Tag Archives: service

Millenials, long on fault finding, short on doing

I shared a post by a “millenial” who wrote, essentially, that the problem with the church was that it was too focused on being the church and wasn’t “serving”enough”. The research today says that “millenials” are motivated to “serve”. OK, they may believe that, but I see little evidence of it and what I see is not very well thought out and is more of a social event and well short of any effective service. Further, it seems as if society as a whole is convinced that the church is just another social service agency.

Well no it’s not.

It is the Body of Christ and is, at least supposed to be, supposed to teach about Christ, how we live the Christian life and how we grow as disciples. Yes, that certainly means to serve, but not to some end that is to self satisfaction, but in how the Holy Spirit moves the disciples of Christ to serve.

The writer had a problem with how too many churches do conduct their ministry more in terms of being a social club. I would agree and the church has been doing that for decades. It’s not so much the church, but telling people what they want to hear, pat them and send them back into the world as clueless as ever. The problem is that such a superficial generation takes every opportunity to deny reality, play the system and not assume any real responsibility, because everyone else should take on responsibility.

So I just wanted to post my comments about the church I’m the pastor of. Surprise, didn’t receive any response. I raised a bunch of questions that I really don’t think the superficial millenial mentality wants to deal with, because then, they’d actually have to do something:

thank you very much for the opportunity to answer you and this blog this is like throwing a dog raw meat. First I did not grow up in the church and yes I’m an old guy and yet I get stereotyped by the culture in general and get shut down without so much as a how do you do. First I have to laugh at the supposition that the church has millions of dollars. Oh I get the accusation but I assure you at least First Saint Johns is living hand to mouth. And yet unlike the critics we are standing on our ear to serve. However we are not a social service agency. We are here to give hope and promise of Jesus to a world with no hope and promise and getting worse. As a pastor of a downtown church I spend a large amount of my time trying to help people, millennials included, whose attitude is just gimme. We have a food bank, we have Grief Share, I’m a chaplain for the police department and have had to comfort people as the result of suicide, victims of crime, parents on the scene of a child who died of a heroin overdose. I am the chaplain at the Lutheran Mission Society that gives clothing to people. We started a community radio station at great time, expense and emotional expense. For a small group with limited resources we have done an enormous amount. We have started an afternoon meal program, a workout area and offer classes in martial arts. We started an employment support group. You know what the response has been from the community? Crickets! I’ve made a few efforts with the public schools and York College to get involvement at a great expense of time (frankly my wife thinks I should spend more time at home) and I assure you I’m a long way from making my first million. I’m sure I was making more in the business world hour to hour and actually had days off and vacation. We have been an open door for so much and again crickets. I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night to be with members and nonmembers undergoing duress. I’m sure the teacher writing this article never had to get up in the middle of the night for a math emergency. Oh I get it there are plenty of pretty suburban, happy clappy churches out there who are just about themselves but sad to say that’s pretty much the way of the society. I wish I had half the time off of a school teacher. I’ve averaged fifty hour weeks 52 weeks a year for seven years in ministry I am regularly exhausted and stressed at less pay then school teachers. Speaking of which we have begged the school dept here to give students the educational opportunity of the radio station that we spent a lot of money we don’t have. We are right across the street from William Penn HS. There’s been talk, but it’s easier for them to just say no. There’s a lot of people out there who love to wag their finger and just don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t care. I would love to have an open forum but I know what would happen. I’d spend a lot of time organizing and being there and no one would show up. I will do it since I’ve been challenged. I’ve been thinking about a “grill the pastor ” for First Friday but like the rest of our attempts no one will show. I was at church at 8:30 this morning went to about 1pm, went out at 4pm to support the Sheriffs canine program who have to raise money they don’t get any government funding, typing this message out at 10pm missing the All Star game and I’m on call for the police dept and what I get for all my trouble is why aren’t I doing more. I will compare my social service and DayTimer with any secular and Christian critic. Oh and we’re also setting up to be a Safe Space for the city and also have Spanish ministry and we’re doing it all on a shoestring budget. Maybe it’s time for the Millenials to put up. What I see from most of society is a lot of complaining and criticism, but very little in terms of action. Anyone who wants to come and talk I welcome the opportunity. But they need to listen too because I have a Masters Degree and extensive life experience. My experience with the culture is there is little background but don’t want to give and take but just want to lecture. I frankly believe they don’t want “give and take” because they have very little background and are used to getting their way, don’t want to give and have very little capacity for critical thinking. I felt this was important, missed most of the basketball game and need to get some sleep because I have an enormous amount to deal with on Monday my “day off”. But hey if someone tells me they will be at First Saint Johns to really talk tomorrow I will be there. And then go home to my wife who will be upset that I’m taking time away from her and not getting any rest. She cares about the stress and fatigue that ministry has been putting on me. Feel free to share this with anyone interested. God bless you and thank you for this opportunity.
…a big issue with church the pastor is supposed to do everything. I’ve been in corporate, operational in the military and ministry has just been a revelation very little support. The 80-20 principle. There are lay people who do provide physical support about 20 percent and the rest attitude is “it’s the pastor s job”. This is usually from people who work 9-5 5 days a week, have no concept of what it’s like to get a 2am phone call to go out in nasty weather to a bad situation for members and nonmembers. It’s the pastors job. People need to get real and lose the attitude and expect someone to come running to them at a moments notice. Maybe there will come a time where you need that attention. Who else comes running out in the middle of the night? But at some point they just might say “can’t do it, exhausted ” I will try to get there by noon. Why not? Every other profession does it or gets paid a lot of extra money for extra attention!
…Oh and if someone wants a mentor I will mentor the heck out of them. Check out my background not many out there with my breadth and depth of life experience and I would be thrilled to share that with anyone. But like all the other things we’ve been doing no one will take me up. It’s easier to criticize and complain then do something. Oh yeah another on my “wish list ” would be to train and coach a triathlon team high school, York College HACC, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. Michal Helfreich took a local television station thru the church for them to tape what we’ve been doing and offer. Results? Nil. We have a Men’s Group having an overnight retreat at a lodge here. All guys are welcome but they won’t. Their noses are buried in their phones.

