Rehearsal

Vision

An old Chinese Proverb says:  “If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.”  What does that have to do with Our Savior Lutheran Church – one word: ‘Vision’.   Charles Swindoll said ‘Vision encompasses vast vistas outside the realm of the predictable, the safe, the expected.’  Proverbs 29 says ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish…’  A ‘vision’ is forward-looking; it calls us to the future.  There is another saying:  regret looks back; worry looks around, and faith looks up.  Without faith and hope, there can be no vision.

 (From a sermon, The Risk Taking Church by Stephen Sheane)  ‘There are only 3 kinds of churches.  There is the under-taking church.  The undertaking church is one that is always looking backwards. All that people ever talk about are the “good old days”.  Franklin Field said ‘Poor eyes limit your sight; poor vision limits your deeds.’  Then there is the care-taking church.  It seems to always be in maintenance mode, just trying to keep it’s head above the water.  The number one questions is always “do we have the money now to support this”?  Finally, there is the risk-taking church.  The risk taking church is always looking forward. They believe that the best is yet to come. They invest all they have today so that they can be all that God wants them to be tomorrow.    A blind man’s world is bounded by the limits of his touch; an ignorant man’s world by the limits of his knowledge; a great man’s world by the limits of his vision.’

Lord, we do not want to be under-takers; or care-takers of Your Church on earth.  We do not want to be limited by our regret, or our worry, but, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, may we boldly, by faith, be risk-takers, empowered to bring a message of hope, healing and new life to our congregation, our community and the world around us, In Jesus’ Name we pray.  Amen.  A vision without a task is a dream; a task without a vision is drudgery; a vision and a task is the hope of the world.  Let us continue to be a church where God is seen, love is felt and lives are changed!

Rehearsal

Caves

I’ll bet you’re wondering what caves have to do with Christmas.  Let me see if I can make the connection.  Ever been in a cave before?  I love caves!  When I was in college, I crawled through many caves in Indiana with a carbide light.  I’ve been in passages shoulder-wide and shoe-tall!  Once, my brother and I spent 3 days underground in a cave!  Ever been in a cave when the lights go out?  It’s what they call ‘total darkness’ – you  can’t see your hand in front of your face – it’s the complete absence of light!  Unless you’ve been deep underground, you haven’t experienced total darkness like that before!  No words to describe it – utter, total, complete darkness!  If you are lost in a cave with no light, there is NO hope of feeling your way out – NONE! Unless somebody finds you – you will die!

That’s the best description I can think of to explain the human condition at the fall of Adam and Eve.  A separation from God, so profound, so dark, there can be no hope for survival unless somebody finds you.  And God’s promise to Adam and Eve was the promise of a Redeemer, a Savior. In Matthew 4, Jesus, speaking of himself, quotes the words of Isaiah ‘the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’  Jesus is our Emmanuel – God with Us!  Jesus is our light – the Light of the World!  He says these words in John 8:   “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Just as He is the Light of the world; He has called us to be lights to the world, reflecting His light, just as the moon reflects sunlight on a darkened earth.  In this season of Joy, share His love and the Hope that you have!  I remember the words of that children’s song we used to sing: ‘This little Gospel light of mine; I’m going to let it shine!

Rehearsal

4 Things

This is a month when we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.  We are thankful for so many things; so many blessings, so many gifts, so many kindnesses, so many friends.  Seems like we focus on what we get – as opposed to what we give.  I read this recently and thought it was pretty profound:

4 Things You Can’t Recover:  The stone after it’s thrown; The word after it’s said; The occasion after it’s missed;  The time after it’s gone.

 

I think it is proper as we celebrate with a thankful heart, to also reflect on the stones we’ve thrown; the words we said; the occasions we’ve missed and the times we’ve lost.  Let this be an opportunity to pray that we are a blessing to those around us.  In the words of – Etienne de Grellet:  “I shall pass through this world but once.  Any good thing that I can do, or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now.  Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

I like these words in Acts 4:   31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.  32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.  There is a wonderful, mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life — happiness, freedom, and peace of mind — are always attained by giving them to someone else.

