Pastor’s Blog

Day 7 of our NYG Adventures

NOTE: So I am composing this post NYG while on Vacation, because I ran out of time (and hotel internet access), and after a 26 hour bus ride I was too tired to do it the night we returned to Rapid City.  Then next morning my family and I left early for Wisconsin, arrived last night, and this is the first time I had to blog.

Thursday, July 4th.  Started out like most days at the NYG.  A quick breakfast and then off to events.  Today was the NYG Divine Worship Service with President Harrison Preaching, my cousin's daughter singing in the NYG choir, and Holy Communion for 25,000+ people.  All I can say is AWESOME!!!
From there our group--short on sleep--decided that instead of trying to get into some of the sessions for that day, would go over to the area with all the booths, and then head over to get some lunch and then head back to the hotel.  Lunch today was at a Texas specialty...Whataburger.  It was pretty good, but quite busy with lots of other NYG go-ers having the same idea as us.  Then we went back to the hotel for swimming or napping or both.
It was decided that half of us were going to walk and half of us wanted to try and take a water taxi down the riverwalk to the Thurs. Mass Event.  The walkers were already at the Alamodome before we ever got a taxi.      We ended up being late for the Mass Event, but came in for most of a very wonderful speaker...Jessica Stevens a (26?)yr old young woman who gave a very inspirational and awesome testimony and speech, reminding us all that our identity is in Christ Jesus.  Well done young lady!
The night was closed with one of my favorite songs from the NYG, "Our God is Love," complete with a few fireworks going off inside the dome.
Outside, seeing as how it was the 4th of July and all, we were treated to some AWESOME San Antonio fireworks.  WHAT a wonderful, God-blessed and joy-filled day!
Remember that your identity is in Christ Jesus!
Here are some photos of a wonderful 4th of July at the NYG in San Antonio.
My cousin's daughter Ally singing in the NYG choir
Pres. Matthew Harrison preaching at the Divine Service.
Jessica Stevens pointing up to Christ, who is our identity.

San Antonio fireworks after the Mass Event.

Next Blog coming soon...

Sorry guys, my internet access at the hotel runs out in a few minutes.  I will blog about the last 3
days of our Trip, including todays adventures when we get back to Rapid...assuming I survive the 28hr bus ride home.
Love and God's blessings.
Good Night All!!!  And happy 4th of July!

Day 6 of our NYG Adventures

So yesterday was more of the sessions, and several of my group were in the same sessions that I wanted to go to.  YEA!!  One speaker in particular was so good that we went to his presentations back to back.  At least they were on different topics.  Brad Alles had sessions entitled: "Love Lived--and Here's Evidence" and also "The End is Near".  The first was about defending our faith with what is called "apologetics."  Apologetics is NOT apologizing for our faith.  It is the branch of study that deals with the establishment and defense of faith.  He was a great speaker in both topics.
From 5-6pm several in our group worked the South Dakota District booth, where groups of people got their pictures taken with their faces behind a cutout board of Mount Rushmore.
Today though, I think the week finally caught up to all of us--we were all so tired, which can have an adverse effect on group dynamics.  But we pulled together and had a wonderful night of celebration.
What were we celebrating, you might ask...
I have to go back a few days to explain.
On Sunday at dinner, one of our group asked me if I would baptize her.  Originally we were going to do this on Thursday.  But Becky figured out that the worship service for the gathering was Thursday morning.  So we decided to make a change in our plans and have it on Wed evening in place of going to the Mass Event.
When we were all done with sessions we went back to the hotel rooms to change clothes and rest a bit.  Then we went to our destination for the baptism...a fountain with a pineapple sculpture on it that is on the riverwalk near our hotel.
We then had the baptism of Brandi Bentz into the family of God.  It was awesome!!!  And then when we were finished, a turtledove landed on top of the fountain and stayed there.  It was quite a moment.
To celebrate this wonderful event, we went to have a late dinner at The Rainforest Cafe.  We had the best waiter ever, the food was really good, and the decorations in the place were really cool, with the sounds and sights of a Thunderstorm going off every once in a while, and various animatronic jungle animals all over the restaurant.
All in all it was a fantastic day!  A blessed Day!  A day to celebrate God's grace and blessings.
Here are some pictures...
Baptism of Brandi Bentz

Just after the Baptism

A Turtledove landing on the fountain after the baptism.