Leaving it all on the course for Him Matthew 5:21

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have left it all on the field for Jesus said … AMEN!

You’ve heard the interviews after an athletic contest, one of the most common phrases; “I left it all on the field”, basically I gave everything I had in order to win. It can get a little cliché, but by the same token, I have no doubt that each person who says that truly believes it. At the end of that contest; a race, basketball game, matholympics, I gave everything I had, physically, mentally, emotionally in order to win, or at least to do my best. I’ve done races where I expected it to be a little more challenging and at the end upset with myself that I was holding back too much and I could have pressed harder on the bike or the run. By the same token I’ve seen people sprinting to the finish line, giving everything and as soon as they crossed, going off somewhere and literally getting sick right after they finished. No question they exceeded their normal physical ability in order to find that tiny little bit that they had left in order to finish as well as they could.

We certainly see this in so many of the people described in the Bible. King David wrote dozens of Psalms, but if you think he was all about sitting at a desk pen in hand and dreamily wondering how to compose his poetry, you would be mistaken. Most of his prose was about the different ways that he was left it all out on the field for God. David was a powerful soldier, his soldiers followed him into many different situations, they trusted him as a leader who would be there for them, do whatever it took for his men and defeat his enemy. David had no compunction going out on that field and doing what God directed him to do and pouring every last ounce he had into the fight for his men, his country and very much so for his God. David lived his life for Yahweh, there were times when he failed in that and he failed in a way that only a great king and general could fail. As Dr Luther wrote: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [or sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”[1] If King David had known about Jesus and written about Jesus, he would have understood completely what Dr Luther wrote.

In a lot of ways that is what Jesus is saying in the Beatitudes, you have to go over and above, you have to leave it all out there. There may even be a physical price to pay. The Beatitudes can be taken in a legalistic way. Jesus is not saying you have to do this, you have to do that in order to be saved. People have told me that they live by the Beatitudes. It’s not about grace, it’s about them and their performance, what they need to do, that God is keeping score and waiting for them to tank, to hit the wall, to not finish the course. If they somehow fail in one of Jesus’ directives they failed to leave it all out on the field for Jesus, they kept some back for their own pleasure, maybe cheated on the course somehow and didn’t completely live up to what Jesus directed us to do.

