Archive for category: News & Announcements
The Psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!” Ps. 33:12. What a blessing to know that despite our sinfulness, despite our weaknesses, our gracious God has still chosen us in Jesus, and claimed us as His very own. It isn’t by random chance or mistake that the God who chose us places us where we are. He has a plan. He always has a plan, for your life, for my life, for all of those He has redeemed through the blood of Jesus. He has placed us in this great Nation, and in this 241st year of existence, we celebrate the freedoms we have as citizens of this country. Of course our true freedom comes through Jesus, and what a grand opportunity to celebrate again and again the 500th Reformation Anniversary celebration of the freedom of the Gospel! Still, it’s a great time to celebrate this Nation!
Irving Berlin is noted among 20th Century America’s most beloved lyricists and composers. In fact, George Gershwin once called him “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.” While some may argue that point, Berlin, in his time, produced many familiar and popular tunes during the Second World War, that brought comfort and hope to our Nation. Many of his tunes were used in some of the great Broadway shows of that time, and they have an enduring quality even today. One of my favorite songs that Berlin wrote he penned on a hot July in 1940 in California. No one could have predicted just how popular the song, “White Christmas” would be, but even now at Christmas it still has a strong sentimental place in many hearts.
Long before his success with “White Christmas,” in about 1918, Berlin wrote another tune that captured our Nation. The song is “God Bless America,” and he wrote it while serving in the Army during World War I. Later, during World War II, he revised the words to the song that most of us have heard again and again. “God bless America, land that I love; Stand beside her and guide her, through the night with the light from above.” Here is what I find so fascinating. Berlin was born Israel Isidore Baline in Tolochin, Russia. With the persecution of Jewish people, his family fled to the United States when he was still a baby, but he heard the stories, and he was grateful to be in a country that not only received his family, but gave him unparalleled opportunities. Berlin held a deep appreciation for his adopted country, and he was considered by many to be a patriotic supporter. He celebrated this nation!
Last month I was summoned for Jury Duty, and almost got on a case. As we gathered in the Jury Room at the beginning of the day, we were sworn in, and then we stood together, well over a hundred of us, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I must admit that it’s been some time since I’ve had occasion to do that, and my immediate thought was, “Do I remember the words?” Honestly, as we began speaking it, like riding a bike (which I also haven’t done for a while…) the words just came. Amidst all of the issues we face as a nation, it almost seems as if we have forgotten being “one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
How easy it can be to take our liberties for granted. While there are certainly things that perhaps each of us would wish to change, we live in a marvelous place filled with ample opportunities and experiences that many others in our world simply don’t ever get. God has blessed us in so many ways, and while there is work to be done, God has placed each of us here for such a time as this, as witnesses of the love and grace of Jesus Christ. What a joy to celebrate our faith in this nation!
In Acts 3:17-21, Peter says, “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
God’s calling on our lives is to proclaim the saving name of Jesus to the nations, beginning in our own neighborhood. He washed us clean in the waters of Holy Baptism, He has given us the gift of His Word, and we have the right, privilege and freedom to worship Him, all so we can grow in our faith. God is purposeful in all He does. His desire is that all are saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He equips, empowers and engages us as His missionaries in the conditions He has placed us so we can tell others of His love and grace. So, let me ask you, do your neighbors see Jesus living in you? Often, because of ignorance or sometimes even willful disobedience, we have not allowed the light of Jesus to shine through us.
If that’s true for you, and I admit there are times it’s true for me, we aren’t alone! Consider the Apostle Peter. We often remember him as the leader of the Apostles, but the truth is, he wasn’t always a particularly good witness throughout his sojourn with Jesus, sometimes putting his foot in his mouth. He knew how to talk the talk, but he learned that walking the walk takes time and is a learning experience. Right before the crucifixion of Jesus Peter pledged his undying loyalty to Jesus, and then quickly denied him when the pressure was on. Following the resurrection Peter hid with the rest of the disciples, and they slowly went back to their former life of fishing. Yet, God’s call was on Peter’s life. That wasn’t the end of the story. One morning, following the resurrection, as the disciples were fishing, Jesus called to them from the shore. You no doubt remember the story. From John 21 we read, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus restored Peter and refocused him as a servant. It wasn’t until the power of God’s Spirit came on Peter that he really began to catch on, and even then, from time to time, he made blunders. Even then, he knew who to turn to for forgiveness. Here’s the point. Peter is an example for each of us of the true power of restoration.