All of us very full and happy after our dinner at The Rainforest  Cafe.

Day 5 of our NYG Journey

Today we started into our diverse breakout learning sessions where every two hours there are different speakers on different topics that youth and chaperons get to choose from.  It can be utter chaos at times when hundreds of people want to get into the same room with a limited amount of seats.  I went to some pretty good talks, and some of our youth seemed to like the ones that they went to as well.  I spent a lot of the day with James, who came to many of the same ones I did.
The BIG news for me today was that I finally got to see my cousin Lana and her daughter Ally.  We were all three very excited for the little reunion, and hugs went all around.  We chatted for oh such a very short time, but it was very good to see them.  It sounds like their group is having an awesome time at the NYG as well.
Tonight (Tues night) we went to the second Mass Event at the Alamo Dome.  It was good,  there are some great song that are played every night that we get to sing along to.  Love to sing, but I am not much for the dancing around and waving my arms kind of thing.  I will leave that to the girls in our group who were really getting into it.  You know who you are! 🙂
After the Mass Event was over--they had an EVENT PLUS, which translates into extra entertainment after the main Event.  So we stayed and watched "The Jesus Painter" and the "Sand Painter."  These guys are both truly amazing artists.  If you ever get a chance to see them DO IT!  But if not, you may find both of them on YouTube.
We had lots of fun, but I was completely wiped out after we made the long track home.  It was probably 1:30 in the morning before I went to bed.  Then we had to get up early again the next day.  That's why I am not blogging about it until 12 30am the next night (Thurs Morning).  I will try and blog about Wednesdays activities tomorrow morning.  I think you will want to read that one.  We had a very exciting and fun night tonight!  Til then, Thanks for reading and God Bless!!

The Jesus Painter

The Sand Painter

NYG Day 4 (Monday) Opening Night

That's all I can say about last night's opening Mass Event. 
"Mass Event" refers to the special ceremonies that NYG participants have each night to close out each day of the NYG activities.  It is an amazing time with 25,000+ Lutherans of the community of God worshiping and praising God together as one BIG family in Christ Jesus.  And unless you have been to one of these, you cannot do it justice in trying to describe it.  From the lights, to the music (which you don't even care how very LOUD it is--see Psalm 100 to know what I am talking about.), to the stories and the humor.  Here at this time and in this place youth are free to let go and be themselves and to be enthusiastic about their faith and life in Christ.  
What an awesome day!  We had a district (South Dakota District) event at another hotel near the convention center, where we had a catered luncheon that was very yummy (especially that gigantic piece of XTREME-ly rich chocolate cake...OOOOH yeah--gimme some more of that!  Also, we were provided with entertainment from 3-2-1 Improv, a Christian improvisation group that travels all over the country (and sometimes across borders) to share joy and laughter with people.  We ate and laughed and had a great time!
The rest of the day was spent doing what we wanted all gearing up to the Mass Opening Event at the Alamo Dome. We finally got Torri her Mexican food.  I found out that she enjoys a good Chimichanga as much as I do!  (Have you ever tried saying that word..."CHIMICHANGA"  Say it fast and loud.  It's kind of a funny word)  Anyway, we ate at a Mexican restaurant on the riverwalk.  
After dinner, we went to the Alamo Dome, the site for all our Mass Events.  You have not experienced anything like what it is like to see so many youth and chaperons coming from different directions and converging on to one place.  The air was thick with excitement.  You could feel the love (No, I'm not kidding about that...there were teens going around giving out free hugs to--EVERYONE).  It seemed like forever for the sea of people (was this what it was like for Moses trying to lead Israel to the promised land?) to get to our destination, and once we got there it was more chaos of sorts trying to get to one of the openings for each section of the dome.  When we finally made it to a less crowded section, we went in and that's when the music started, and those who were already seated let out a great big cheer!  During the Mass Event, there were many singing along, waving their arms, clapping, and some beach balls being batted around different parts of the stadium.  It is like one great big giant worship and praise party going on.  And our youth were really getting into it.
What a night.  Once again, our youth are awesome, and I am proud to be their pastor and help them to continue to grow in their faith and live in their baptismal identities.  That's all I have about Day #4.  I will share about our Day 5 adventures tonight...unless we get back too late!  God's blessings, and I look forward to sharing our special news with you later in the week!
Love in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Dave
Jenna & Devin with 3-2-1 Improv guys.
Opening Mass Event