The fallacy is this, the Gospel doesn’t tell us that unless we are picture perfect, that we have somehow failed and therefore don’t manage to hit the finish line having left it all out on the course for Jesus. The Gospel does say that Jesus who is entirely perfect God and perfect man, something we could never be, a person that we will never be because there was only one Jesus. Jesus absolutely did leave it all out on the course and it was entirely for us, Jesus didn’t do all that He did for Himself. What’s the point? Jesus is the One through whom all creation came into existence, He is perfectly God, all He did was not for Him, but entirely for us. Nothing we can do, can add to what Jesus did for us, not one iota, not one jot or tittle.

Yet, many people are pretty sure it’s about sticking to the letter of the Law in the Beatitudes and that gets you over the line. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be obedient, Jesus said “if you love Me, you will obey Me.” But Jesus knows that we are fallible, that our obedience is qualified by our failings as sinful people in a sinful world. However, for all that Jesus did for us, how can we not strive to be obedient? How can we not strive to leave it all out on the course for Jesus?

Does a completely good, completely holy, completely gracious God want us to pluck out our eye and throw it away if we are not completely perfect in everything? In this day and age you can’t look anywhere that doesn’t offend your eye. The issue is, did you let your eye linger over that which offended? Or did you realize, “hey, this isn’t glorifying Jesus or doing me any good”, and just turn away? That’s what Jesus is asking us to do, in the Beatitudes. He exaggerates to make a point. He might say. “You really want to try to earn your way, this is what has to happen, if your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. I’m thinking, none of us would truly stand that test. That does not, however, minimize the fact that we should strive to avoid things that offend our eye or what we do with our right hand, or our left hand in order to sin.

Marge and I were at Pastoral Leadership Institute immersion this past week, which, ironically is about us and our performance, and driving us higher in Jesus. It’s an honor to be asked to attend, not everyone is, and it’s recognition of the fact that we are striving in evangelism and discipleship and given the opportunity in PLI to push to the next level. It doesn’t makes us more saved, but it does push us to better serve you and the Kingdom of God as leaders of His church.

The Father is not trying to impose unrealistic expectations on us, He is trying to get us to realize that we can’t get there on our own effort. We will fail! We will have plenty of good efforts, being obedient to the things Jesus asks of us, but at some point we will fail to push as hard as we could. That doesn’t mean we’ve lost, that we should cut off our hand. Matt Popovits was one of the speakers, the overall subject was discipleship, which was great, I emphasize discipleship in my ministry. While we are called to be strong and faithful disciples of Jesus, our performance in that respect is not what saves us. The thesis was “How do I measure my worth?” For those who are so sure that it’s all about me and my “opinion”, because my “opinion” is so vitally important! I have bad news for youse, your opinion just doesn’t really matter. Heavens, how can I say such a thing, come on pastor, we all know it’s all about me! It really isn’t. I can tell myself how great and special I am, but despite what I think, it’s not going to get me diddly. Whose opinion does matter? Oh yes, God’s opinion. That is a great thing! By the way, I told Matt I was going to rip him off relentlessly here, he said “fine, go for it!”.

Anyway, Matt talked about “Performacism”, this idea that we measure our worth by what we do, how well we do it, in and of ourselves. Performacism drives you to the following: 1) The fear of and trying to avoid a horrible outcome, a false Hell that you’ve created, that you’re running from in order to make it to an “unfulfilling heaven, that you earn the applause and approval of your peers. That heaven can’t do what you want, doesn’t fulfill your life.”[2] God’s not all powerful, it’s all about you and what you do and more importantly the way you want it to play out. It drives me nuts hearing people talk about heaven as a boring place, “why would I want to end up there”. Heaven is not our ultimate destination, our ultimate destination is the eternal resurrection. We will be put back on this earth in our physical bodies in order to live our lives the way God intended us to live, a world filled with unlimited possibilities and life fulfilling beyond anything we could imagine. Matt points out that Adam and Eve rejected the “Garden of Yes” in favor of the “tree of no”. We make that wrong choice all the time, a garden full of all kinds of possibilities in order for us to indulge in our personal besetting sin.

