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September 1, 2016, 12:00 AM

Pastor's Post - September 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have always felt that I was very blessed to have grown up in a Pastor's family. I have some very fond memories of my childhood and:

- Our summertime vacation trips to the National Parks (Aug. 25 was the NPS' 100th birthday!)

- Family get togethers with my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

- Special individuals in the different congregations my dad served

- Special teachers I had while enrolled in Good Shepherd Lutheran School

- Setting up chairs at the mission congregation my dad started in Mammoth Lakes

I had a truly magical childhood. But, we all grow up and one of the most impactful memories of my older life was an evening class that I had my senior year at Christ College Irvine. It was only a two unit class which met once a week. Our professor was Dr. Kirth, who was a retired pastor who looked like he was well over 100 years old. Dr. Kirth had this wonderful ability to relate the scriptures to our lives. He literally made the book of Acts come alive. The Book of Acts is the second half of the Gospel of Luke. Luke was writing to his Roman friend Theophilus to explain to him what the Christian movement and Jesus Christ was all about. In Acts 6:10 Luke makes a dramatic change in the way that he wrote as he began to use the words "we" and "us." Luke had become a convert, a Christian!

In many ways, I felt that I had become a Christian too as Dr. Kirth led us through Luke's book. And, I am excited at the prospect of us studying the book of Acts in our new SDG Bible Study beginning this month. If you haven't been in Bible Study before, or even if you have, this is the Bible Study for you. It is a study that will guide you through the beginning of the Christian Church. It will open your eyes to the power of the Holy Spirit. We will see how simple fisherman and an enemy of Christ were literally transformed into powerful evangelists. It is my hope that this study will be for you what Dr. Kirth's class was for me -- a class I looked forward to, never missed and which inspired me to follow in the footsteps of the early Christians.

Together in Service and Study,

Pastor Matt




July 2, 2016, 1:27 PM

Pastor's Post - July 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

July is a month that is filled with much national pride.  On the fourth of July we are reminded of the bold patriots who fought to win freedom back in 1776.  A few bold people is what the Church needs in this day and age.  For my Banner article this month I am reprinting an article that Rev. Matthew Harrison, the president of the LCMS, put out this past week.  It is a message and call for boldness:

 

  “Upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail.” The rock is the great confession of St. Peter, “You are the Christ!” (Matt. 16:13–19). The Rock is Christ Himself for us (1 Cor. 10:4).

With that rock-solid basis, we are freed to be bold in these “Matthew 10 Times.”

  •       Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Jesus’ words to His apostles apply to us. The world is evil. Jesus implores us to be wise. We are not to act rashly or foolishly. Snakes are able to twist and escape in unbelievable ways. They are wily and patient hunters. We are to act, but as we do so, we are not to use dishonest or deceitful means. We will be kind and loving, yet strategic. We may be sheep, but we have a marvelous Shepherd! “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Cor. 3:12). Be bold!
  •       Matthew 10:17–18: “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” According to tradition, almost all the apostles died violent deaths. Persecution is rampant in Muslim countries. Muslim converts to Lutheranism in Germany are even now suffering beatings and death threats. We witness the tide of public opinion (particularly in universities, businesses, professional sports and government) turning radically against biblical Christianity. We have LCMS people under government scrutiny and threat of job loss for merely stating that they believe what Jesus says about marriage between a man and a woman (Matthew 19). It will be our lot, and increasingly so, to stand before officials and bear witness to the truth of reason and the truth of Christ and His Scriptures. Let’s confess like the apostles (Acts 4–5). Be bold!
  •       Matthew 10:19–20: “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” The Lord’s promise to His apostles holds good for us, too. Don’t be afraid! “And take they our life, / Goods, fame, child, and wife, / Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The kingdom ours remaineth” (LSB 656: 4). We have many promises, including the gift of the Spirit via Holy Baptism! “He who confesses me before men, I will confess before my father in heaven!” Be bold!