NYG Trip Day 3 (Sunday)

It is day three of our journey together and it has been full of surprises.  The day started with heavy rain, and a forecast that called for more.  There was a lot of discussion about going to Six Flags or not.  Our group and Bethlehem-RC, decided we would come up with a plan B.  So we ended up choosing to go to the Alamo (mainly because you shouldn't visit San Antonio without visiting the Alamo.  And we got SOAKED!   I don't know which is worse, my clothes being soaked from the rain, or my clothes being soaked later on from all the sweat pouring out of me from walking in the Texas heat.  Our plan was to then go on from the Alamo to the River Center Mall on the riverwalk.  Bethlehem's group went to the IMAX theatre there and saw "Man of Steel."  The rest of us went shopping and walking around their huge mall.  I didn't want to shop, so I went exploring on the Riverwalk, and saw lots of culture...and a crawfish scurrying backwards almost right on top of my foot.
Later on we took a ride on one of the Riverwalk taxi boats.  That was a neat experience, and it was narrated  by our driver.  We met up with the Bethlehem group and decided on The Hard Rock Cafe I had found while exploring, just up a ways by many other restaurants on the riverwalk.  It was loud there but they had good food.
It is 1am on the 4th day now and I just wanted to catch all y'all up a little bit.  You probably saw my pictures from Sunday anyway on facebook.  I am going to bed now, but will post on day 4 (Monday) tomorrow morning after I have had a chance to wake up.
Have a great night all!
P.S.  I will share the awesome news later this week.  Can you handle the suspense???

Here is a photo of our group at the Alamo.  Even soaking wet, they are a pretty happy bunch!  Love these guys!

NYG Days 1&2 of our Adventure

Well, last evening completed our long and tiring 28hr marathon bus ride to San Antonio from Rapid City.  And when we arrived, we found Texas to be HOT HOT HOT!  Triple digits all y'all.  (That's a local Southun  thang).
We finally got checked in to our hotel after 8pm I think it was.  The best description I could give of our group if I were a local watching us get off the bus would have to be "Smelly Zombies."   Now I am not much at all for zombie this or that, but I suppose it would have been an accurate description.
When we got here and got our rooms, it was individual's choice, sort of...some were hungry, some just wanted to shower, some went swimming, and I would imagine, some just wanted to crash in their beds and sleep.
Our group from Peace decided to have a pizza party in my room, which the entire Rapid City group is affectionately calling "The Breakfast Room" because all 30+ people are supposed to cram into it for breakfast each day.  We are about 1/2 hr away from seeing how that is going to work, or not work as the case may be.  Our Peace group had lots of fun talking last night, and parents I am very proud to say we have an outstanding group of youth.  I am having a blast with them already.  What you might be surprised to hear, (I know that I was) is that after only one month out of school, that is mostly what we were talking about.  It would seem that they like school more than they may be letting on during the actual school year.  But I was fascinated to learn what all their interests, likes and dislikes with school are.
One thing is certain, I am truly blessed to be pastor of such a wonderful group of youth.  I hope they feel blessed to have me as their shepherd.
Today looks to be adventurous with more temperatures in triple digits and the threat of T-storms in the area. Right now that threat looks promising, b/c it is 6:56 am and quite overcast here.  No sun in sight, which might help with the temps a little bit.  It may be a very wet day at 6-flags.
I will leave you all with a scripture verse and try to get some pictures once I have taken some.

Psalm 78:52 
    Then he led out his people like sheep
        and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.


Destruction and community

I know it has been a very long time since I posted anything.  Such is the life of a pastor sometimes.  But I was very moved by the events in Oklahoma and other areas this week with the massive outbreak of tornadoes in what we sometimes perhaps callously refer to as "Tornado Alley."  Coming from Missouri, I have seen the destruction that these "twisters" can bring to a town, city, or multiple areas.  I have even been in places where tornadoes have touched down somewhere in the city I was living in or visiting at the time.  I have seen what is left after it hits.  I have witnessed where it destroyed a building on one side of a street and left another untouched on the other side.  But most of all, I have seen what it does to families and also to communities.  That is the reason for my blogging this morning.