Matt further observes that we make ourselves a “Functional Savior” that it’s all in our hands whether or not we make it to that amazing eternity. It’s our activity, and accomplishments that save us, so that we are valued by ourselves and by others, because, heavens! in today’s world, it is all about everyone else’s who so precious opinion. We have that problem on a massive scale in our society today and something that our youth get so caught up in, but we’re all susceptible to it. Our self-image, whether our physical attractiveness is valued by others. In a world where everyone’s equal regardless, ya right! Our hypocritical world is just so full of themselves. The fight is to be as superficially attractive as possible to be of value, if you’re not, you might be patronized a little, but just not taken seriously. We see girls today going to extremes because hey the vital thing is to be beautiful, get the right guy, have all kinds of worldly wealth and live happily ever after. Forgetting that despite all our efforts, some, like me, who’ve just been ugly from birth, end up simply being dumped out the other end of life, whether we were beautiful  or not because we no longer meet the standards.

The cut to the chase is this; Jesus tells us that we can do it the hard way, by our own standards, our own worldly, wrong opinions. Or, because Jesus did it the hard way for us, we can trust in Him, that He has done all that’s necessary. Yes, we should leave it all out on the course for Jesus, because that’s what He’s done for us, but never think that is what gets you His promises.

We are so incredibly valued by the Father and there’s not one thing that we can add to that, not by anything we’ve done, not done, or done wrong, but solely who we are in Jesus, so incredibly valued because of who we are in Him and that He died a horrific death in order to save us. For such a huge price and to be adopted into true life in the Father’s family in baptism, we are, each one of us, so incredibly valued and loved. There are those of us who the Holy Spirit is moving to do big things, to serve at high levels. There are those of us who just physically can’t or who are called to do what we feel are humble things. Doesn’t matter to the Father, yes we should follow our calling, but no, we should never doubt how precious we are to the Father and what we are to Him in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Ryan M. Reeves https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/ryanreeves/2016/04/20/did-luther-really-tell-us-to-love-god-and-sin-boldly/

[2] Matt Popovits PLI seminar, Cary, NC, February 9, 2017

Too Comfortable? Amos 6:17 First Saint Johns September 25, 2016

[For the audio click the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are a “good person”, said … AMEN!  Aha, tricked you, now, all of you who are a good person, only and solely in Jesus said … AMEN!

It’s a question I continue to struggle with, how to be “good” in Jesus, especially as we, as a society, draw further away from God, that the perception in our society is that God really isn’t necessary. I often want to ask someone I get into this kind of discussion with: Do you honestly believe that this is all there is? Most of the time it really comes down to they just haven’t thought about it, it’s just not an issue, to the extent that “well, either way God’s just going to work it out for me, and since I’m a good person, well I don’t have anything to worry about.” Seems we’re all “good people”, you know except for like Hitler, Stalin, Alex Rodriguez, ok I’m kidding there because hey even ARod is a “good” person, even if he was a New York Yankee. We just refuse to reconcile the fact that it is about us and our sin. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are perfectly righteous, perfectly holy/ sanctified, perfectly just and while we like to live in our own little world, with our own rules because we are so smart and can do everything by ourselves, even though what we do is based on me/myself. I have no idea what people are talking about when we get into this discussion, but it’s ok, because they just know that they’ve got it down and they don’t need anyone, up to and including God to tell them otherwise. Until such time as they realize they don’t have it down and then it’s usually a lawyer, a social worker, a school teacher, an accountant etc. None of whom have any guidelines themselves other than professional ethics which too many today see more as guidelines and hindrances if it interferes with their personal agenda. Today the idol is money, comfort, personal satisfaction, basically the Led Zepplin song “Stairway to Heaven”: “There’s a lady who’s sure, All that glitters is gold, And she’s buying a stairway to heaven When she gets there she knows, If the stores are all closed, With a word she can get what she came for, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”[1]

That’s the way it is, as much in the church as it is for any “None”, garden variety pagan, Buddhist, we don’t have to worry about that stuff because we will work it out in the end. Give a little extra here, do a little something there, badda bing, it’s all taken care of, we’re all reasonable people, let’s move on.

While that may sound good to us, that’s not God’s perspective. Of course when I say that to someone who just doesn’t know/doesn’t care, I get this petulant/ adolescent response “well that’s just your opinion”. If you’re a Christian, to the rest of the world, your opinion just doesn’t matter. Oddly, their completely uninformed, prejudiced, and totally consumer driven mentality does matter and that’s what they’re going with. Critical thinking in this day and age is a rare commodity. It just doesn’t occur to the average person today that a model where everyone is right based on their uninformed opinion is not a workable paradigm. God created everything, God maintains everything and God is going to end everything and He will do it on His timetable. That will leave a lot of your neighbors to condemnation:  “ESV Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” Jesus wasn’t stuttering, many will enter it, many just because they are perfectly happy in their ignorance. One of the creeds of this society is: “Ignorance is bliss.” You just mind your own business, do what you’re told by those who are smarter than you in business, academia, government, medicine, but heavens no, not ministry, and everything will work out fine. How that works out? No one seems to know, but in this world of the uncritical, “hey I pay my taxes, people are supposed to work those things out for me”. Really? I don’t see how that’s happening.

