week and speak freely about Christ when we are surrounded by like minded people. It's a lot harder to talk to our non-Christian friends at work or in our neighborhoods. It can be a tense subject for some people to talk about or hear about.

But, how do we change this about ourselves? How do we make ourselves talk about a subject that is becoming less and less socially acceptable? How do we know what to say when an opportunity presents itself? In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what to say because they will not be using their own words. Jesus tells them, and us, that the spirit will speak through them.

There are definitely some people out there who are better about speaking the Word than others. There are some, including Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani in Iran, who are willing to proclaim the Word of the Lord in the face of certain death. People like Yousef should be looked at as a great inspiration to the rest of us. If he is willing to risk his life to speak the Gospel, are you willing to risk losing a friendship or perhaps even a family member because they don't like or agree with what you are saying?

It is our responsibility to tell “all nations” about Jesus Christ. This is a responsibility that we should take very seriously. Romans Chapter 1 Verse 16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  We should never hide the fact that we are Christians, and we should make a point of sharing the Gospel with everyone that we meet.

There have been times when I have been with my family that I have made extra sure that I was careful that no one around us knew what I do for a living. I am embarrassed to admit it, but there have also been times where people around me did not know I am a Christian based on what I was doing or saying.

Matthew Chapter 10 tells us, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” I challenge all of us to boldly proclaim the Gospel at all times and in all places regardless of what people might think or how we think they will react to us.

Benjamin Micheel

Board of Elders

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Consider this:

  • General Douglas MacArthur was turned down for admission to West Point not once but twice.  But he tried a third time, was accepted and marched into the history books.
  • Basketball superstar Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
  • While turning down the British rock group called the Beatles, one executive of Delta Recording Company said, "We don't like their sound.  Groups of guitars are on the way out."

There's a story about the devil, who was having a yard sale, and all of his tools were marked with different prices.  There was hatred, jealousy, deceit, lying, and pride -- all at expensive prices.  But over to the side of the yard on display was a tool more obviously worn than any of the other tools.  It was also the most costly.  The tool was labeled, DISCOURAGEMENT. 

When questioned, the Devil said, "It's more useful to me than any other tool.  When I can't bring down my victims with any of the rest of these tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize that it belongs to me."

What do you do when faced with obstacles?  Life is full of challenges and disappointments, isn't it?  Large and small, personal or professional.....sometimes it seems they just keep on coming, one right after the other.  All of us live through good times and bad.  And occasionally, when the bad times have outlasted our patience, we find ourselves indulging in a bit of self-pity and muttering, "Life just can't be easy, can it?"  Or worse yet, we might even dare to ask, "Why Lord?  Why me?  Why my loved one?  How long must this go on?  Have you abandoned me?"

Well, my friends, it's especially at times like these that it becomes tempting to question God's presence in our lives.  Left to our own devices, we all become frustrated and discouraged at times.  And yet, it is precisely at these times that we all need to look to scripture for strength and encouragement.  Recall God's words to Joshua after the death of Moses, and as he was now faced with God's command to lead His people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) 

After surviving the hardships that the early settlers endured in making their way westward, Franciscan monks finally became the first ones to systematically grow grapes in California.  One year, there was a terrible drought and the grapes withered on the vine.  It appeared they would lose everything they had.  But some of them took those withered grapes to town and sold them as "Peruvian delicacies."  Thus the California raisin industry was born.

When it looks like obstacles are everywhere, when it feels like discouragement is the tool you bought at the devil’s yard sale, don't give up.  Persist in prayer, listen for God's will in your life, and move forward in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

"For surely I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

            --Pat Pijanowski, Board of Elders