Archive for category: News & Announcements

Summer Walks

Categories: News & Announcements, President's E-news

Dear Friends,

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!
Peace,
Greg

President’s Equip Conference

Categories: News & Announcements

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.

 

 

Fixing Eyes on Jesus

Categories: News & Announcements, President's E-news

Dear Friends,

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,
Greg

Doug Kallesen’s Outreach Blog

Categories: News & Announcements

Scripture tells us we are like living stones, and are being built up as a spiritual house. Please take a moment to read this month’s blog.

MISSION:HAITI Reaching Out With the Love of Christ

Categories: News & Announcements

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

Lutheran Life 2017 v 2

Categories: Lutheran LIFE, News & Announcements
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
  • Victor Belton Name Concordia New York VP for Leadership, Campus Pastor
  • District Continues Growth in Multi-Cultural
  • LWML Spring Calendar
  • LWML Annual Love Fest Welcomes Honored Guest “Mite Box”
  • LCEF Announces National Student Marketing Competition Winners
  • Go Out and Meet People
  • Why We Should Care
  • Thomas Waynick Installed as Pastoral Institute CEO
  • LCEF Church Improvement Loan
  • District Board Teleconference Centers on Mission, Outreach
  • Veterans of the Cross
  • More Disaster Response Volunteers Are Trained
  • District Capsules
  • Regional news
  • and much more

Watch for it in your mailbox, or read it online by using the link below:

Life 207 vol 2

An Urgent Church or a Church of Urgency?

Categories: News & Announcements, President's E-news

Dear Friends,

Somewhere I heard the statement, “The hope of the Church is in God’s people.” While I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, for our hope is in Jesus, the Risen One, there is some truth to this statement. Luther reminds us in his explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true!” The hope of the Church rests in Jesus, and how grateful we can be for that! The Cross is a potent reminder of the depth of love Jesus has for us sinners. He willingly laid down His life for His Church, and now He sends us, even as He did the disciples on Easter evening, in the power of His Spirit to reach the world with His love.

Many churches are in the midst of making Easter plans and determining how to reach out to the community to invite them to come hear about Jesus.  This is a noble thing, but not meant for one festival service once a year. I came across an article by Thom Rainer the other day called “Nine Changes We Must Make or Die.” He states, “Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.” This is where I see the hope of the Church being God’s people who have an opportunity to make an eternal difference if we can gain clarity of our primary mission—to connect people to Jesus. Take Easter services, for example. We can place the focus on special music, food and festive worship, but what will visitors encounter the Sunday after Easter? Will it be business as usual? Or will the excellence with which many approach Easter Worship, putting on our Sunday best to draw people to Jesus, become the norm we strive after?  You may or may not agree with Rainer’s conclusions. They are far from doctrinal or Scriptural, and that is not his point. In fact, he makes it clear that doctrine should not be compromised and that God’s Word is sacred and unchangeable. What he’s really focusing on are the things we actually can do something about if we are motivated by the Gospel to truly engage in the Master’s business and connect people to Jesus. It is certainly worthy for some thought and discussion.

Rainer is primarily referring to churches that are struggling with their purpose and direction, that are seeing diminishing worship attendees, that are becoming less and less in touch with their own community. He calls these churches “the urgent church,” mostly because failure to do something will result in making them a memory. Of course, what he says applies to ALL churches. It is healthy to step back and evaluate our ministry, and Rainer gives some challenging points to ponder using the phrase “the urgent church.” I prefer the phrase “churches of urgency” describing an urgency to share what new life in Jesus is all about—the hope, the joy, the peace He brings us. That isn’t what Rainer was referring to at all. He also admits in his article that necessary changes don’t come easy, but as the great Hockey player Wayne Gretzky is quoted as saying, “I miss 100% of the shots I didn’t take.” What might your congregation consider to be more effective in proclaiming Jesus to the world? Let me encourage us all to consider Rainer’s thoughts. Here are his nine:

  1. We must stop bemoaning the death of cultural Christianity. Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted. The next time a church member says, “They know where we are; they can come here if they want to,” rebuke him. Great Commission Christianity is about going; it’s not “y’all come.”
  2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. So we do find comfort and stability in that reality. But don’t look to your church not to change methods, approaches, and human-made traditions. Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.
  3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature, and length of sermons. Here is a simple guideline: Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. That’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.
  4. We must start doing.  Most of us like the idea of evangelism more than we like doing evangelism. Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.
  5. We must stop using biblical words in unbiblical ways. “Discipleship” does not mean caretaking. “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.
  6. We must stop focusing on minors. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
  7. We must stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
  8. We must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
  9. We must become houses of prayer. Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.

I was struck by how his comments made me a bit uncomfortable, but at the same time I found myself easily identifying that these are real in some churches. As I look at the history of our congregations across the Florida-Georgia District I’m overjoyed when I see how often missions were begun in response to a need to proclaim Jesus. A group of Christian Lutheran men and women saw a need, saw an opportunity, and worked together for the sake of God’s Kingdom. How many congregations started a preschool program as a way to serve their community, and often in our day these ministries are seen as either a “money-maker” or a “drain on finances.” We miss the fact that there are lives that are being impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I bet, if we’re honest, each of us could relate to one or more of these nine!

A few years ago Doug Kallesen and I attended the 50th Anniversary for Lutheran Church of Nassau in the Bahamas. It was a grand day, broadcast on the national radio station, and filled with dignitaries, including the Mayor and the Deputy Prime Minister of Nassau. He shared a story with us regarding the Prime Minister of Nassau, who was very familiar with the Lutheran Church there. The reason was because as a child he attended Vacation Bible School there and heard about Jesus! He isn’t a member there now, but this ministry touched his life.

When Jesus returns He isn’t likely to ask any particular congregation how big their worship attendance was, but what we did with the resources He provided. All around us we see the signs of spring with trees budding and flowers blooming. When a fruit tree is cared for properly it will naturally bear fruit. This is what a fruit tree was created to do—bear fruit. You and I were recreated in baptism to bear fruit for Jesus. This is our purpose. We should be the “urgent church” only in the sense that we want to reach more people with the power of Christ’s forgiveness and the good news of new life in Jesus. In fact, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

Fruit bearing churches of urgency is the call of Jesus to each of us. Those kind of churches discover that you don’t need to abandon history or liturgy or tradition and certainly not God’s truth to meet the needs of today. Peter writes, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”(1 Pe 3:15). This is our calling! This is our privilege! We must become creative, adaptive, flexible and loving people of God. We must care about people and about building relationships. Why? Because this is what Jesus did! If we’re serious about the mission it requires that we learn patience with the uninitiated to Jesus and those that are slowly growing in their faith. It may mean stepping back to explain and educate those who are seeking by simply telling the story of how Jesus has impacted your personal life. We can do this by the power of the Spirit! Maybe the hope for the church really is in God’s people—a people touched by grace and empowered by the Spirit. Each one of us has the calling to be part of that church. The question is, as Easter people, will we listen to our Lord’s call to be pruned, be fruitful and live as His disciples? I pray that we will!

A blessed Holy Week and Easter to you all!

Peace,

Greg

Doug Kallesen’s Outreach Blog

Categories: News & Announcements

 This blog talks about going from Sharing to Discipleship.  Take a few moments to read it!From Sharing to Discipleship

The Grace of the Irish

Categories: News & Announcements, President's E-news

Dear Friends,

Later this month many will celebrate the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. The truth is, it really has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with grace. The legends surrounding St. Patrick are numerous, and have grown through the years. What we do know is that Patrick had been captured and enslaved by pirates from Ireland when he was a teenager, and forced into slavery for about six years. He escaped and returned to his home in Great Britain. He later became a cleric, perhaps as a result of his enslavement, and was compelled by the love of Jesus to return to the very place that had impacted his life to share the forgiveness, grace and life in Jesus Christ. As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”

It is always amazing how something that started out as a way to celebrate the work of God through His servants, often becomes an excuse to celebrate ourselves. Patrick was a missionary who risked his life and made great sacrifice to reach a people he had great reason to resent. Instead, his life was so transformed by God’s grace that he took to heart the words of Jesus in Matthew 5, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” So Patrick dedicated his life to proclaiming the redemption of mankind in Jesus Christ to the people of Ireland. He was engaged in the Master’s business, and devoted the rest of his life to that service. He is said to be buried in Ireland near where he first proclaimed the good news of Jesus.