Probably the biggest threat to our spiritual health as Christians is the comfort and privilege that we live today. Certainly that is what God is telling Israel through Amos in our reading today: “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,” Scott Schilbe writes about this passage, the Hebrew: “yAh… Translated as ‘Woe’, this word interjects the idea of God’s judgment. Amos uses this word as a way to capture his hearers’ attention. ‘Woe’ is a warning.”[2] That is God basically saying I’m not playing around, you need to shake off this lethargy, this idea that you’re somehow entitled to just sit back and enjoy what you have and ignore God’s will and the things that you know you should be doing in order to serve Him. While we’re not where we should be today, there is much more being done for those who are poor and oppressed. I understand getting caught up in the headlines and other people’s agenda. We still have a long way to go for social justice, but we also need to back up to where we left the church of Jesus Christ and become a lot more motivated for our eternal life in Jesus. While there is much being done for social justice, and justice in the left hand kingdom of the world is important. But in Christ and to the eternal life of the resurrection we don’t get justice, that’s a really good thing, we get grace, and we get the Lordship of Christ in this world.

Your Christian church is about serving others, we continue to serve all who are here. In my role as a pastor, as a Seel Sorger I serve as a soul healer and if there’s something that the world today is in desperate need of is soul healing. We have, like the Israelites of Amos’ time, become way too comfortable and complacent, leaving the church to gather the crumbs, while we get way too caught up in the headlines and our own comfort. While there is need and we should apply ourselves to that, and your church does, we also have to make our Christian life, as the Body of Christ, His church, a priority in terms of our prayers, our financial support and our mission to continue to reach out to a world whose “god” is its pleasure and in subjection to social engineering while the only true remedy for the strife of the world is in Christ. There will always be a church of Christ, in some form. There will always be a remnant who will continue to enable the church to carry out its mission as God’s apostle. The issue is whether we who profess Christ and His mission will continue to see that as a priority, will we be that remnant? Last week I asked you to reach for that journal and to work out how that will be in your particular case. Will you reconfirm, renew and increase your support for your Christian ministry, for the church that provides you with healing, with presence, and works in our community to provide what we can. Please take out the pledge card from your bulletin and consider increasing your current offering, making a special gift, making a commitment to providing your time to the work of the church, where you can serve your church in order to help us to continue to be a strong and giving presence in our community.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Jimmy Paige, Roger Plant performed by Led Zepplin  1971

[2] Rev Scott R Schilbe, STM  Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol 26, Part 4, Series C p 30

For God the impossible takes no time at all 140th anniversary observance of First St Johns Mark 10:23-31 October 18, 2015

[Please click the above the link for the audio version]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that nothing’s impossible for God said … AMEN!

The SEABEES are part of the U.S. Navy, they are unique not because they are involved in constructing facilities like runways, landing facilities, fortifications, they are unique because while they are involved in construction they are often under enemy fire. Just like Nehemiah’s men, while some men worked on the wall around Jerusalem, others stood guard with swords and spears. Likewise SEABEES are often portrayed with a shovel in one hand and a rifle slug over their shoulder. Their unofficial motto is “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a bit longer!” I had the privilege of serving with a SEABEE in Naval Coastal Warfare, he was about six foot 3 and as wide as he was tall, he could have been a linebacker. I had to share a two man tent with him for the first four nights we were in Spain, I acquired a lot of sympathy for my wife who has had to sleep with a big moose for all these 36 years.

On this 140th anniversary of First/St Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church, I can certainly say the same for those who founded this church. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have taken to conceptualize (a brilliant mind like John Augustus Dempwolf, who also designed the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital in Harrisburg… and supervised the construction of Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, First Saint Johns is certainly a remarkable achievement.) Also what it must have been like to raise the money, organize the resources to raise this magnificent house of worship, built to the glory of God. I wonder if it took “just a little bit longer.”

