Friday, December 28, 2012


My times are in your hands (Psalm 31:15).

When, but on New Year’s Eve, is the world so focused upon time? To be sure, alarm clocks are set and calendars are consulted all through the year. But never does time receive as much united attention as when the minutes, then seconds, are counted off to mark the end of one year, and the start of the next.

Turning to a new calendar year seldom brings an instant major change in life—no more than a person’s birthday does. But, like a birthday, New Years is a marker in life. Decades from now someone will say, “Remember in 2012…?”, just as some folks now ask, “Remember in 1957…?” or, “Remember in 1981…?”

Whether the year comes to an end with sober reflection, or by being anything but sober, no one misses the fact that another year has passed. Another whole year! What was that year like? Will we remember it with fondness or sorrow? Did we meet the expectations we had set for ourselves? Was it a year to be proud of—or not? Does remembrance of the year bring mixed feelings? Many do.

What about next year? What will be written in our Book of Life by the time 2014 rolls to the top of the calendar list? How many weddings will we attend? How many funerals? Who will be missing from our circle of loved ones 12 months from now? And, just how many New Years do we have left?

50 years ago a group of teenagers chatted about the coming year, and what they thought future years would bring them. They had the usual dreams, and the usual unrealistic expectations. They didn’t claim to know the future, but they were quite certain it would be exciting. One of them was especially excited about something that President Kennedy had recently done. He told his friends all about the newly formed Green Berets. He predicted that one day we would see him wearing one of those green hats.

That never happened. He did end up in the Army. He was drafted. He reached the rank of sergeant. In Vietnam he won some medals. In Vietnam he lost the use of one leg—and part of his mind. That’s when time pretty much stopped for him. Visit him today, and he will talk about his hope of becoming a Green Beret next year—in 1963!

Who would have thought? Who would have expected? Who knew? God.

The Sergeant is all right, even though his memory has skipped 50 years. The New Year will also be all right for him. The same Lord who held him in his hands ever since his Baptism, the same Lord who shielded him from death in combat, that One will guard and keep him until the final second of his earthly life is counted off. After all, his times are in God’s hands.

And so are ours!

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military

Friday, December 21, 2012

The First Christmas Was Not a Currier and Ives Moment

How would you react if you read in this e-mail that on Sunday, to recreate a more realistic understanding of the first Christmas, that we would be having several barnyard animals in the church during the worship service? In all probability, you might very well consider not attending. It wouldn’t be due to bad motives, but who wants to go to church and put up with cows, sheep, goats, etc. with the noises and smells they make? We like things clean, pleasant and quick. Interestingly, when God came to this earth nothing about his entrance was remotely like that.

Now don’t worry! The only animals in church this Sunday will be the ceramic figures which make up the Nativity scenes decorating our sanctuary. But the point about the messiness of Christmas is something we should more seriously consider. There was nothing sentimental about Christ’s birth. Rather, a more descriptive word would be “shocking”. God himself becomes a human being in the most humiliating circumstances and from a human point of view, things don’t get much better throughout the years of his time on this earth – which all points to the seriousness of this season. The purpose of his coming was not to produce a warm and fuzzy feeling. If that had been the case, God would have rained egg nog on us. No, humanity needed the surgical procedure of being freed from the power of sin and death. And this surgery could only be done by the Son of God himself through his death and resurrection.

If we do not understand the reason for Christ’s coming, there is no reason for any type of sentimental joy during this time of the year. For then we are left with only the crushing prospect of facing death in the cold winter of our lives. The joy of Christmas is in its messiness. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) for a much needed serving of that Christmas joy.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Relief on the Way

It would be called the Battle of the Bulge. But those in the 101st Airborne and 10th Armor, caught in the vise of the Wehrmacht amidst the snow and freezing weather of December, cared little about what their struggle would be labeled. They thought only of the need for other U.S. troops to break through. With food and ammunition running low, they prayed for relief.
When their commander said “Nuts!” to the German demand for surrender, the sound of chuckling spread through the hunkered down units. But, bold words would mean little if the weather did not break, if supplies could not get through, and if the relief column did not arrive. The arrival of Patton’s Third Army and clear skies, allowing supplies and bombs to be dropped, brought shouts of joy. That night the sky lit up with the fire of American weaponry.
We might wonder why some of the Scripture readings for the weeks before Christmas talk about Judgment Day. Warnings of impending destruction seem out of harmony with a season of peace and joy. But, not to those who understand the reality of the times!
The forests of the Ardennes seemed like a beautiful place to spend Christmas—until the enemy opened fire. The reality was that those troops were in danger. They were outnumbered by a powerful and desperate foe.
Is it not the same for us? No matter how beautifully decorated the landscape, no matter the warmth of friendship, and in spite of how safe we feel, the reality is that a dedicated, demonic enemy surrounds us, and plans his final push against us. If we fail, if we fall, all is lost. It is a troubling thought.
Satan and his forces were defeated at Golgotha. But they remain a threat. They have become insurrectionists, looking for easy targets. They are experts at disinformation. They bribe with promises of fun, fame, and money if we give up our fight against them. We are tempted. Doubts and fears, troubles and heartaches can make us wonder if we really are the rescued of God, if he really will deliver us from evil. Often, it does not seem like it. It would be so easy to give in. We start looking for a white flag.
To Christian warriors, to those struggling to hold out against the assaults of the enemy, the word comes, “Hold on! Hold out! Your relief is coming!” The blazing Glory of the Lord that once lit up over fields of Bethlehem will appear again. The Victor will return.
Christmas declares: “Jesus is coming again!” Then, this world, with all of its conflicts, will end. For the faithful Christian warrior, that is not a threat. It is a relief!

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer

If you would like to subscribe to Pastor Ziemer’s weekly messages, please click here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What Non-Christians Really Think About Christians

By Thom Rainer • 11/07/2012 in Outreach Magazine

These surprising insights about what non-Christians think of Christians can profoundly impact your outreach.
One of my greatest joys in research is talking to and listening to those who clearly identify themselves as non-Christians. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not celebrating their absence of faith in Christ. My joy comes from listening to those who don’t believe as I do, so that I might be better equipped to witness to them.
Over the past several years, my research teams and I have interviewed thousands of unchurched non-Christians. Among the more interesting insights I gleaned were those where the interviewees shared with me their perspectives of Christians.
In this article, I group the seven most common types of comments in order of frequency. I then follow that representative statement with a direct quote from a non-Christian. Read these comments and see if you learn some of the lessons I learned.

1. Christians are against more things than they are for.
“It just seems to me that Christians are mad at the world and mad at each other. They are so negative that they seem unhappy. I have no desire to be like them and stay upset all the time.”

2. I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian.
“I’m really interested in what they believe and how they carry out their beliefs. I wish I could find a Christian that would be willing to spend some time with me.”

3. I would like to learn about the Bible from a Christian.
“The Bible really fascinates me, but I don’t want to go to a stuffy and legalistic church to learn about it. I would be nice if a Christian invited me to study the Bible in his home or at a place like Starbucks.”

4. I don’t see much difference in the way Christians live compared to others.
“I really can’t tell what a Christian believes because he doesn’t seem much different than other people I know. The only exception would be Mormons. They really seem to take their beliefs seriously.”

5. I wish I could learn to be a better husband, wife, dad, mom, etc., from a Christian.
“My wife is threatening to divorce me, and I think she means it this time. My neighbor is a Christian, and he seems to have it together. I am swallowing my pride and asking him to help me.”

6. Some Christians try to act like they have no problems.
“Harriett works in my department. She is one of those Christians who seem to have a mask on. I would respect her more if she didn’t put on such an act. I know better.”