It was not that long ago, in two separate times and incidences, that two very destructive tornadoes hit my home state of Missouri.  One in Bridgeton, Mo (just across the river from where my family lives) and a more recent one in Joplin, Mo that you may remember hearing about.  (I nearly went to college in Joplin, Mo)

In both cases it was very sad to see the destruction that happened in those towns and how the people were affected by the loss that occurs on such an enormous scale.  It wrenches one's heart to see the devastation something like a storm can bring in such a very short amount of time.  Even with the greater amount of time the National Weather Service (shout out to my brother Steve here!) gives to people with severe weather alerts and warnings, these massive storms come and go very quickly, and before we know it the damage is done.  Without the warnings issued, I suppose the devastation and loss (of life) would be even worse than it already is.

But something else seems to happen when devastation of this sort occurs in the lives of entire communities.  We see a warmer side of human beings actually being the "community" that we are supposed to be.  We have witnessed this a great deal in the last decade especially, with Hurricanes in the Gulf and upper Atlantic states; tornadoes all over the mid-western states and the south; and other "natural disasters" as we call them. But my heart is filled with joy to see people coming together to help others they may or may not know, in the midst of so much loss and hurting.  Even if it is just to embrace one another for comfort, or to pray with or for others so that they know that other people care a great deal for them, or to help them clean up and salvage whatever they can find that survived such a disaster.

Especially where lives are lost due to these tragic events, it is important that we have compassion for our neighbor (here neighbor is defined in the Biblical manner of "anyone other than ourselves").  And compassion means DO-ING something for them or with them to help them in time of need.  It mean SHOW-ING mercy to others when they need mercy.  Compassion necessarily means there is action taken.  It is not merely feeling sorry for someone else and their bad situation.

I would ask everyone who might read this blog, to take up action and have compassion for those who have been affected by these recent massive and devastating storms, and at least join me in praying for the victims of this tragedy.  Pray for mercy, healing, and comfort for those who have lost property, been injured, or have  lost a loved one.  And also for the community as a whole, to work together in rebuilding lives with the help of God, who desires us to have community.
May the Lord of all bless and keep you in His grace and grant you His peace!
Thanks for reading and God bless you all!

on The Tension Between Love and Tolerance.


            Recently, someone I know wrote that God is the God of love and tolerance.  I must admit, I have been wrestling with that statement all week.  The more I wrestle with it, the more I find it disturbing that people, especially Christians, could view God as “tolerant.” 
Loving?  Most definitely, yes!  God is Love.  But tolerant?  I think that God’s Holy Word would object to that notion.

            There are so many examples from Scripture that explain to us just exactly how In-tolerant our Holy God is of all sin.  Take for instance Adam and Eve to begin with.  God banished them from the perfect life in the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed His command.  Would that suggest tolerance?  Or how about during Noah’s time [Genesis 6:5-7] when “the Lord God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.  So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds from the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  Does that sound like tolerance?  Or how about the story of Lot in chapter 19, where the city of Sodom is destroyed because of their wickedness and sexual sin.  I find no tolerance for sin from God there.  These are just a few examples from one Book in the Bible among countless other examples from Scripture which show just how little tolerance God has for sin.

            And yet our God is loving.  Take any of those examples listed above and you will find the love of God shown to His people.  In the case of Adam and Eve, he gave them clothing, and the promise of salvation He would send, all in the midst of his punishment.  In the case of Noah, we are told that he found favor in the eyes of the Lord.  The Lord would preserve Noah and his family—8 souls in all, and establish a covenant with them.  With the tower of Babel, the Lord came down among them [v5], and though He did not approve of what they were doing, nevertheless He preserved their lives.  And with the city of Sodom, the angels who were sent there by God gave Lot warning so that he could get his family out before the Lord destroyed the city, and urged them to get up and leave. In all these ways, the Lord showed His love, and mercy, but in doing so did certainly NOT show tolerance for sin. 

            It would seem that some would confuse love and tolerance, and somehow mingle the two together in some kind of twisted conglomeration.  Perhaps they see God’s unprecedented patience as tolerance and/or acceptance of all that people do.  But again, Scripture is very clear about this—[1 Peter 3:8-9] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

            I would add to that thought, what need do we have of repentance if God, our Holy and Righteous God, is tolerant of everything?  With that way of thinking we suppose then that there is no sin, and thus no need for repentance, and thus no need for God, and especially no need for His Son Jesus Christ; who then apparently died in vain for we poor sinners (oops, I shouldn’t call us all that—it wouldn’t be politically correct).