More and more we are realizing how vitally important strong Christian churches are to the vitality of our cities. So while we observe the founding and building of this structure, a feat that must have been enormous. Of equal importance are those people who 140 years ago had the vision to see how important a strong Christian ministry is in the heart of the city of York. That these structures were built to inspire awe and a tiny hint of God’s glory, the glory of the eternal, perfect world in our Lord Jesus Christ. I really like bringing people into this sanctuary for the first time and inevitably they will let a reverential “wow” come from their lips as they take in this magnificent house of Christian worship, the place where we join together to raise up God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This all speaks to the fact that there are those in the world who do those things that are to the glory of God, that look beyond themselves, that want, yes, what is best for themselves, but they also know that what is best is not for themselves alone, it is for all. Certainly Christ is best, there is no other way but through Christ. This quote from C.S. Lewis: God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” I just do not understand how people can cope without Christ. They are quick to blame a God they don’t believe in, they have many idols in their lives; their money, possessions (remember the rich young ruler from last week), job/position, spouse, home, on and on. Other idols include drugs, alcohol, sex, power, food… As Pastor Eric Lang notes about today’s Old Testament passage; “Ecclesiastes here focuses more on the danger of wealth to those who are wealthy.”[1] How is that dangerous? It is mortally dangerous! We can’t focus on two idols and Jesus certainly clearly stresses that: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt 6:24) Jesus never says don’t have money. Lazarus was wealthy for this time. Jesus doesn’t condemn him. It seems as though Lazarus was more than willing to share his wealth, he uses his wealth to provide for others. Jesus says: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9) Remember how God told the rich man who was blessed with a plentiful crop, he had all kinds of plans to hoard and benefit from his produce? “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12:20) We don’t really know for sure, it was 140 years plus ago, but I would be willing to bet that those who founded Heilige Johannes Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche were not particularly rich people. Either way, their lives weren’t like the rich farmer when he said: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” (Luke 12:19) Many, maybe most, had emigrated from Germany and their vision was not about being merry, it was about a church that would be a witness to the world around them to the glory of Jesus Christ. Part of that witness was providing for those who also emigrated from Germany and no doubt to help their neighbors. We continue to live that heritage today. I’m not German, but I am Lutheran. Many here today aren’t German, but as a result of this church being here, they have had an opportunity to come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord, they know that they are only saved in Christ. They certainly understand the C.S. Lewis quote there is no happiness or peace other than in Jesus. Sure in today’s world many think they have peace through self-medicating and indulging, but they come to realize how shallow, hopeless and the slavery they fall into when they surrender to worldly pleasures. Only through Christ do we have true life, only because of His sacrifice do we have eternal life in the resurrection. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross do we have that relationship with God in this world and in the eternal resurrection.

The men and women who had the vision for this church, who struggled to bring this church to reality, who served Christ in this church and because of that served so many others, those people understood what Jesus’ words meant. They did not store away their wealth, but they used it as a tool to build this magnificent testimony to the Lordship of Christ and their true life because of Him. By doing that they also have witnessed to Christ to generations of people who have worshipped here, who have received the life-saving message of Christ’s Gospel here. The founders of this church did the impossible, not as men and women, but as the faithful of Christ who were guided by the faith the Holy Spirit gave them and sacrificed time, treasure and talent to build this glorious witness. Because of it God did the “impossible” through them and saved countless souls because of the Christian ministry in this church.

While they are the church waiting in heaven, we who are their brothers and sisters in Jesus, now bear their mantle to continue to witness to Christ, not just in this building, but going out into the community they knew so well to proclaim the life-saving message of Christ. Those who are led by those who are here, then come and join us in this magnificent house of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit to grow in their life in Christ and to raise their children and generations that will follow us.

We praise God for them, for what they have left to us, for those who are here today and whom we have personally known who sacrificed and worked so hard for this church that we join together in, in Christ.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

Design attribution to Terry Downs

[1] Eric Lange  Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol 25, Part 4, Series B

We serve our God who serves us in His will Mark 10: 32-45 First St Johns Mar 22, 2015

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know they are  sons and daughters of the Father said … AMEN!!!