7. I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church.
“I really would like to visit a church, but I’m not particularly comfortable going by myself. What is weird is that I am 32-years old, and I’ve never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life.”

Do you see the pattern?
• Non-Christians want to interact with Christians.
• They want to see Christians’ actions match their beliefs.
• They want Christians to be real.

In one study we conducted, we found that only five percent of non-Christians are antagonistic toward Christians. It’s time to stop believing the lies we have been told. Jesus said it clearly: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Luke10:2).
Satan is the author of excuses. There is no reason to wait to reach those who don’t know Jesus Christ. We must go now. The harvest is waiting. And the Lord of the harvest has prepared the way.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What You Did Today Means More than You Can Ever Imagine

So how did the day go? Was it pretty routine? Just another day on the calendar crossed off? If your day was so forgettable, maybe you should ask yourself, “From whose point of view?” Maybe you think there was nothing special in the last 24 hours of your earthly existence, but that sure isn’t God’s perspective.

The certainty of a coming day of divine judgment adds a sense of urgency and importance to our daily lives which even Christians too often fail to appreciate. God is the God of eternity. He always has been and always will be. Time, as we know it, means nothing to him. Now this God of eternity has made it very clear in the Bible that his intention for human beings is for us to spend forever with him. If that is the case, why would he leave us here, in a mortal, limited existence when we could be experiencing something so much better?

Could it be that heaven is overcrowded and believers have to wait until God creates more space? Or maybe God is giving people a waiting period to make sure they really want to spend eternity with him? Hardly! The only reason Christians remain on this earth is to be God’s representatives among the people who have not yet come to know him as God and Savior. If you think the major issues of the day are paying the bills and having a little fun, think again. The Lord who made you and redeemed you has you here to touch the lives of people with the same love and compassion he has shown to you. That means, the forgettable day which just passed actually had eternal consequences for someone’s life in addition to your own.

The reality of Judgment Day demands that we rethink what our daily lives are all about. Are you ready to start living from God’s point of view? Join us this weekend for one of our services and begin to see your day-to-day life from a spectacularly different vantage point.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Can You Make the Bible Say Whatever You Want?

Absolutely! You can use the Bible to support just about any viewpoint. Take a phrase or sentence out of context, tweak the meaning of a word and … presto, a person can use the Bible to claim that Jesus is coming back to take us to heaven in a spaceship! Every day, people use the words of others in ways the original speaker or author never intended—just think of the recent presidential and vice-presidential debates. It isn’t hard to manipulate another’s words to one’s advantage. However, this does not mean that what the person intended to communicate wasn’t clear. And that is what is so important to remember when it comes to interpreting the Bible.

There are people who give the impression that the message of the Bible is so vague, so open, that there is no single, specific way to understand what it means. They claim everyone can interpret Scripture in their own unique manner and no one has the right to say that particular interpretation is wrong.

If you have read the Bible at all, you know that it isn’t that hard to figure out. If we follow a few simple and practical rules of interpretation as we read the Bible, we’ll see the meaning of even some of the more difficult passages begin to open up. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) as we discover together how we can read the Bible and be sure we are getting the meaning God intended when he inspired the original writers. If God has spoken to the human race through the Bible, could anything be more important?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life’s Not about Feelings, It’s about Jesus

Most non-Christian people explain their lack of interest in Christianity very simply—they just don’t feel they need it. It's not that they have done an exhaustive study of Christ’s life and teaching. It’s not an intellectual decision they’ve made. Instead, their choice is emotional. At the particular point of time in their life that they find themselves, they feel they are better off without an involvement with Christ, Christianity, or Christians.

The real question, however, is "What is true?" The New Testament doesn‘t present Jesus Christ from an emotional point of view. Its message is not, “Believe in Jesus so that you will feel the way you want.” Rather, in very straightforward and plain terms, the writers of the New Testament claim they are presenting the historical event of God becoming a human being for the purpose of bringing human beings back into a right relationship with the God who created us. Jesus isn’t about feelings; Jesus is about truth. He’s about the way things are. He’s about making life into what God intends it to be.

This Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we will be examining the books of the New Testament, looking at the big picture of this section of the Bible. And to be honest, it’s all about Jesus. We are confronted by these greatest of all propositions: When you see Jesus, you see God. When you listen to Jesus, you are listening to God. Regardless of how we may feel about those claims, the only thing that matters is to find out if they are true. If they are, then there is no feeling we can experience that is worth walking away from him.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Story of the BIble: God Loves You, No Matter What

That’s a statement that could be abused, wouldn’t you say? Many people might react to it with this argument:

“If you tell people that God loves them regardless of what they do or how they live, they are going to treat Him like a doormat! They’re going to do what they want to do, no matter how bad, and then expect God to do good things for them. That’s not right! That’s not the way it is, or at least it shouldn’t be.”

There is a growing number of people in our culture who are angry, and maybe rightly so. They are angry that some people are not playing by the rules and seem to be getting away with it. The people who are angry, in many cases, could be called “good people”, in the sense that they work hard, pay their taxes, and live responsible lives. When other people don’t pull their weight and still expect the same benefits as those who do, the “good people” believe discipline is in order rather than aid. And they may have a point. But when it comes to God, no one can ever think His love shouldn’t be unconditional, that there is some standard of merit we should meet to earn it. Why? Because it just won’t happen. There will never be a human being who will deserve God’s love. The story of the Bible reflects exactly the statement: God loves you, no matter what.

If you feel that there are some people who need to shape up some before they deserve from God what you have been given, then you need to start reading the Bible more regularly and with greater attention. This Sunday we continue our series “Get to Know the Bible” with an overview of the Old Testament. What you will see is that not one person during that time deserved anything from God. Rather, this period of history is the story of God’s relentless pursuit of the human race—to offer people another chance to come back to him, to know him as “Father”, to live life as he intends.

There are no sweeter words to the human ear, no stronger message on which to build our lives, than this: “God loves you, no matter what.” Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) to hear what you won’t hear anywhere else; to hear what you need to hear.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The “How” Questions about the Bible

“How can I be sure the Bible is true?”

“How can I be sure that all the books of the Bible are the Word of God?”

“How can I be sure the Bible was accurately copied over the last 3,500 years?”

One thing you can be sure of, if you haven’t already asked yourself these questions, is that someone you know is going to confront you with them. Maybe that individual will be trying to pick a fight; maybe they will be sincerely looking for answers. The important thing is that you are prepared to respond.
When people asked Jesus tough questions, he never shied away from giving an answer. In fact, he encouraged people to ask the kind of questions which typically make us feel uncomfortable. As Christ’s followers, we need to equip ourselves to the best of our ability to be able to respond to the “how” questions people ask in regard to the Bible.
The Bible didn’t come to us by a divine special delivery. It didn’t fall from the sky. God wrote it for us by working through everyday, ordinary human beings like you and me. Maybe that’s why people have so many questions about the Bible. They wonder, “How could something written by people actually be the Word of God?” But God also left us with powerful evidences which ought to create in us the strong inclination to read his book. There are reasons—good reasons—to believe the Bible is exactly what it claims: God’s Word.
Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) as we explore the answers to the Bible's “how” questions. What you are going to find is, if you haven’t been reading The Book lately, you’re going to want to pick it up again—to listen to what God has to say to you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Wasted Life?