We, too, can know the relief from sins forgiven and God’s refreshing restoration. Jesus sets us free to engage in the Master’s business. He desires to renew us and refresh us so that we are better equipped and empowered and engaged to connect people to Jesus. In Him we have been given such an awesome gift to share with the world. So take time to celebrate your freedom, as a child of God redeemed in Jesus, and as a citizen of this nation. May God bless America, and may He draw us back to the principles upon which this nation was founded and make us bold witnesses of our faith in Jesus. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, we can do this for His sake. As the writer to the Proverbs says, “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:8.
Celebrating our nation and our Savior with you,
In cooperation with The LCMS Disaster Response program of Synod, The Florida-Georgia District invites your Congregation to join the joint effort to create one thousand (1,000) or more prepared Flood Buckets to assist LCMS Disaster Response mercy efforts to those affected by flooding. There is no set limit to the number of Flood Buckets your Congregation prepares. The District is asking that each participating Congregation try to put together at least ten (10) Flood Buckets.
The latest issue of Lutheran Life is in the mail to subscribers and is also available online.
This issues features the following:
- LIFELINES: Message from the President
- Candidates, Vicars Assigned to FLGA District
- Innovative Program Equips Church Leaders
- Living Stones…Being Part of the Lord’s Army
- District Students Complete LYF Leadership Training
- District Campus Ministry Helps Develop Future Church Leaders
- Registration Opens for President’s Equip Conference
- Just A Volunteer
- Connecting with the Persecuted Church
- The Coaching Leader
- LCEF Investment Option for All
- District Educator Team Travels to Haiti
- Life Size Mural Celebrates Reformation’s 500th Anniversary
- District Capsules
- Regional news
- and much more
Watch for it in your mailbox, or read it online by using the link below:
Things are supposed to slow down in the summer, aren’t they? While I don’t particularly see that happening, one of the things I do enjoy about the summer months is being able to get out and walk, especially in the cool 90 degree mornings. Walking has obvious health benefits. It also can have spiritual benefits as well, especially if we use the time to grow in our relationship with God. I have often used my solitary walks as a prayer time to formulate those questions I throw before God.
A few weeks ago in my personal devotion time I was reading a passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I read through it several times, and the more I meditated on it, the more intrigued I became, as I sought to understand it and apply it to my life. That’s when I knew it was time for a walk. As I began to unpack Colossians 1:9–12, I was struck by how the message of the text spoke to my heart.
Paul writes, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Paul is writing to the Colossian Church as a result of hearing about their faith in Jesus. Paul is excited for them, and offers a blessing to them. I began to wonder about the people in the Church in Colossae and how it might relate to the Church today. Would Paul rejoice over the faith in churches today?
It occurred to me that the faith of the Colossians was a cause for celebration for St. Paul because Paul knew future generations would be touched by their witness. Not only was it a cause for rejoicing, but it was also a cause for his personal prayers. Notice how specific the prayer was. He prayed that these new Christians would be filled with the knowledge of His will. To know God’s will is both simple and profound. It’s simple because we know God’s will is for all people to hear the proclamation of the Gospel and know that their sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus. It’s profound in that it requires immersing ourselves in God’s Word and listening for His voice to know specifically what God has in store for us. As we grow in our knowledge of God we begin to grasp the depth of His love and grace for each of us.
As I walked I also began to think that Paul also prays for their spiritual wisdom. There is something about spiritual wisdom that gives me the impression that it is cultivated in our lives over time. None of us are spiritually wise automatically. As we daily spend time with our Lord and in His Word we grow and mature in our faith and spiritual wisdom. God invests us with His wisdom as we draw closer to Him. Often this wisdom is borne from experiences, both positive and negative, that molds and shapes us for our service to Jesus. In other words, spiritual wisdom, at least for most of us, doesn’t come naturally, but is given by God as we experience daily life, walking with Him. Paul’s prayer perhaps could be seen as his desire for the Colossian Christians to continue to mature in their faith trusting more and more in Jesus.
Paul also prays that the Colossians be filled with understanding. I began to imagine what it must have been like in places like Colossae, where the culture was primarily pagan, and now those who had become followers of Jesus were trying to live out their faith in this new paradigm. I wonder how many times they didn’t understand the persecution or how to react in a given circumstance. This was new territory for most of them. They no doubt wrestled with how to understand why suffering was a part of this joyful faith. They no doubt struggled with severed relationships among family and friends because of their profession of Jesus. These people needed understanding so that they could fathom the grace of Jesus even in the midst of difficulties.