Dear Ma & Pa,
Am well. Hope you are. Tell brother Walt & brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before maybe all of the places are filled.
I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt & Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing.
Men got to shave but it is not so bad, they git warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings. Like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc…, but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie, and other regular food. But tell Walt & Elmer you can always sit between two city boys that live on coffee.
Their food, plus yours, holds you till noon, when you get fed again. It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much. We go on “route” marches, which the Platoon Sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A “route march” is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys gets sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice, but awful flat.
They don’t bother you none. This next will kill Walt & Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don’t know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk and don’t move. And it ain’t shooting at you, like the Higgett boys. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don’t even load your own cartridges.
Be sure to tell Walt & Elmer to hurry & join before other fellers get into this setup & come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter, Gail[1]

It is kind of a matter of perspective, here you have John and James, they have been in the presence of the Lord for three years now, they really don’t appreciate what they have, they seem to think that it’s just straight up ok to go to God the Son: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” I mean wow, right up front pretty obnoxious!? It’s as if they weren’t even listening. Didn’t Jesus just tell them what would happen to Him? I’m going to be turned over to be killed, that’s bad, but then I will rise, that’s great! What’s their response? Hey we want you to do this for us Jesus. Gail appreciates where she’s been, even in Marine Corps boot camp. She thinks her new life is just terrific. James and John, they seem to forget where they’ve been, they seem to think they’re entitled to an upgrade in life. Yea, I know we’ve all been there, we all want better. But too often it’s our idea of “better” and we just ignore God’s idea.

John and James, like the rest of the disciples, frankly, like too many of us, still have not gotten the idea, it’s not about them and what they get, it’s about what God has for our lives. As it says in your bulletin: “Our old, sinful selves still sometimes want Jesus to be like a genie in a bottle who will give us three wishes rather than a Lord and Savior who has forgiven our sins.” It really comes down to this; as Christians who are in charge of our lives, who do we serve? Is it all about me? Or is it all about our brothers and sisters in Jesus and ultimately/most importantly about Jesus? About Him who sacrificed and suffered everything in order to serve us? He really does serve us, He gave us our relationship with the Father, He fulfills our hope of life – life eternal, we know all those in the world who are without hope, we have the promise, we know we don’t have to jump through hoops to have what we hope for. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Eph 2:8). Sola Gratia, grace alone that is given to us because of what Jesus did for us. We couldn’t do anything to earn that if we wanted to. What could we possibly add to what Jesus did for us? We are baptized in the Name of the Triune God. Jesus saved us and He gives us the grace, the faith to know that we’ve been saved. All this is done for us, through nothing that we’ve done. Paul goes on in Eph 2:9 “not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The motto of my first undergraduate college was “…not to be served, but to serve..”, This is an old public college, in liberal Massachusetts, I didn’t know what that motto was about when I went there and I’d bet pretty much no one else, student, teacher, staff knew where it was from. Jesus promised to serve us, He did and He continues to.

Private Gail, she’s serving, she’s in the Marines, while she serves, she appreciates how much that she has, how good life is. In the world we serve Satan/old man Minch. We may not see it, but he is cruel, merciless and at some point he will drop the hammer on those who are not in Jesus. This might be a little weird, but the Marines, being kind of like Jesus? May seem hard, but to us who have lived in the world and know the harshness of the world, Jesus tells us: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:30) Let’s appreciate what Jesus has done, let’s hear what He has to say and not just push through with our agenda. The world/old man Minch, will only serve us at a price and it’s a pay me now and pay me later. With Jesus He lived, died, served, for John and James, all for we who are His and for all eternity.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

We serve our neighbors in service to God

We’ve been talking about vocation in many ways at our Wednesday Coffee Break Bible study. Certainly our vocation in terms of our job, profession, position. Position can mean many different things in terms of our spouse, children, parents, siblings. Our position in the community. Any responsibility we hold in the church, on and on. Positions God puts us in, in His service, but to serve others. I’m sure we recognize that God doesn’t need our service per se. Jesus has done all that is necessary, and God sustains us in every way. We are in His service for what we do for ourselves and for others.

I serve by working to better myself in every possible way nutrition, exercise, study things that are edifying. We are in His service when we serve our neighbors. Surely God puts us into situations where our service to a neighbor would be pleasing to Him. In fact I would hope that we would do works to glorify Him, that others may know that what I did was a result of what God does to me and through me. So anything I do for another is only a result of the Holy Spirit in me.