“Hey, how ya’ doing?”
Looking up from the TV, he said, “I’ve been better.”
It wasn’t a stellar beginning of a conversation, but it was enough to keep things going. He was in the hospital for drinking too much. When I asked what motivated him to magnify his intake of alcohol, he blandly replied, “That’s what I do.”
For the next 15 minutes or so we talked about a wide variety of subjects as I tried to find something that was even a little positive in his life. But it didn’t happen. His marriage had failed. His kids hated him. Every boss he ever worked for expected too much of him. His girlfriend stole his money. And, to top things off, he would be getting out of the hospital in a day or two with no place to go.
“What are you going to do when you get out of here?”
“Live in the streets. It can be done.”
Not really knowing what else to say, I asked, “And what about 'God stuff'. Think there’s anything to it?”
“I don’t know. He might be there, and he might not. I guess that’s the safe way to look at it.”
“Isn’t that like saying, ‘I’ve got $10 million dollars for you, but I’m not going to tell you where it is’?”
“That would stink, man.”
“Don’t you think that if there’s a chance God is out there, it might be worth it to find out about him?”
“Don’t preach to me. I won’t listen.” And then he ended the conversation, actually rather politely, with the words, “I’ve got to use the bathroom.”
Walking out, I turned to him and said, “I’m sorry.”
He looked surprised.
“This has been really depressing. I’m sorry."
He laughed. And life went on for him.
As I walked down the sterile white corridor, I couldn’t help but think of the old saying, “Only one life—it will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) as we focus on and celebrate the life worth living…for eternity.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What Have You Done that Will Last?

I built a gate out of wood recently. It is very apparent after only a week of existence that this gate has a limited life. The wood, which looked straight and true in the store, was wet. After a few days in the hot sun it warped. I console myself with the thought “It’s only temporary. I’ll come up with something better in the future.” But the future of this particular gate is certain—it will not last.

Several months ago my hard drive crashed. The computer technician looked at me and asked, “Is your stuff backed up?” I answered with a certain pride that I backed up my data automatically each week. Everyone knows that’s what a tech savvy person does. When I went to restore my files I found that my back up had not backed up the majority of ten years worth of work. For a few moments I thought I was in cardiac arrest. The even greater tragedy of the whole experience came when I realized how little my life had changed after losing all the material I had once considered so valuable. Life went on and very little changed. Apparently my work was not meant to last.

It is a humbling thing to look at our lives and realize that the vast majority of what we give our very best to will not last even the length of our life time. It either breaks, gets lost, becomes outdated or it loses its relevance.

There is a saying, “You can’t take it with you.” That’s only partially true. No, you can’t take your money or stocks or car with you into the afterlife. We must leave that all behind. But you will take the people you influenced for Christ with you. And you will spend eternity with them in the presence of the Lord. Do you think about life that way? Are you giving your best to what will last? Or are you too tired, too busy to lead others to Christ while you give your best efforts to stuff you’re going to give up anyway? Life is going fast. How do you want to spend it?

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Difference between Being the Person You Want to Be And the Person You Are Meant to Be

People talk a lot today about being “fulfilled”. “Fulfilled” probably has different meanings for different people, but a broad definition might be “having the kind of life you want without any major problems”. It’s understandable that all of us would like to have life on our terms. There would be something wrong if a person said, “I want a life in which I don’t get anything I want and everything I don’t want!” There is a big difference, however, between hoping for pleasant circumstances and making a god of them.

The frequently mentioned American Dream is that every generation will be better off financially than the previous one. Incredibly, this has pretty much happened since World War II. America has prospered to such an extent for so long, that we have come to expect that with each new generation our homes are going to be a little bit bigger, our cars a little more luxurious, our vacations a little more exotic and our health a little less problematic. Such spectacular material success has developed into the belief that each person deserves to have life as he/she desires.

When Jesus called his followers he said, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.” By using the powerful imagery of the Roman cross, Jesus made it very clear that to be his disciple meant giving up our wants and rights in order to become the person he intends us to be. Today, we use the word “discipleship” to describe this process. It is the Church’s great responsibility to help individual believers grow more like Christ in their walk through life. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) as we walk the path together which leads to becoming the people God means us to be.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Power of Presence

Have you been in a situation in which you didn't know what to do or say, but had the gut feeling that you needed to stay put? It's an uncomfortable experience. And yet, the fact that you were present probably made a significant difference. More and more we are discovering the importance of presence in relationships. Several years ago people started talking about "quality time" as the key to getting along with others. The reasoning went that it wasn't necessary to spend a lot of time with people, but when you were with them, it was critical to give them your undivided attention. Tragically, people started applying that strategy with disastrous results to their family relationships. Many individuals had to learn the hard way that quality time usually doesn't happen unless we are in the presence of that person for extended amounts of time. Important moments in relationships can't be manipulated or programmed. They normally happen unexpectedly because people have committed themselves and their time to each other.

If there is anywhere that the power of presence is necessary, it is within the Church of Jesus Christ. It is so easy to view the church as an institution to which we belong as participants. And so we think that if we aren't present, it's no big deal. On various occasions, however, Jesus called the Church his body, his bride and his family. Imagine what would happen to a body if the kidney or the heart decided not to do its job one day? What happens to a family if the husband or wife decides he/she doesn't feel like participating anymore? 

Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." The church is meant to be a living relationship laboratory where we learn how to get through life together in a distinctly Christian way. Our presence is necessary for three reasons. First, we need to learn to deal with others as Christ intends. Second, God uses us to work in the lives of other Christians so that they can develop Christian relationship skills. Third, together we are meant to be a witness to the world that Christ does make a difference in the way his people get along with each--a difference so powerful that it creates in people the desire to know more about him.

Exciting stuff, isn't it? But remember, it all begins by being present. We invite you to be present with us either Saturday at 6:00 pm or Sunday morning at 10:00 am.     

Friday, August 17, 2012

“If There Are No Cigars In Heaven, I Shall Not Go.” (Mark Twain)

Mark Twain had a way with words. Even though his statement, “If there are no cigars in heaven, I shall not go,” is pretty brash, it does make us smile. The issue for Twain, though,  probably wasn’t really cigars, but rather what we are going to do in heaven. People have the idea that eternal life is going to be one unending church service during which we’ll have to sit still on wooden pews, sing songs we don’t like and be preached at. Doesn’t sound much like Paradise, does it?

Not to worry! Even though we’re not sure exactly what we’ll be doing in heaven, we can be sure, we’re not going to be bored or disappointed for even a fraction of a second. But Twain’s statement and our caricature of heaven bring up a relevant question about worship. We have the idea that as Christians, worship is relegated to formal religious services which take place inside a church building. And because such religious services are not always the most earth shaking, our opinion concerning the value of worship in our lives is diminished.

The reason worship has always been a principle activity among believers, both during Old Testament and New Testament times, is that, far from being an isolated weekly event, worship is a dynamic way of life. Through worship God develops a personal and living relationship with us. This Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we are going to study what the Bible says about worship and its different roles in our lives. If you have the idea that worship is about “going to church”, join us for a study that will open your eyes to what God wants to do in your life.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why Are There So Many Churches?

One of the most common criticisms of the Christian Church is that there are so many different kinds of church groups and they all seem to be fighting each other. In fact, some people say Christians are more interested in fighting each other than Satan. From the point of view of those looking in from the outside of the Church, Christians have already lost the battle. How can we talk about the benefits of being a follower of Jesus Christ when we can’t even get along with each other?
Researchers say that there are more than 20,000 different Christian denominations throughout the world. Each one, of course, claims to teach the truth about Biblical Christianity. Which leads to another question: With so many churches all disagreeing about what the Bible says and means, can anyone be sure about what it actually does say?
These questions are all very uncomfortable and we Christians tend to ignore them. But that’s like trying to sweep an elephant under the rug. Not everyone who asks the tough questions about the differences in churches is cynical. Some people are honestly looking into Christianity and they deserve clear answers to their questions, even if in answering those questions we Christians may feel uneasy.
This Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we’re going to confront the reality of the vast diversity of churches. We’re going to ask questions like, “Are the differences between churches important enough that we form separate denominations?” “Should we all just forget our differences and form one big church body?” Even though we may not feel completely satisfied with the answers for all our questions, we will force ourselves to compare what we think is important in the Church with what the Bible says are its most pressing priorities.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Indispensable Church

What is the one thing you can’t find anywhere in the world except in the Church of Jesus Christ?