Then it occurred to me that Paul’s prayer had greater purpose, as important as these other things mentioned were, His greater desire was for the Colossian Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him…” Then their public witness could impact many in spite of how they were mistreated or misunderstood! The same is true for each of us who profess Jesus as our Lord! These disciples were to bear “fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Fruitfulness was visible, not only by the things they did, but also in their being. Their lives were to exude the grace and love of Jesus, even as they increased in their knowledge of God and His love for them. Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1, “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” He is the One who gives us strength in our weakness, power in our exhaustion so that we can live in joyful perseverance as His saints, shining the light of Jesus!
Summer is a great time for growth and exercise. It is also a great time to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. As I was nearing the end of my walk I realized this walking theme runs throughout Scripture. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which God prepared in advance, that we should walk in them!” Later Paul writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” He then goes on to elucidate with some familiar characteristics like humility, gentleness and the like.
Paul’s letters are filled with this language. He reminds us that we walk by faith not by sight; that if we walk by the Spirit we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh; that we are to walk as children of the light, walking in love, taking care how we walk, not as unwise, but as wise. While Paul often encouraged people to be mindful how they walked, let me end with this one from Romans 6, where Paul tells us to “walk in the newness of life.”
Summer is a great opportunity to slow down and walk in that newness of life. Take some time to refresh and renew, physically and spiritually, so you are better equipped to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. Spend some time meditating on God’s Word, asking the questions that can help you grow and mature in faith. As His Spirit works in you, make an impact on our world for the sake of the Gospel, praying and being prayed for as those who share in His inheritance.
So, happy summer! Take a walk in a manner worthy of our Lord Jesus, rejoicing in every step of the journey!
Dear Operation Barnabas partners,
Unfortunately there were several of you who were not able to join in the last call due to the meeting exceeding the phone lines, thus due to this fact that we have exceeded our expectations and outgrown our previous phone conference contract, we have set up another phone conference account and bridge for us to use with Operation Barnabas as we share information and encourage one another. Please ensure you make the following corrections and hope you can join us on June 27th for our monthly phone conference. Please delete the previous information and use this information if you are able to call in on the 27th of June. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Operation Barnabas Conference Call:
Date: 27 June 2017
Time: 1200 (PST); 1300 (MST); 1400 (CST); 1500 (EST).
New Call-in number: (877) 711-0952
New Passcode: 4051861#
Thanks again for making these changes. If you have any difficulties phoning in, please call me at (571) 234-0073. Thank you!
In Christ’s Service,
Craig G. Muehler
Chaplain Craig G. Muehler
CAPT, CHC, USN (Ret)
Director, Ministry to the Armed Forces
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
1333 S. Kirkwood Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295
Cell: (571) 234-0073
Connect and Support:
Donate to Support our Ministry to the Armed Forces:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance”…(Ephesians 6:8-18b)
Registration is now open for The President’s Equip Conference! Please take a few minutes to check out the website for information about registration, workshops and speakers! More information about this extraordinary event provided by the Florida-Georgia District, designed in every detail to advance the mission of the Lutheran Church and School will be on it’s way soon.
As we continue our celebrations of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation the opportunities are all around us to proclaim the three solas which distinguish us as Lutheran Christians. 500 years later we continue to stand on Grace Alone, Faith Alone and God’s Word Alone! These are not only what guide us as a denomination, but they are the foundation of our Christian faith. At the center of it all is Jesus! That’s why I love our focus in this Reformation Anniversary year of “It’s still all about Jesus!” There is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved except for Jesus! Without Him there is no faith; without Him there is no hope; without Him there is no forgiveness of sins! It’s all about Jesus! The Church in Luther’s day had strayed from proclaiming the pure message of the Gospel and focused on how one could earn their salvation by doing certain things in a certain way. Some have claimed that the Church in our time has fallen back into a similar pre-Reformation pattern, imposing man-made, extra-biblical demands on people, rather than allowing God’s grace to impact and transform lives, as if what we do can add anything to God’s magnificent grace!
In a sense the Reformation began really as an attempt to engage the culture of that time with a conversation about a God who loved the world so much that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. In our day we sometimes give the impression that eternal life depends on being part of a parish. It is by His grace that we are saved, not our affiliation with a congregation. As important as congregational ministry may be, if it’s not about Jesus it is missing the boat. As members of the body of Christ, saved by grace He has called us into fellowships of believers to build us up and send us out into the world as witnesses of Jesus. Paul so masterfully wrote about this in Ephesians 2:8–10 (ESV), “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Here Paul reminds us that grace is a gift, neither earned nor deserved. We can’t worship well enough, we can’t sing loud enough, we can’t lead well enough, and we can’t even keep doctrine pure enough to earn God’s favor. As Lutheran Christians we believe, teach and confess that grace alone is enough, and yet while we speak this with our mouths, our actions often proclaim that while we appreciate grace, we still need to add more by our own actions. Paul tells us that we are God’s workmanship, ποίημα, literally a thing that is made, created and then recreated in Jesus Christ, and made with a purpose. That purpose is to do the good works God already has fashioned for each of us. Have you ever stopped to wonder how many good works have gone un-done because believers have failed to recognize that we are saved to serve, and we are called to serve with a purpose?