            But how easy we have made it for ourselves to deny sin, to deny that we are sinners, reject the notion of repentance, reject God, and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and accept all things as good.

            The fact is, our conscience—another gift from God—helps us to know the difference between what is right and wrong, but we have convinced ourselves that only part of what our conscience tells us is wrong is actually true.  We have decided that we know better than God what is good, right, and salutary—what we ought to be able to do, what we absolutely won’t do—what is best for ourselves but perhaps not for someone else.  This way, we do not have to concern ourselves with something as messy as sin—at least not until we come across something that REALLY gets us upset.  To many, it is those things that register as “sinful” or at least wrong, but all other things are ok, even if God has said repeatedly that they are not.

            I have actually found that most who are preaching tolerance tend to be some of the most IN-tolerant people.  I have also noticed in recent years that tolerance and the idea of love (the kind Jesus tells us to have for our neighbor) has become blended together.

            This results in an “if you are not tolerant of everything, than you are obviously a hater,” attitude.  This kind of an attitude has increasingly and disturbingly become more of the norm within American culture.

            It would be a travesty to preach and teach tolerance of alI things and to call that love. I don't think Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world--(thereby showing God's love for us and His hatred of sin)--just to have us go on sinning and be tolerant of sin.  Rather, I think it is extremely important then for us to be aware of the difference between love and tolerance.  I pray  also that we do not lose sight that there is such thing as sin, which manifests itself in our lives in many different ways.  And I hope that we would be led to repentance and would lead others to do the same so that the grace of Christ Jesus may abound in our lives through forgiveness, mercy, and love.


            Thank you for reading, and God bless you all!

Vacation...days one and two

Wednesday(6/20)...Well, we got off to an early morning start from Rapid City, hit a big Thunderstorm just inside Iowa about 6 hours into our trip, and saw a gigantic bolt of lightning just south of us in a cornfield...AWESOME!!!   And we finally made it to my brother's house in Springfield, Mo around 9:30pm CT.  A long and exhausting day, but then we stayed up til about 11:30 talking and being entertained for a while by my 2 yr old niece, Emma!  What a hoot she is now that she is talking.  I had not seen her since November, and my family much longer than that.  So good to be  with my brother's family.

Thursday(6/21)  Today was a blast.  We slept in because of being so tired from the trip.  Had a nice sit down breakfast with everyone, which never happens when we are back home.  Just kind of lounged around for a while, and went to lunch at Fazzolis, (a restaraunt we do not have in Rapid City, SD...or anywhere close for that matter!)  Baked spaghetti with meatballs and unlimited garlic breadsticks---Yummo!  Then we headed to the Springfield Zoo (more specifically Dickerson Park Zoo)  It was surprisingly good!  For the size of city that Springfield is, they have a real nice zoo.  Then we came back home and rested for a while and went bowling.  The kids and Amy have been bowling quite a bit this summer with the kids bowl free program back in Rapid, so they were all doing well. My sister in law was a very good bowler back in the day(...and still is).  No wonder my brother says when they go bowling he sets goals, and none of those goals is to have a better score than Susan.  Wow!  You really are a good bowler Susan.  She scored a 499 in three games.  IMPRESSIVE!  Three of us had the best games we have ever bowled.  Amy and I both got turkeys on the 10th frames of our second game, hers right after I finished getting mine.  We were both amazed, and it was my first turkey ever! 
After all that we came home and had another fantastic meal.  I stayed up and watched a movie.
A GREAT day all in all...but our camera is broken, and the silicon cover to my CPAP mask is ripped, so not a great day for technology for me, and a rough night of sleep.  We shall see what today brings!

Thanks for reading and God's blessings to you!