Forgiveness of sins
Help for daily living

Each item in the list is very important to leading a healthy life. And so we seek out friends to support and encourage us. There are many wise people who offer inspiration, hope and instruction for daily living. But who can legitimately give us the forgiveness of sins? Who would be so bold as to say, “You can be certain, all of your sins are forgiven before God”? If someone did say this to us, they would have to be speaking in the place of God himself. For as bold as it seems, it is exactly this role which the Church plays in the world—speaking in the place of God.

On the evening of the day Christ returned from the dead after being crucified, he showed himself alive to his followers and gave them one command: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. (John 20:23)” The greatest and most powerful reason the Church exists is to offer the forgiveness Jesus won to a world crushed by guilt.

Join us this Saturday evening at 6:00 pm or Sunday morning at 10:00 am to discover why the Church, in spite of all its problems, continues to be indispensable to the human race.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Church: Relic or Relevant?

In searching for some statistics on the church in the United States I was surprised at the large number of vitriolic blogs accusing the church of everything from being a safe haven for pedophiles to a tax evasion machine. And yet, in spite of all of its shortcomings and the bad press the church has gotten in recent years, more than 50 million Americans participate in some type of church service during any given week of the year. That statistic indicates that for many people the church still has a vital and important role in their lives.

Has the church outlived its usefulness? Maybe even more important to ask is, “What is the purpose of the church and from where did it come?” Those are just some of the many questions we’ll be addressing as we begin our new sermon study series on the church. Is it a relic of the past or a relevant institution which continues to change lives in our modern era? We invite you to join us either Saturday evening at 6:00 pm or Sunday morning at 10:00 am as we investigate these critical questions.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Temper Tantrums

What do you do when you don't get what you want? When we were little, most of us threw temper tantrums. Some of us may continue to use that tactic even as adults. However, we've probably suffered a great deal for that lack of self-discipline.  Even for those who have learned to control their emotions a little better than a two year old, it's still hard for all of us not to get our way. Some people might even say that the purpose of human life is to impose one's wants on others, no matter what.

Given the fact that we live in a culture which values very highly achieving our personal goals, it comes as a shock to read that the Bible teaches just the opposite: greatness comes from not always getting what we want. 

As Moses neared the end of his life, he had only one goal--get to the land God had promised to give the Israelite people. For forty years he had endured rejection, betrayal and the stress of leading 3 million people. It would all be worth it, he thought, once he could get them where God wanted. Then he would settle down, build a little house and enjoy the fruits of all those years of work. But God told him, "You're going to get a look of the land, but you won't live there." What a disappointment! What a let down! Was God joking or playing games with Moses?

No, God was doing what he always does, working out all things in the way he knows is best. There is a powerful lesson for us in the account of Moses not being allowed to enter the Promised Land. God has a plan for each one of us. But we need to remember that the plan is his, and we are only a part of that plan. He does not need us to do our part, he gives us the privilege of working with him. He has the right to change what we are doing for him or our location or our circumstances. At first it seems like kind of a raw deal. But then we look at the cross. We see the same One who created the world hanging on that cross to pay for our sins and we know: unlimited power combined with unlimited love--that's the God who is controlling our lives. 

Instead of letting temper tantrums destroy us when we don't get our way, join us this Saturday evening at 6:00 pm or Sunday morning at 10:00 am to begin enjoying the peace and contentment of working with the Lord. Remember, it really is his work that is going to matter in the end.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Do you feel rich? An economist by the name of Robert Heilbroner once challenged people to imagine doing the following: Move your family into a building the size of an old tool shed. Have no electricity, no running water, no bathroom. Get rid of all your clothes except for one set. Keep one pair of shoes. Destroy all written material. Toss out all food except for some flour, sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions and dried beans. Throw away all your investments, pensions and insurance policies. Reduce your savings to ten dollars. Live about a three-hour walk away from the nearest clinic. And support your entire family raising crops on a few acres of land. Give a third of your crops to your landlord and a tenth of your crops to your money lender.

If you do that, says Robert Heilbroner, then you’ll know how over a billion people are living in the world right now. And then, perhaps, you’ll realize how rich you really are.

Now imagine something else. The world you live in is dark, cynical, senseless. If there is a God, you haven’t met him. If there is some grand reason for living, you don’t know it. And so you go to work, come home, cash your check on payday, get groceries, watch TV, catch up with the laundry on weekends, take in a ballgame with friends, discuss current events, pursue a hobby, vacation during the summer, go to the dentist, go to the doctor, feel your body getting old, put in for retirement, mow your lawn and weed your garden, watch your life get slower and smaller. And then you wait to die—empty, puzzled and frightened.

If you can imagine that, then you can imagine life without Jesus, life without the forgiveness, peace, joy, security, purpose and certainty of heaven that are yours in your Savior. And then, you, too, can realize how rich you really are.

Join us this Saturday at 6:00 pm or Sunday at 10:00 am in giving thanks for all God has given us!

This week's devotion was provided by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. If you would like to receive their daily devotions, please visit the WELS website at

Friday, July 6, 2012

Get to Know God

What comes to mind when you think of the 10 Commandments:

* Charlton Heston,
* Two stone tablets,
* Getting in trouble,
* Laws that take away all the fun in life?

Due to some grossly unfair and uninformed press, many people have not only lost the significance of the Commandments, but have also missed what God reveals about himself in these commands.

If someone were describing a friend of theirs to you as an individual who never let them down, was always there when needed, valued them as a human being instead of for what they had, you would probably say to yourself, “I’d like to get to know that person!” The 10 Commandments are not a set of laws that God lives by and so imposes on us human beings. Rather, the Commandments are a living reflection of God’s characteristics—they describe for us what he is like. A brief glance at them show us that God is unique, he is present, he is faithful, and above all perfectly good. Sounds like Someone all of us need to get to know, doesn’t it? Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) as we get to know better our great and good God.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Complaining Complex

The Israelites, having been led by Moses out of Egypt according to God’s careful instructions and miraculous actions, still were stuck in a limited human way of thinking. The provisions they had brought from Egypt were running out, and they wondered how they would survive in the vast, barren desert which stretched before them. It’s not like there was a 7-11 every so many miles where they could buy food and ice for their coolers. What were they to do? Many began to grumble and complain to Moses about God. Despite their attitude, God miraculously provided quail each night and manna each morning.

We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” But as Martin Luther says in his explanation to that petition: Doesn’t God give daily bread to us without our asking, and even to unbelievers? We even see in our text this week that he miraculously provided for the Israelites despite their bad attitude. It goes to show that life doesn’t depend on us, but on God -- and that is definitely a good thing. As Luther says, we pray that we would realize we receive from God all that we need in this life with appreciation and thanksgiving.

We can’t survive without daily bread from God. We thank him every day. Even more important is “Living Bread” that he also provides. Without Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies and providing for our eternal salvation, there wouldn’t be much point to daily bread, except delaying the inevitable--death. Join us this week as we continue to look at the life of Moses and how God graciously provided for his chosen people then, and continues to do so for us today.

Friday, June 22, 2012


The first words Smitty spoke when I met him were, “Boy, you aren’t 15 years old!” Smitty owned a resort and I had called him up to see if he needed someone to cut grass during the summer months. Unfortunately I stretched my age by about 2 years over the phone and it was pretty evident when he saw me in person that I was a young looking 13 year old. He didn’t send me away though. He stuck his hands in his mechanic gray work pants and asked, “Can you work?” I wondered why he would believe my answer when I hadn’t told him the truth about my age, but at that point I wasn’t going to ask about that. I just said, “Yes,” and he hired me. That was the first of many summers I would work for Smitty.