Henry and Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Today”, p 122: “God deserves our love and He demands that we love others in the same way He does.” And yes, I will say it again God’s love is of genuine concern for what is best for another, not this phoney, empty enabling love we think of today. What is in that person’s best interests and not ours. Believe me that is hard to do but that is the goal we need to strive for. Heck, in today’s world, anyone who even approaches that is doing more than anyone expects.

The Blackabys spell this out: “We are to love our spouses, not as they deserve, but as God commands (Eph 5: 22-33). We are to treat our friends, not as they treat us, but as Christ loves us (John 13:14). We are to labor at our jobs, not in proportion to the way our employer treats us, but according to the way God treats us. God is the One we serve (Eph 6:5).”

“Mediocrity and laziness have no place in the Christian’s life. Christians must maintain integrity at home and in the workplace… Our toil then becomes an offering to God. We not only worship God at church on Sunday, but our labor throughout the week is an offering of worship and thanksgiving to the One who has given us everything we have.”

How many times have you seen someone decide that they’re just not treated fairly and they do what amounts to be stupid things to strike back? And we all know how that works out. It bites them, it brings them a bad reputation and if people know they are a Christian, it always puts Christians in a bad light. “Our” work is “our” work. We may be getting what we think is a bad deal, but doing work that doesn’t serve our neighbor and reflects poorly on Christ and Christian brothers and sisters really ends up only hurting the people who you’ve professed to be in fellowship with and the Father. Do we really want people to think we are all about shoddy, half baked service? Sure we aren’t always going to be great, but we should make our best effort to be as good as possible and never be perceived as “tanking the ball”. Someone will call us on it and we’re the one who looks bad in the end. That certainly should be our perspective in our work and no less in our family and our church.

Our efforts should even be thought of as an offering to God, not in the sense of earning anything or buying anything, but certainly in the sense of Thanksgiving.

Even when others fail us, refuse us, treat us poorly, we continue to serve because our service is always given in thanks to God. Take a break during the week, Wednesday mornings, the coffee shop at the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa.  10am, park behind the church. I will even buy you your first cup of coffee. No charge, no obligation.

It’s about God and brothers and sisters in Jesus, it’s not about you

I was listening to J Vernon McGee while I was reading this devotional by Henry Blackaby and I noticed how the common thread was “it’s not about you” or me, it’s about God!

Dr McGee was answering the tire old nonsense “a loving God wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” I really wish people would think a little more and quit with the simple little cliches. People love to say how much smarter they are than everyone before or now. It’s not true. Dr McGee points out that God is loving. He is also righteous, just and holy.  He has given us a way to be saved unlike any other belief system, but it has to be on the basis of salvation in His Son. But in our day and age when we think it’s all about us, we think God is supposed to take whatever we offer Him. No! It’s not your way it’s God’s way.

We are holy in Jesus.  In Jesus we are in the presence of the Lord, God is holy. That means set apart, sanctified. He will not accept anything less, His nature abhors anything less. The “ONLY” way we can be holy is through God the Son. There is no other way. Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Dr Blackabys devotional was on how what we do and don’t do affects other Christians. We should act only after we consider how our actions will affect other Christians. When we sin “Sin promotes independence. It isolates you from others… God designed you for interdepenence.”

We do have responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Jesus. But that does raise the question in terms of those who aren’t in Jesus. The Acts church was solely focused on only supporting fellow Christians. The church I pastor does reach out to help, but frankly there’s only so much we can do and we have a responsibility to help brothers and sisters. I think we should be very discerning in who we help because we just do not have the resources. The church at all levels does so much with so little for so many and yet the average secularist (who statistically) does very little for anyone else still likes to wag their finger at the church. Yes those same people who love to say how non-judgmental they are.

The take away is this.  It’s just not about you. If you really don’t understand what God is about, you better not go around making statements about what God will or won’t do. I mean come on that’s just stupid. God gave His Son for our salvation we are saved in Him or we condemn ourselves.

We need to remember when we sin, it’s not just about us. Our sin reflects on and affects countless numbers of other Christians. And we should be in service, but primarily to brothers and sisters in Jesus. We are guided by the Holy Spirit to help others but we are focused on serving those who are in Jesus.

Dr J Vernon McGee weekly question and answer podcast for March 14, 2015

“experiencing God Day by Day Henry and Richard Blackaby  p 130