A few words about Bullying

     Dear friends, it grieves my heart to even be writing this post today.  It seems that we cannot get rid of that neanderthal-like, thuggish urge that some have to bully others.  Bullying has become such a bad problem these days that it is even being done through our newly developed technologies.  We are talking more than just being made fun of, because I think that everyone expereinces that in life.  And to a certain extent, we better be able to laugh at ourselves a little bit.  No, I am talking about the constant badgering, relentless making fun of, saying and doing pure meanness to others. 
     I am writing this from personal experience, as well as in support of anyone who has ever been bullied.  For me it was because I had acne as an adolescent, and from the age of 12, far too many others picked on me on a daily basis.  As an already shy kid, it was difficult to respond, and so these kids kept doing it, because I would do/say nothing.  To those who did, I forgive you for your actions/words that were so hurtful.  But just because I forgive you does not make such behavior right or acceptable.
      I would also say that this behavior needs to stop, and for many reasons.  You may not be aware of just how bad you are hurting someone, even with just words.  They might begin to believe what you are saying about them, especially in thier own weakness.  You may not be aware of what they might be capable of if you keep pushing them. 
Bullying has become a real problem in our society, and it is not just happening in Jr. High and High Schools.  It happens in adulthood as well.  We can't just look the other way and pretend like it is not a real problem.
     I challenge everyone to stand up to those who would bully others, and challenge thier behavior instead of pretending that it did not happen.  If we don't stand up to it, that is the same as condoning it.
     I have never understood the mind of a bully, because it makes no sense to me to treat someone so callously and without love for our neighbor.  I suppose there may be something insecure in the person who would bully, that makes them feel superior or "stronger" themselves, when they treat others poorly, or as "lesser" than themselves.
     If you see or hear bullying of another, try to stop it.  If you are a bully, take a few seconds to think about how much you might be hurting someone else, and STOP yourself.  Think for a moment about how it would make you feel if  people were ganging up on you relentlessly.
Let's all work together to STOP bullying from hurting others!
     Thanks for reading and God bless you!

This night has it all....almost!!!

     A blessed Holy Week and Maundy Thursday to you all!
I would imagine that most of my brother pastors who blog are probably writing something similar today, but how can we pass up writing about the important events that we celebrate on this day?
     To begin with, Maundy Thursday--which is part of the Triduum [consisting of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday], is the night when Jesus instituted a "memorial" of His Passion in the Lord's Supper.  "Maundy" comes from the Latin Mandatum--the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you")
     On this night also, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, demonstrating that He "came not to be served, but to serve others," a principle that He wanted to pass on to His disciples.
     On this night Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him.  Later on in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas would betray Jesus to His accusers with a kiss.  And they would arrest Him.
     On this night while His disciples fell asleep at their watch, Jesus would pray, "with drops of sweat as blood" asking that this cup be taken from Him, but not His will but the Father's will be done.
     On this night, Jesus would tell Peter that Peter would deny Him 3 times.  When he was questioned about his relationship to Jesus, Peter did deny His Lord 3 times, and realized what he had done after the rooster crowed.
 The Lord's Supper,  Love, Serving, Prayer, Betrayal, Arrest, Denial...This night has it all....almost!!!

On Maundy Thursday, when the Divine Service finishes, in preparation for Good Friday, the altar is stripped and the chancel is cleared.  Psalm 22 is chanted while this is being done.

On Ash Wednesday and Lent

It has been a while, so I am quite rusty at this.  Here goes....

Today we in the Lutheran Church-Mo. Synod, [as well as other denominations] are observing Ash Wednesday as the start of another season of Lent in the church calendar.  I thought I would share a few things about both in my blog today, and hopefully this will kickstart me out of my blogging funk to where I am posting regularly again.

from Lutheran Worship: History and Practice.
     Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season, which lasts for 40 days, excluding Sundays...Lent is a time to reflect on Baptism, a time for re-birth and renewal in preparation for the celebration of Easter."  To mark the season is the color purple.  It is a time for the discipline of learning and growing in faith, for repentance and for prayer, even for fasting to practice self-control and to heighten one's awareness of Christ. 
     Other customs may be used, particularly the imposition of ashes on those who wish it.  The ancient act is a gesture of repentance and a powerful reminder about the meaning of the day.  Ashes can symbolize dust to dustness and remind worshipers of the need for cleansing, scrubbing, and purifying. 

from Our Suffering Savior, 2nd ed.

For the next six weeks, our meditations will be based on the Fourth Servant Song of Isaiah. This remarkable passage was penned about seven hundred years before Christ. It depicts Christ’s life from the cradle to the grave, from His birth to His resurrection.

The passage both starts and ends on the elevated summit of joy at Christ’s success, and it. This part of the church year is also like two lofty mountain peaks—Transfiguration and Easter—with a vale, the penitent season of Lent, in between.