He was a small man with a severe limp which came from a motorcycle accident years before. He had been hotrodding on his Indian when he hit some sand and lost control. He laid down the bike well enough, the only problem was it landed on his leg. The result of that accident was a life of constant pain.

What made Smitty stand out was not his appearance or presence—it was his incredible ability to fix things. It didn’t matter if it was a car, furniture or a TV, Smitty could make it run like new. And for this, I was very grateful. Being only 13 I was tough on machines—not on purpose, I just didn’t know any better. It seemed every week I would break a lawn mower or garden tractor. So I would trudge up to Smitty and explain, with a bowed head, what had happened. His reaction was usually to shout a string of words which cannot be printed here, take a deep sigh and then look at me and say, “Oh yeah, I’m not supposed to say those words around you. Oh well, let’s go get the machine.”

Smitty would then disappear in his shop for a few hours or a few days, depending on how bad the problem was, but inevitably he would appear with it running like it was brand new. That was Smitty. He could take things ready for the junkyard and give them new life.

You could say that our God does with people what Smitty did with broken machines—no matter how badly we are broken, he can make us like new, in fact far better than new.

This Saturday night (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we are going to be studying the account of the Passover, that dramatic moment when God freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. It’s a story of God’s power and judgment, but above all it is a story of redemption. It’s a story of what God wants to do for you and for me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

When You Hit The Brick Wall

It is extremely difficult to do the right thing when everyone around you has given in to temptation. It is almost impossible to bear when we stand up for what God wants us to do and then suffer unfairly. And yet, isn’t that what happens all too often? In the movies the good guys win all the time, but that’s not the way it is in real life.

As we follow Moses back to Egypt on his God-given mission to free the Israelite people from years of slavery and then lead them to the land they were promised hundreds of years earlier, we find he runs into a brick wall by the name of Pharaoh. When Moses presents God’s plan to the ruler of Egypt the reaction is brutal. Not only is Moses kicked out of the palace, the Israelite work load is doubled. To add insult to injury, the Jewish people want nothing more to do with Moses.

Alone and depressed, Moses reminds God that he didn’t want the job in the first place and wonders if this is not some cruel joke the Almighty is playing on him.

What does a Christian do when we obey God and suffer for it? The easiest thing is to just give up and conform to the way everybody else is living, or, if that touches our conscience, we might quietly separate ourselves so that we don’t join in with the sinful behavior, but we don’t do anything to change it. That is the easy way. But is it the right way?

God will accomplish his plan for the world with or without us. But he chooses to give us the great privilege of working with him to carry out his will. If we shrink back from working with him or live like those who reject him, we are making a powerful statement about who and what is most important in our lives. God let Moses hit a brick wall to help his servant learn that the success of leading the Israelites out of Egypt wouldn’t depend on him, but the Lord. It may well be the same for us. If you have hit a brick wall in the form of people or circumstances which are resisting your efforts to be obedient to God, don’t be disillusioned. The God you serve is as powerful today as in the time of Moses. He will act according to his good timing.

Join us either Saturday (6:00 pm) or Sunday (10:00 am) and build yourself up to meet the brick walls in your life.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

The path we are hiking on brings us to a deep gorge filled with sharp rocks and raging water. A rickety wooden bridge, with missing boards, is strung across. We look at the bridge and decide it is too risky. Then we notice a newly built concrete bridge a little ways away. That's the one we want! That's the safe one.

Full of confidence, we walk to the middle of the solid bridge and lean over the side to look at the swirling water below. The temporary railing gives way—and we fall to the depths. Standing on a sure foundation, we ended up leaning against a frail support. Bad idea!

King Solomon writes to warn his readers to be careful about what they choose to lean against. Standing on something solid is not enough. What you lean upon while you are standing can get you into trouble. But, of course, he is not talking about bridges and railings. He is talking about life. He is talking about trusting God. He is warning against counting too much on the human understanding of things. It's a warning we need.

We have learned from books, from leaders, and from our own experiences. As a result, we have gained an understanding of some things. Should we not lean against, rely upon, that understanding? The answer is: "It all depends!"

Solomon is not telling us to distrust everything we understand. The contrast is with trust in the Redeemer God. It comes down to those times when we look at God's words and God's ways, and find that our thinking is different. The Bible is teaching us, "If you have to choose between what God says and what makes sense to you, go with God every time!" God's path is on solid rock. The railing we construct in our mind is flimsy and flawed.

The phrase, "…with all your heart" is the key. We might trust in God for many things, even for the forgiveness of sins he won for us. But, to the extent that we hold back that trust in him from any phase of our life, we are in danger. We may find ourselves asking: Aren’t the 10 Commandments outdated? With billions of people on this planet, how can God guard and keep me? Shouldn’t a person just follow his feelings? The questions can pile up. So can the doubts. Doubts can lead to the conclusion that we know better than God. We decide to ignore what God says, and go with what seems right to us. Bad idea!

The 1st Commandment makes it quite plain: "You shall have no other gods!" We are to fear, love, and trust in him above all things. "Above all things!" That includes our limited understanding. The hymn writer put it this way:

"If you but trust in God to guide you
And place your confidence in him,
He'll give you strength and stand beside you
When days are dreary, dark and dim.
For those who trust his changeless love
Build on the rock that does not move." CW Hymn 444:1)

Thank you to WELS Military Chaplain Paul Ziemer for this week’s devotion.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Are Your Circumstances Controlling Your Life?

How do you react when something happens that throws your schedule for the day totally out the window? If something breaks unexpectedly and the amount of the repair is more money than you have available at the moment, are you in a bad mood for the rest of the week? When the actions of other people cause you to change your plans, are you flexible enough to make the necessary changes without becoming upset?

Most of us would probably respond to the above questions by saying, “I go crazy when things don’t go the way I planned!” We know we should be in control of our lives, but the sad truth is, our circumstances far too often control us. We’re happy if everything goes our way. We are outraged when someone has the audacity to mess up what we have planned to do.

There is a song called “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma! in which the refrain has the words,

Oh, what a beautiful Mornin’
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way.

Those lyrics accurately reflect the way we human beings live. When we get what we want, we’re happy. The only problem is, very often we don’t get what we want and that causes us to be angry, hostile and bitter. If we let the circumstances of our life dictate how we feel and act, we are going to be in for a whole lot of very down times.

This Sunday we will be starting a sermon series on the life of the Old Testament prophet Moses. His life could not be described as easy, comfortable or predictable in any sense. Things were always changing for him and many of those changes were unpleasant. And yet, as we look back on his life, we see how God incredibly used each situation, no matter how difficult it was, to accomplish his will through Moses.

What the Lord did with Moses was not in any way unique. He was the God of circumstances in the days of Moses and he continues to be the same today. Certainly no one asks for tough times in life, but the Christian can know that even when it seems everything is going wrong, the God who made the heavens and the earth, who broke the bands of death through Christ’s resurrection, is working in our lives to bring good out of even the worst of situations.

Join us this Sunday at 10:00 am. Let your God give you back control over your circumstances!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Which Road?

Every day we face dozens of forks in the road which come in the form of decisions. But those decisions are really about which road in life we are going to take. Will it be the road that makes us happy on our terms but leads us away from the God who made us? Or, will it be the road that leads us to him, regardless of what we might experience at the moment? Sometimes those decisions seem small and of little consequence and yet, each one makes our footing firmer on that particular road.