With all the talk about the decline in worship attendance; with many congregations turning inward rather than reaching outward; as church members seem to focus on caring for members rather than caring for the lost; wondering why the church isn’t thriving as we watch congregations dwindle, one can’t help but wonder if a contributing factor is that we have lost a sense of mission and a sense of purpose. Jesus’ parting words to His disciples was a command to share the good news with the world around them. Over and over Scripture makes this clear. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV), “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” God made us His people so that we could proclaim Him to the whole world, shining His magnificent light into the dark places all around us.
The ministry that Jesus gave His disciples started out clear and strong—think of how quickly the church grew under the leadership of the disciples—however over time it slowly became more and more institutionalized. Instead of being about salvation through grace through faith in Jesus, it became more about structures, wealth and power. Where once the mission had been to proclaim the name of Jesus, it seemed like more and more the mission was taking a back seat. Luther sought to restore a missional church by refocusing on the Word of God and the heart of the Gospel. As the early disciples and church fathers were willing to lay down their lives for the truths of this Gospel, so Luther and other reformers were willing to lay down theirs to restore these truths.
As you look at history we often find that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. I’ve heard it said that we are currently living in a time in which there is a desperate need of reformation. In fact, the conversation lamented the fact that while many in our day turn their back on faith and Jesus, the Church continues to be preoccupied with her self-preservation and focused on internal matters “while the multitudes are dying and the Master calls for you.”
Dr. Luther wrote, “Has our Lord himself not depicted here the foolish, perverted conscience which offends God by making important matters trifles and trifles important? How is it that a man can take such a careful sip of outward works that he even strains out a gnat, and can take such a gulp of the right works that he even swallows a camel? It is because he makes things which matter little if at all into strict matters of conscience, but has a very free and easy conscience in things of great importance on which everything depends. People who do this are all Atrienses Sancti, churchyard saints.” Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 44: The Christian in Society I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 44, p. 238). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. The Church that focuses on man-made externals without focusing on growing in God’s Word, the Church that allows anything to keep people from the supremacy of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior, straining gnats while swallowing a camels, is in need of reformation.
David Kinnamen, president of the Barna Group, in His book “UnChristian” found that the unbelieving world sees the church as an institution filled with hypocrisy, speaking of love, but often failing to display it to those most in need of it. He writes, “When outsiders claim that we are unchristian, it is a reflection of this jumbled (and predominately negative) set of perceptions. When they see Christians not acting like Jesus, they quickly conclude that the group deserves an unchristian label. Like a corrupted computer file or a bad photocopy, Christianity, they say, is no longer in pure form, and so they reject it. One quarter of outsiders say therefore most perception of Christianity is that the faith has changed for the worse. It has gotten off-track and is not what Christ intended. Modern-day Christianity no longer seems Christian.” For many outside the church, and even some inside the church, this is what the church has become. We are seen as homophobic, judgmental, elitists.
We know that isn’t true in every church, especially within our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, but as the old adage says, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel!” In other words, when people have had a bad experience with a church, it becomes more difficult to win them back to faith, especially outside the Holy Spirit’s work!
Here’s the point. In this year of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and all the ensuing celebrations, let’s not forget that as important as Luther was, his goal was to point us to Jesus. The most important person and reason we rejoice in eternity is Jesus. It was His death and resurrection that covered our sins and opened to us the door of heaven. Only One was willing to lay down His life to die for your sins, and only One could pay the debt we could never pay. That One is Jesus. So in this celebration year, when so many opportunities abound for us to share our faith in Jesus, to engage in conversations about our God, to touch hearts and lives with the power of His love, “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 it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” As our eyes are fixed on Jesus, God will reform us and use us for His glory! The month of May is often seen as a time of growth. May it be so for us as we engage in the Master’s business with our eyes fixed on Jesus!
In His peace,
The 2017 First Quarter Newsletter is available here by download.MISSION:HAITI
Read about St. Paul Weston’s service trip to Haiti and all the work they did, plus other interesting articles about Mission:Haiti