Rehearsal

Crosses

I’m the son of a carpenter…….. No, I’m not writing about Jesus, I’m writing in the ‘first person’ about me; my dad was a carpenter.  When my dad’s church decided to remodel their 100-year-old sanctuary, my dad did the work.  New altar, pulpit, lectern, communion rails, and of course, new 20 foot tall oak cross.  Beautiful white-stained oak, framed with a red and gold tapestry; very inspirational and ‘modern’ for 1962.  One of my proudest accomplishments in life is having the opportunity to build the LCMS Cross in our sanctuary!  For me, it’s another connection to my earthly father – as in ‘Like father, like son’.  But it’s more than that, it’s a connection to my Heavenly Father too.

I think of the words to that well-known hymn I grew up with ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.  Or those words from ‘Alas, and did my Savior Bleed’ and this stanza: ‘Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears, Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt mine eyes to tears.’  Or maybe the most inspirational of all ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and these words:  ‘On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.’

In a way, the cross my dad built was a testimony to his faith, and I feel the same way about the one I built –  it is a testimony to our Lord and when I see it, I think about these words in Hebrews 12:  ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’  In a month when we celebrate the Reformation and Martin Luther, let us fix our eyes on the Cross and on our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Rehearsal

Spectator Sports

Do you know what spectator sports are?  They are sports that generally have people watching them being played.  Spectator sports usually require a venue in which the watchers can view the event.  Many times the venue is a stadium.  Baseball is a spectator sport, NASCAR is a spectator sport.  If television is involved, it is a spectator sport.

Worship is not a spectator sport, and yet, all too often, we attend services in the capacity of a spectator, not a participant.  What is worship – it’s an ‘act’ of religious devotion -it means to do somethingWorship is a participant-event  that requires us to act!  What are act’s of worship?  Here are some I can think of:  Confession/contrition/repentance; prayer; singing/praising; giving; hearing/active listening to the Word; testifying .  The following are not my words, but are worth repeating:  ‘Too often worship has become a place of safety and complacency, a narrowly private experience in which solitary individuals only express their personal adoration. Even when we gather corporately, we often close our eyes (and our voices) to those around us, focusing on God but ignoring our neighbor. But true biblical worship does not merely point us upward–it should turn us outward as well.  Psalm 100: ‘Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.’

In our world today, too many people are not singing God’s praises, but only sitting on His premises!  Remember that idea the next time you are at worship, inspire those around you!   II Samuel 6:  ‘David…danced before the LORD with all his might…’  I Chronicles 16:  Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.’  II Chronicles 5:  The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:  “He is good; his love endures forever.”

Rehearsal

Vices

Do you have any vices?  You know, those ‘little’ things you do, that you know you shouldn’t.  The dictionary says a ‘vice’ is an immoral, degrading, or evil habit or practice.  I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to vices.  I collect toy trains.  Sometimes, I buy them when I know I shouldn’t – especially when I hide what I’m doing from my wife. Then, I know I’ve gone too far.  It’s a little embarrassing when she looks at the train layout and I have to fess-up about the purchase of a rather expensive engine that we didn’t discuss beforehand.

Even the most ‘innocent’ habit can become immoral, degrading or evil.  I looked up ‘Shopaholic’ on the Internet, and this is what it says:  ‘Compulsive behavior’, usually associated with an emotional high, or adrenaline rush.   Any ‘compulsive behavior’ can overshadow relationships with family and friends.

I don’t know if I’m, by definition, a ‘shopoholic’, but I do know that if you dance with the devil, he will take you farther than you wanted to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay.   The god of materialism has certainly enticed many in America today to value the worthless, while disregarding priceless wealth!  Solomon says this is Ecclesiastes 5:   ‘Whoever loves money, never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.’  Paul says this in 1 Timothy: ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’

I know for me personally, I am happiest when I take these verses in Hebrews to heart:  ‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Rehearsal

Lifesaver

June, 1967.  Sitting on the beach, watching people swimming in the lake; hundreds of them.  Notice a kid on an inner tube who had floated out past the ropes.  A minute later, I notice the inner tube; but no kid.  Where did he go?  What should I do?  Do I get involved?  Do I ignore what I saw?