Most people unconsciously choose their road for life. They think they are doing what is best for them without giving much consideration for what their decisions say to God. For Christians, though, there is a determined moment in our lives when we set the tone for the decisions we will make at all the future forks in the road. In the Lutheran Church we call it Confirmation Day. On the day of their Confirmation, followers of Christ stand before their fellow believers and publicly confirm that Jesus Christ is their Lord, and their intention to serve him with their lives from that day forward.

What do your daily decisions reflect about the road you've been taking in your life? Have you even given that question much thought lately? This Sunday (May 27 at 10:00 am) we will be celebrating the Confirmation Day of one of our young people. You are invited to join in our celebration, but even more importantly, to take this opportunity to recommit your life, every part of it, to Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Going Home

While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven (Luke 24:51).

You do not need to tell military personnel that going home can be a very special, eagerly awaited event. Most still treasure the memory of doing that after basic training. Yet that trip wasn’t as good as going home after a stressful and dangerous deployment. Even better if the words “Mission Accomplished!” and “Well done!” apply. WWII Vets still talk about their trip home, and the victory parades afterwards.

We can only speculate what Jesus felt as the day drew closer when he would be going home. He talked about it more frequently as the time approached. But, first he must complete the mission. First, he must rescue us. After that could come the celebration.

The first victory parade took place early Easter morning. When we say in the Apostles Creed, “he descended into hell” we are referring to his trip down to the confines of the damned. There he proclaimed his victory over sin, death, and the Devil. No cheers of welcome greeted him there. No boos, either. Shame, regret, and defeat, are the standards of hell. Before him every knee bowed in submission. Not only demons were present. The victory lap was lined with all the humans who had died rejecting the Savior God.
40 days later Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples had no idea of what was going to happen. They were headed down the familiar road to Bethany when suddenly Jesus stopped to give them his blessing. As he was doing this, he began to rise up into the air. The liftoff was without sound or smoke. It was a perfect extraction. Power from heaven drew him up and up until a cloud hid him from human sight.

To make sure the disciples understood, two angels appeared: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The Holy Spirit gives a glimpse of the homecoming on heaven’s side. St. John writes, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand… In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (Revelation 5:13)!

Too bad we were not there to see and hear this! But then, it does give us something to look forward to. Jesus tells us this: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2,3).

It doesn’t make any difference where we are right now. It matters little how easy or tough our life is. It makes no difference what troubles or danger lie ahead for us. The day will come when our tour of duty on earth will come to an end. That’s not a day to fear. That’s the day when, following Jesus, we are going home.

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida

If you would like to subscribe to Pastor Ziemer's weekly e-mails, please send him an e-mail at

Friday, May 11, 2012

Is It Possible For Modern Mothers To Be Happy?

Women, especially wives and mothers, are in what seems to be a never ending psychological war. Go to the grocery store and there in the check-out lane are all the women's magazines with photos of sultry models accompanied by headlines suggesting that any woman can look like the ones on the covers by following a certain diet and workout program. At home mothers turn on the TV to get a little break from the kids who at times can drive them crazy, only to find a wide variety of experts explaining how they can have perfect children in a matter of a few days. Added to the pressures of looking good and the responsibility of raising children, women are expected to hold down challenging jobs, be involved in the church and community and still have time left over to be the perfect wife! It's no wonder why many women are foregoing both marriage and children. It's just impossible to be and do everything society expects of mothers.

Mother's Day has become such an important celebration for Christians because it gives us a chance to seriously consider what God intends for mothers. Not only should motherhood not be an overwhelming burden, it should be one of the most enjoyable experiences a woman can have in life. God did not create the family as a punishment, but rather as a blessing. Mom, if you feel like you are on a never ending treadmill which has reduced life to an exhausting routine of chores and tasks, it's time to reevaluate. It's time to let God's Word speak to your heart on what his will for mothers is. Join us this Sunday (May 13) at 10:00 am to bring back the joy of being a mom in your life.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Branches Band To Play This Sunday, May 6 at 10:00 am "We All Really Do Need Someone To Lean On"

Nobody can do life alone. It's just too tough. We need other people in our lives. We need them for support, encouragement, and love. And yet, so often, people are the source of the greatest pain and hurt we suffer in life. When this happens, the tendency is to isolate ourselves, keeping our relationships at a superficial level in which we feel in control. Is that the best we can do though, a shallow imitation of the deep relationships which God intends for us to enjoy?

This Sunday, with the help of our special guests, Branches Band, we will be exploring what God wants us to experience in our relationships with other people. During the worship service we will look at several passages from the Bible which present a refreshing alternative to our culture's tragically self-centered view of relationships. After each reading, Branches Band will lead us in a variety of Christian music, ranging from beloved hymns to original songs written by the group's composers.

People were meant to do life together. Join us this Sunday and find out how much better life can be because of that!

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Is There Anything Positive about Death?"

That seems like a pretty stupid question, doesn't it? Our first reaction is probably, "No, there's nothing positive at all about dying. It's the most horrible thing there is." And if you've ever seen death first hand, it is pretty difficult to deny such a statement. And yet, death touches each one of our lives. There is not one human being who can avoid it. If there is absolutely nothing good about death and we are helpless in its face, it would seem that death really has conquered human life.

A lot of people don't like the emphasis Jesus Christ gave to life after death. They often call him an "escapist". They claim he did not concentrate enough on solving the problems of the here and now. There's a reason for that. Jesus knew very well that even if he healed every single person on earth while he ministered here and even if he gave $10 million to each one, those people would still die. And in dying, the healing and money they had received would lose all their value.

So what did Jesus do? He did the unthinkable. He revolutionized death. Instead of being the end of life, Jesus morphed death into a transition from one life to a different life. He made death a door through which human beings would pass, leaving all the pain, suffering and hurt of this life behind.

Somebody once said, "Cancel my subscription to the resurrection." You don't want to do that, no matter how sophisticated and rebellious that statement may sound. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ which gives meaning to our lives today, power to endure suffering and confident hope in the hour of death. No, instead join us this Sunday at 10:00 am (April 29) and shout, "I know that my Redeemer lives! What comfort this sweet sentence gives!"

Friday, April 20, 2012

That One Thing

It has been a tough couple of weeks in America in regard to scandals. There wasn't a day that went by without some kind of outrageous behavior on the part of people one would think should know better. The result has been a flood of editorial columns debating what should be done to correct what seems to be a growing problem. If you had the opportunity to choose one specific measure to remedy the current crisis of morality, what would you do? What one thing would be most important to righting the world's wrongs?

Would the word "forgiveness" come to mind? Probably not, but that is exactly what Jesus talked about when he met his followers as a group for the first time after his death on the cross. After a quick greeting he said,

"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

To many people, it might seem there are a whole lot of good reasons why forgiveness wouldn't be the single most important solution to our world's problems. There is the truth that many people don't deserve forgiveness--maybe no one does. Some people don't even want to be forgiven. And then there are those who abuse forgiveness. They use it as license to keep on doing inappropriate things. And yet, Jesus couldn't be more clear in his wording to his followers: "Go out and let people know God offers full and complete forgiveness of all sins."

Maybe where we go wrong is thinking that if we just tweak a few things, we can make this world a perfect place. In fact, we even have the vague hope that with our technological savvy we can find a way around death. Throughout his ministry Jesus discarded outright such hypotheses. He openly said we're never going to find heaven on earth. Instead, he said, "In this life you will have trouble." And looking around, that is putting it mildly. In regard to finding a solution to death, well, we'd all be very wise to prepare ourselves for that moment rather than counting on some last minute fix.

When it comes to life, we're on the outside looking in. We know life can be better...should be better, but we don't know how to get there. Jesus does and that better life comes through the forgiveness he won for us. It is what each one of us needs most. Join us this Sunday, April 22 at 10:00 am for a good dose of what we need most.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Who Rules In Your Life?"