If we truly want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day then perhaps it should focus more on missions. Patrick was a true missionary. As much fun as it might be to look for a pot of gold or a four leaf clover, what if we made St. Patrick’s Day a time to celebrate Patrick’s commitment to serving Jesus? What if St. Patrick’s Day was all about celebrating mission?

The story of Patrick’s life story is a great reminder of the call that God has placed upon each one of us. While we may never have had to experience the trauma that Patrick faced, God uses every circumstance of our lives to prepare us for His mission. We are called to engage in the Master’s business, and share the stories of how Jesus has impacted our lives.

We are living in a day when we have allowed the church to become too institutionalized and comfortable. We are living in the third largest mission field in the world. Yet we somehow have convinced ourselves that everyone knows Jesus and that this is basically a churched society. The truth is, we are more like the Ireland that Patrick was enslaved in, and to which he would later return. He didn’t go there because he felt that it had become a safe, Christian environment. Legend has it that he went back because he saw the hopelessness—in fact, he experienced that hopelessness personally! He looked upon Ireland as Jesus looked upon Jerusalem. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” This was the world that Patrick faced as he went back to Ireland. It is also the world that we face each day.

Like Patrick, we are sent as missionaries into a sometimes hostile world. Understanding that our nation is now more discerning and distant when it comes to matters of faith and we no longer enjoy the privileges once afforded to the church really must shape how we approach the world in our day. We can’t assume that people understand what faith is, or who Jesus is, or what the church is all about. In fact, we have often allowed the church to be portrayed in a negative light to the world. Rather than engaging in the Master’s business to reach those outside of the Kingdom we have often focused only on the needs of the redeemed. Ministry often seems to take place within the confines of our own ministry campus rather than reaching out to the world around us. From the start Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples. Instead of being fishers of men, we have often succumbed to becoming keepers of the aquarium. Our calling is to connect people to Jesus, rather than simply allowing an exclusive country club mentality to lull us into institutionalism. Jesus calls us to reach hopeless people with the true hope that comes by faith in Him!

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter reminds us, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”   The very reason God set us apart, saved us through the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross, sanctifies us continually by His Spirit, is to shine His light in the world’s darkness. Like Patrick, we are chosen people. We may not always appreciate the circumstances for which we have been chosen, but God makes no mistakes. He has each of us where we need to be for the present time. He’s chosen us to reach the world around us with the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the next month and a half we will be making that Lenten journey once again. It certainly is a time to be reflective and to live out a life of repentance. It’s also a time to not just focus on self, but to do those things that share the light and love of Jesus with the world. Each year at Lent for me it is not so much about what I give up but rather what I take up for the sake of Jesus. The season of Lent isn’t so much about our sacrifice as it is about the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us on the cross which inspires a sacrificial attitude in His people. St. Patrick learned that as he gave his life for a people that had mistreated him at one time, but now celebrate him as their patron saint. While you and I are not destined for sainthood in any earthly sense, we are already made saints through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but not because of the luck of the Irish. Instead, celebrate it because of the grace of our God. May the self-giving love of St. Patrick, a love that flows from Jesus, be a love that not only touches us, but also a love that flows in our lives to those around us. And as you make this Lenten journey, remember the words of this traditional gaelic blessing: “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.” May He do all that and more so that we can always be engaged in the Master’s business, connecting people to Jesus!

Siochan leat  (pronounced “shee/oh/con lat”, meaning in Irish: Peace be with you)

Greg

Disaster Response LERT Training – Spring 2017

Categories: News & Announcements
There are 3 opportunities for Disaster Response Training happening this spring.

Click here for more information and to sign up!