I don’t know why I got up and raced over the beach and swam like crazy through those hundreds of  people, out into deep water – but I did.    As I approached the inner tube, the kid was about 3 feet down, struggling to get to the air.  I pulled him up.  When he broached the surface, with a look of desperation, he said simply ‘Help Me.’  Out of all those hundreds of people, that little boy was alive because, by the grace of God, I noticed his plight and I did something about it.

Are you a lifesaver?  You can be.  God has called us to follow Jesus’ example and serve.   Remember the picture of Christ, washing the disciple’s feet?  We are called to be ‘Footwashers’ for Christ.  The Book of  James puts it this way: ‘15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?’  Remember our theme this year ‘Get out of the Boat; Give Hope!’  John Maxwell has said ‘People don’t care what you know; until they know that you care!’  Show YOU care by helping someone today!  Matthew: 25:40   40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Rehearsal

H.O.P.E.

For the past year, I have been a member of a HOPE Cell.  HOPE stands for “House Of Prayer Everywhere”.  Our group has committed to daily, individual, intercessory prayer for everything from our Church, to our Mission(s) to our Country; as well as family, friends and enemies alike!  It is based on the book: ‘The 29:59 Plan, A Guide to Communion with God’.  Our group also gathers together about every third Saturday at Church to pray.  If we have a theme, it is this:  Prayer is our first resolve, not our last resort!  Our commitment to each other was to meet for 12 months and the 12th month is fast-approaching.  We need your help to continue what we have begun!

What has your President learned from this experience?  First, I have learned how to pray.  I mean how to pray in a focused, intentional, way.  I have learned discipline, making the commitment to pray everyday.  I have learned about people, because when you pray for them, you think about them; when you think about them; you feel closer to them.  In the process I have learned about myself too.  Most importantly, I have learned that communication with God is a journey – a growing process.  I will be the first to tell you, I am not an eloquent speaker and it is hard for me to be ‘on-the-spot’ when it comes to prayer.  I have learned that prayer is not about inspiring words or articulate expressions that move the angels – it’s about a humble spirit that seeks to honor our Lord.

There are many verses in Scripture that command us to pray, Paul says this in 1 Timothy ‘1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…’  It is our duty, our mission and our obligation to pray!  I would ask you to prayerfully consider joining a HOPE Cell.  You can contact either me, or one of the Pastors if you are interested.  Remember: When praying, don’t give God instructions – just report for duty.

Rehearsal

Donkey in the Well

There is a story told about a farmer’s donkey who fell into an unused well.  The animal cried pietiously as the farmer tried and failed to get him out.  Rationalizing the donkey was old, maybe the best thing would be to fill-in the well, with the donkey in it.  The farmer began shoveling.  At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well, and was astonished at what he saw. As every shovel of dirt hit his back, the donkey did something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up, eventually stepping out of the well.

The moral to the story?  Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up!

It has been said that life’s troubles are just one thing after another.  That is wrong.  If it was one thing after another, we could handle that!  Life’s troubles are a whole lot of things all at the same time!  Remember, God never promised; A life without pain, Laughter without tears; Or sun without rain. But He did promise; Strength for the day, Comfort for the tears; And light for the way.  Matthew 6:  25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes….. 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life……… 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.  Then there’s Psalm 55:22 –  Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.  He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.’

Rehearsal

Stand and Wait

One of my favorite poets is John Milton; often compared with Shakespeare as one of the truly great English writers.  After going blind,  Milton wrote the poem ‘On His Blindness’.  In the last line, he reflects that even with his disability, he has a place in God’s world, he wrote these famous words ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’  A more modern reading would be: ‘Those people who only stand and wait also serve.’

Did you ever notice at a ‘State dinner’, there are always servants (or “servers”) standing by, in addition to the servers who are bringing food, pouring beverages and clearing dishes.  Or, maybe you haven’t noticed those other servers who stand in the background because they stand so still, they look like “part of the furniture,” “part of the wallpaper.”

I am struck by the number of people we have at Our Savior that provide critical services to us that we never think of – the bulletin folders; the altar people; the food preparers and servers; the drivers; the yard maintainers – and the list goes on and on!  These are the unsung heroes of Faith, the people who ‘Stand and Wait’.  This is what the Lord says of them:  (Matthew 25)  ‘ 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

On behalf of a grateful congregation Thank You for your service; your reward is great in Heaven! (verse 40) – 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’