There are a lot of ways you can answer that question, but one thing you can't say is, "No one rules in my life." We may not think much about having a king in our lives, but each of us has one. It can be a person. It can be a goal. It can be a habit. It can be a job. Most often we make ourselves the king of our lives. Whatever it may be, our king is what dominates our thoughts, time, money and energy. It is what drives our lives.

Two thousand years ago on a day we call "Palm Sunday" Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem and made the audacious claim not only to be a king, but THE King of every human being. Have you thought of Jesus as your King? Most often we look at him as our Savior, dying on the cross for our sins. But that same Jesus rose from the dead. He lives not only to forgive us, but to lead us to heaven. That means we are following him as the King of our lives.

Join us this Sunday (April 1) at 10:00 am. Together let's think seriously about who has been ruling in our lives and what it would mean for Jesus to take over that role once and for all.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Is God Dead?"

Those words were emblazoned on the April 8, 1966 cover of Time magazine. The accompanying article is a bleak testimony to the skepticism and confusion of modern humanity. A summary of the piece might well be, “About the only thing we know about God is that we don’t know anything.” The idea that God is dead, that we human beings really don’t need him might appear to be brazenly bold and edgy, but the consequences of such thinking is the crisis of despair which is saturating all layers of our society. Without God, without morals, without purpose, people have entertained themselves to a spiritual wasteland in which they can discover neither purpose nor contentment.

The laser light of Jesus Christ is the piercing, definitive solution for the existential fog created by the “God is Dead” movement. He leaves no doubt God is very much alive and well and that he wants human beings to enjoy everything that they are missing today in the next life. There is hope! There is a future! And the best news is that God offers this hope and future to everyone. Join us this Sunday (March 25) at 10:00 am. Experience the God who is alive; experience the life he wants for you!

Friday, March 16, 2012

When Giving Up Means Getting It All

This Sunday (March 18) at 10:00 am we are going to be studying a conversation Jesus had with a young man. Here’s how it went:

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:17-25)

Throughout the centuries people have wondered about the same questions that are likely in your mind:

“Do I have to give away all my money to be a Christian?”
“Is it worth it?”
“Is anybody going to get to heaven?

One thing is for certain, Jesus is calling his followers to a level of commitment far higher than most think necessary. During these 40 days of Lent it is good for us to study the hard teachings of Christ and ask ourselves the same hard questions he put to the people who followed him when he walked this earth. Lent is a time of repentance and spiritual growth. And we can only grow if we understand what kind of faith and life Jesus is calling us to. The young man in the story walked away sad. That was the biggest mistake of his life. No matter what you have. No matter who you are. Nothing in this world is worth keeping if it is an obstacle to Jesus being your Lord and Savior. When it comes to eternity, we get it all through Christ when we give up trying get to him on our terms.

Friday, March 2, 2012

When We Don't Need Cemeteries We Won't Need a Savior

Have you purchased your cemetery plot yet? That question probably caught you by surprise. Why in the world would anyone want to even think about that? And yet, there is absolutely no doubt that each one of us is, at some time or other, going to need a place to be buried. Strangely, that is the way we human beings are about death. We love to watch it on TV and in movies but when it comes to honestly facing death in our own lives, then we pretend it doesn't even exist.

A great thinker of the past said, "We pay our doctors enormous sums of money to keep us from dying. We pay our entertainers even more money to keep us from thinking about death." It's probably because we feel totally helpless in the face of death which causes us to react to it this way. But as we all know, ignoring death doesn't make it go away.

Jesus Christ said a lot of things that people took the wrong way or didn't understand. One of those statements was, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" Even if the meaning of his words may not be completely crystal clear to us, one thing is for sure, Jesus has a whole different view of death than we do. Instead of ignoring death, Jesus Christ took on death. That's the meaning of his coming to this earth. That is the explanation of his allowing himself to be crucified. Jesus said that physical death is inevitable, but it doesn't need to be ignored or feared. Because of Jesus Christ, there is going to be a day when there won't be a need for cemeteries. But until then, we all need a Savior from death. Join us this Sunday (March 4) at 10:00 am to hear more about that Savior.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Live a Life of Greatness

Who would you say was the greatest person in history? If you raised that question in a group of people, it would probably create a very lively, maybe even, heated discussion. Each person would point out stunning accomplishments by the person of their choice and how those events changed the course of history for many people. Most probably, the names discussed, would be well known to all. In our minds, great people do the kinds of things that people notice--for a long time.

It isn't likely that the name "John the Baptist" would be included in a discussion of the greatest person in history. He might be considered one of the most colorful personalities of all time or most courageous, but probably not greatest. But what if God has another definition of "greatness"? What if, greatness is not about fame or skill or political acumen, but obedience? Jesus called John the Baptist one of the greatest men who ever lived. He didn't do anything particularly earth shaking. He preached. He baptized. He ended up in jail and finally had his head cut off by a virulent woman. And it all took place in a year or less! So what made John so great?

John the Baptist played his role in God's plan for this world with everything he had and when it was time to step aside, he did just that with grace and love. You see, he had the job of getting people spiritually tuned in for the beginning of Jesus Christ's ministry. He told people, "The Messiah is coming soon and the way you can get yourself ready is to repent, be baptized and change your ways. He'll tell you the rest when he arrives." John pointed people to Jesus. When Christ came on to the scene, John quietly backed away and let Jesus take the spotlight. The end of his life was no less remarkable. It happened in a dark cell underneath the fortress of Machaerus at the hand of an executioner.

"Greatness" in God's dictionary can be defined this way: "To give glory and honor to Christ in whatever circumstances he places a human being in." Now that sheds some light on greatness, doesn't it? In fact, that makes greatness accessible to a lot of people who normally wouldn't be considered great. Even more important is the fact that greatness on God's terms has an influence which lasts a whole lot longer than human defined greatness.

Where is your life taking you? Is it time to consider a change in direction? Join us Sunday (February 26) at 10:00 am and together let's set out on the path of greatness.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Encounters of the Supernatural Kind

According to Jesus, if you have to see everything to believe, you are missing out on a good deal of what is going on! In fact, the way he described life, what we experience, what we see and hear and feel and touch and taste--that is only the tip of the iceberg of human existence. He taught there is a spiritual world as real as the air you are breathing right now. The thought of winged angels, both good and evil, doing battle leaves our enlightened 21st century minds unimpressed. However, such images are caricatures of what is actually happening. The forces of evil operate at a level of sophistication which make our most complex technology look like child's play. The immensity of what is at stake in this invisible struggle makes our earthly wars pale in comparison.

We get an idea of what is spiritually going on around us from the ministry of Jesus Christ. Everywhere he turned, it seemed, he was confronted by some force of evil, ready to do battle with him. When he taught, Jesus made it clear the devil is not a figment of our imagination, but real and horribly effective in his destructive tactics. Most frightening is that Satan is fighting not just for our physical lives, he wants us for all of eternity.

Is it so hard to believe there are supernaturally powerful forces for evil all around us? How else can we explain the consistent cruelty with which human beings have treated each other since the beginning of recorded history? Is there no reason to believe there is a heaven and a hell? How else do we explain that all of human life is based on continuous judgments of good and bad, right and wrong? If there is no judgment of our lives after death, we have no basis for judgment right now. Who then is to say a murderer deserves to go to prison?

In the deepest recesses of our being we sense the invisible spiritual war going on around us. And we know there will be a judgment when we die. Maybe this is why so many people try to explain these things away. They sneer at the idea of judgment or condemnation. But is it all a cover up for fear--fear of not knowing what the outcome of that judgment will be?