God is good to afford us a vision of Christ’s triumph before we are exposed to the gruesome details of His suffering so that the hope of Easter will sustain us during the intervening weeks. We begin our journey this Lent knowing that suffering will end in death, but death will end in resurrection and life eternal in Christ.
      Tonight we begin this journey through Lent with our Ash Wednesday worship, including the imposition of ashes and celebration of the Lord's Supper.  This is a somber but holy time in the church calendar in which we will be reminded of our need for repentance, our need for a Savior from sin, and the provision of our salvation through Jesus Christ, God's only Son--OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR.
     If you are in the Rapid City area, please join us tonight at 6pm for a fellowship meal, and at 7pm as we worship God for the mercy He has shown us in Jesus Christ.  Peace Lutheran Church is located at 219 E. St. Anne in the Robbinsdale area of Rapid City.  We would love to share Christ with you tonight!
Thank you for reading and God bless you throughout this Lenten season and always!

Getting to know you.

     Sometimes people are difficult to get to know.  Sometimes we don't make too big of an effort to get to know someone.  It can be scary or intimidating sometimes to approach others and just try to spark off conversation with someone you don't know, particularly if they "look" intimidating--that is to say, their appearance.
     Today I did a funeral service for such a man.  When I first came here to Peace Lutheran church in Rapid City, SD, I did not know this man at all. That remained true for quite a while as I began to get to know those in the church that I was working with and saw more regularly.  Even though I did not know this man initially, it was hard not to notice him.  He was a very tall and large man, who always walked with a cane and sat in the back.  You couldn't miss him.  By the same token he had a very intimidating presence.
     About a year ago, he went into the hospital for a few days, and I was a little nervous about going to see him, and wondered what our conversation might be like, or if we would even have one.  We had not said much more than hello and God's blessings to one another to that point.  Admittedly, it was a little strained that first day at the hospital, and I left not knowing what to think.  But the next day when I went for a second visit, he told me just about everything he could about himself and his history at Peace Lutheran--at least as much as he could in one hospital visit.  The next couple visits were more of the same.
     Shortly after he went home from the hospital-about a week or two later-he showed up at my office to bring me some very old catechism materials that he had stored away at his house.  He had gone digging through some old stuff to find it so that he could bring it to me. 
     I realized that it was his way of telling me that he accepted me, and that he knew I had accepted him as well....a token of appreciation if you will.  What I had not realized until then is that this man only let in  those who he wanted to, and that only when he felt that he trusted you.  By the same token, in my own intimidation, I had not attempted very hard to try and get to know him, until he was in the hospital.
     Relationships are so important in life, as in the church.  It is something that God desires for us--having fellowship and community.  I pray that God will help us get past our own stumbling blocks and the stumbling blocks that others place in front of us, so that we can develop relationships that please God and fulfill His purpose in our lives.
    This blog-post is dedicated to Roger Johnson.  I will miss you friend!  Praise be to God for the faith that He gave you in Jesus Christ!
      Until we meet again.....

Newness of life part2

2 Cor. 5:17
[17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

  A new creation... IMPOSSIBLE?  Not at all.  In fact, that's what I want to be.  Oh but how our sinful nature struggles against this.  Paul writes about this struggle within himself in one of my favorite passages describing the daily battle that goes on within us...
 [15] I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [16] Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. [17] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  [21] So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. [22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:15-25

God, through His Son Jesus Christ makes this possible for all of us.
So what does this "new creation" look like?
For one thing, we live by the Spirit, that is the Holy Spirit is guiding us, instead of the Old Adam(our sinful nature).  And not only that, but we are listening to the Spirit, and following Christ.  We desire to keep the Lord's commandments, and when we fall short (as we all do), we are repentant, and ask for and receive forgiveness from God.
The "new creation" in Christ is dead to sin, and alive in Jesus.  That's what I want to be!
There's a song that my family likes, from a Christian music group called Lost and Found.  It starts out, "I wanna be a new creation, formed from the fingers of God's right hand." 
Think of all that God has created.  Think about the fact that He also created you.  And though we are all sinful by nature, God-who created everything-is able to do something new with us, in us, and for us.  Praise be to God for His grace in our lives!
Thank you for reading, and God bless you!