We have reason to be concerned about the spiritual war we cannot see, but we have no reason to be afraid. Join us this Sunday (February 19) at 10:00 am to discover why!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Heart Talk

Jesus rarely talked about peoples' status. He never talked about the way they looked. He didn't even seem very impressed by how much money they had. But when it came to the heart, then Jesus Christ was into the conversation.

One day Christ told a story about a man planting seed. He described the different kinds of soil on which the seed fell and pointed out it was only the seed which fell on the good soil that grew. He went on to explain the story wasn't about agriculture but peoples' hearts. The different types of soil represented the different priorities in peoples' lives--that which they held to be most important. The seed symbolized Christ's message: that he is the Son of God who came to this earth on the greatest Rescue Mission of all time. What is noteworthy, Jesus said, is the capability of bad heart priorities to nullify the effects of that Rescue Mission. The end of the story leaves its hearers with the unspoken question resounding in their ears, "What kind of heart do I have?" This Sunday (February 12) at 10:00 am we're going to look at the different ways people answer that question and then compare them with Jesus' answer. Where are you in this matter of the heart? Is it time for some heart talk?

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Cemetery Visit

As a little boy I dreaded those words which I only heard on beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoons, "Get in the car, we're going to the cemetery." Grudgingly I would climb into the blue 1966 Chevy Impala and sit back for what seemed to be an extremely long drive. "Why do we have to go to the cemetery," I thought? "It's a beautiful day. We don't get many beautiful days in Wisconsin, so why are we wasting something so precious to go to the cemetery?" My dislike for the cemetery didn't come from a cold heart, it was just that I had never met any of the people whose graves we visited, and so it was hard to make sense of what was going on. It seemed like we all stood over each grave, being very somber and silent, and then, after a certain amount of time, suddenly, somehow everyone would mysteriously know that it was time to move on to the next grave.

It wasn't until I experienced the reality of death in a personal way, when a high school friend died in a tragic accident, that I began to appreciate cemetery visits. The first time I went to his grave, I began to understand not only the finality of his death, but the inevitability of my own death.

An occasional walk through a cemetery is an important spiritual experience for it is a powerful reminder that each one of us is broken and we can't heal ourselves. The cemetery reminds us that death destroys everything we are and have in life. Everything...everything ends with the last breath. As we gaze upon the graves, we are forced to ask life's most important question, "Is death the end?" If the answer is "yes", then the rest of our lives will be spent avoiding the cemetery and any thought of dying? It's a futile way to live, but if death is the end, what else is there to do?

Jesus Christ answered the question over whether death is the end or not in a very different way. He boldly said that any human being who puts their trust in him as Lord and Savior will pass through death and live eternally. If what he says is true, is there anything more urgent or necessary in life than to answer his invitation to follow him?

Join us this Sunday at 10:00 am. It's time to stop dreading the cemetery!

Friday, January 27, 2012

What Would A Day With Jesus Be Like?

If you would spend a day with Jesus, do you think he would take you to the mall? Would you two catch a movie or maybe relax at the beach together? Maybe. But knowing who Jesus is and what he is capable of doing, it is probably more likely he would take you along on some fantastic adventures which would make an incredible difference in your life and the lives of other people.

As we continue our study through the Gospel of Mark this Sunday (10:00 am) we come across a description of what a typical day for Jesus was like when he lived on the earth. From this account, we see he was a man on the move. A man who had an intense compassion for people and an equally intense ability to do something about their problems. Wherever Jesus Christ went, people were never the same.

Two thousand years after he walked our planet, Jesus Christ continues to change lives. The powerful healing he brings to people is not limited to space or time. It's for eternity. And he offers it to you!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Are You Shadowing Jesus?

When starting a new job, a trainee will typically shadow an experienced worker. The benefits of shadowing are pretty obvious. It gives a person a chance to observe, ask questions and watch how an expert accomplishes the work. After a certain amount of time the veteran begins to let the trainee do the work and makes helpful suggestions on how to improve. The goal of shadowing is to enable the newly hired person to achieve the same level of work excellence as the teacher.

Have you thought of the Christian life as shadowing Jesus? When Christ started his ministry he immediately called disciples or followers, and for three years these men shadowed him. They listened to his preaching. They often asked questions. Jesus sent them on preaching missions and debriefed them on their return. After his resurrection, he commissioned those same followers to be his representatives in this world.

Any person who has received Jesus Christ as his/her Savior and Lord becomes His disciple and follower. What that means in practical terms is that we are to live our daily lives in such a way that our behavior demonstrates we are shadowing the One we confess. Have you thought about your life in those terms? Have you considered what might have to change if you would shadow Jesus on a day to day basis? Most importantly, do you understand the blessings he promises to those who shadow him?

Join us this Sunday at 10:00 am. Together let’s make shadowing Jesus the priority of our lives.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jesus and the Pretenders

When it comes to repairing cars, some of us are more challenged than others. Instead of admitting our inability to diagnose and fix problems, however, many of us choose to ignore sure signs that something is wrong with our vehicle. If someone points out that a light is suddenly flashing on the dashboard, signaling a problem, our typical response is something like, “Not to worry, it will go off soon enough.” We pretend not to hear rattles or see mushy tires. As long as the car gets us from one point to the other, we’re happy. Of course, our days are numbered and sooner or later we end up at the repair shop, facing a huge bill. When it comes to keeping one’s car running, a person can’t pretend everything is fine when it isn’t.

When it comes to life, we humans should be called “The Great Pretenders”. We act like everything is okay. We say we have life under control. We bristle when it is suggested that possibly we need outside help to fix what has gone wrong. And yet, year after year the same kinds of tragedies are repeated causing pain, suffering and anguish. One generation passes after another, each following the same path of aging and then finally dying off. Is something wrong with human beings? Only a pretender would deny that truth.

The reason Jesus Christ encountered so much resistance during his earthly ministry is that he dared to openly tell people something was wrong and only he could fix their problem. The word “repent” has fallen out of fashion these days but it is exactly the right word to describe the first step in learning to live without pretending. To repent means to accept we’re incapable of living on our own terms, to acknowledge there is a personal God whom we have greatly offended and to approach him for his solution for our lives. Jesus Christ is that solution. The time he spent on this earth was about one thing, teaching people to stop pretending, admit their error and then receive the forgiveness and new life he offers.

Have you come to the point in your life that you want to stop pretending as though all is well when it isn’t? Join us this Sunday at 10:00 am. Let’s start a new life journey together…with Jesus.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Good News for the Start of a Great Year

Depending on who you listen to, predictions for 2012 range from cautiously optimistic to depressingly pessimistic. With so much uncertainty throughout the world, most people are just hoping to hold their own in the coming twelve months.

It is interesting to note that Jesus Christ had a startling disinterest in economic forecasts, political elections and cultural movements. In fact, he seemed oblivious to just about everything we consider important. When people tried to get his opinion on current affairs, he always turned the subject back to the individual and asked questions like, "Where are you in your relationship with God? Are you ready to meet him in death?" Questions like that can seem overdramatic or too pointed, but they demand an answer. We can put off answering them, claiming we have too much to do right now or aren't really interested, but those kind of responses don't deal with the issue at hand.

Death is the single most important moment in a human being's life. If you found out that you had five minutes to live, it would not matter if you were the President of the United States or the Heisman Trophy winner or the richest person in the world. None of those things would make an iota of difference. You would have one question and one question only--what will happen to me after I die?

Here is Good News to get you off to a great start in the New Year: Jesus Christ didn't come to this earth just to ask tough questions, he came to give definitive, eternity changing answers to those questions. This Sunday (January 8 at 10:00 am) we'll begin a sermon series studying in depth what Jesus said and did. If you build 2012 on Christ, you don't have to worry about what people predict will happen. You are going to have a great year.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

My photo
Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.