 

  •       Matthew 10:21–22: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death,and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Don’t be surprised when those in our own families turn away from the faith. It happened with the apostles. It will happen in these last and difficult times. Yet we shall not cease praying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” More and more, voices of hatred are rising in our culture toward Christians who believe the Bible. Hold fast! “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” says Jesus (Matt. 28:20). Remember the apostles’ amazing response to persecution in the Book of Acts (Acts 5:41). And nevertheless, the Gospel spread! Be bold!

 

  •       Matthew 10:23: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” It happened to the apostles, and we shall not be surprised as it happens to us. We shall speak of Christ where we can, and when we are shut down in one place, we shall move to the next and speak again! “Until the Son of Man comes” probably refers to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. God give our pastors the spirit of St. Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:8). Be bold!
  •       Matthew 10:24–25: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” Luther said that suffering is one of the most significant aspects of the Christian’s life. Suffering drives us to prayer and God’s Word. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Rom. 5:3f.). The man born blind spread the word that Jesus healed him! Yet “they reviled him” and “cast him out” (John 9:28, 34). Expect it! Be bold!

Our house of faith is built on the Rock! “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). Be bold!

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison




June 8, 2016, 12:00 AM

Pray for the Persecuted Church

The World Help organization states, “Reports of obliterated Syrian cities, people running for their lives, and overcrowded refugee camps used to fill our national news. But as ISIS continues to wreak havoc on the Middle East, these stories have all but disappeared from mainstream media.”

The humanitarian crisis has swollen to a breaking point as over 100,000 refugees have fled by sea this year alone! We have read of the deadly chances they are taking on their treacherous journeys over rough waters, starving exhausted and traumatized. For those who do survive they are left freezing and cold and without supplies on the coastline of Greece.

There is, however, a Christian organization who has relief team on the Greece-Macedonian border positioned to help incoming refugees. They are given kits containing essential items, such as water, food, clothing, hygiene items, medicine, diapers, baby formula. Rain gear and blankets. And the greatest gift of all: God’s Word in their native language – Arabic, Farsi, or Kurdish.

Beside your prayers, help is desperately needed. If God so moves you, contact World Help online at https://worldhelp.net/ or call 1-800-541-6691 toll free with your donation in any amount.

I also encourage those who can attend church to view the prayer board in the hallway outside of the Fireside Room to see the 2016 World Watch List. Many countries are on that list, however North Korea is the most hostile place for Christians for the 14th consecutive year. Thousdands of Christians are incarcerated in prison camps, and many others face arrest, torture, or public execution.

Persecution is spreading in Central Asia, as it was in Africa a few years ago. While this all sounds dismal, it is noteworthy that Iran (of all places) is seeing more people come to Christ than any other country in the Middle East. People are drawn to Christ and the message of the Bible and they want to follow.

So, again, if you are led by God’s Holy Spirit to help our suffering brothers and sisters, you may also consider contributing to the World Help Organization listed above, or, the Lutheran World Relief organization  located online at http://lwr.org/ or by calling 1-800-597-5971.

 

But please, pray daily for the persecuted church!

 

Thank you,

 

Mary Lou R.




June 5, 2016, 2:38 PM

Pastor's Post June 2016: "What Comes Next"


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The basis of any good story is trying to find out what comes next. Well-crafted stories keep us interested in the storyline by never quite revealing what comes next, but leaving clues and hints. A good book is called a ‘page turner,’ because each chapter reveals just enough so you are left with a craving to read the next chapter, because you just need to find out what comes next.

Right before Jesus ascended to heaven, the Disciples were left with a craving to know what was coming next. They had seen the incredible drama of his ministry, death, and resurrection play out before them, and they couldn’t wait any longer. They asked Jesus if it was finally time for Him to set up His kingdom in Jerusalem and rule the world. Jesus’ best answer was worthy of the best of storytellers. He told them that it was not for them to know what comes next. He said that only the Father had the authority to write the story of history and decide what would happen next.

I am sure the Disciples still had a craving to know what would come next and what part they might play, and they did not need to wait very long to find out. Jesus told them that their part in the story was to bear witness to His death, resurrection, and love for the world. He also said the Father would send them His Spirit to strengthen and guide them as they played out their part in the great story of good news the Father was writing. Ten days later they were filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and began to preach in Jerusalem, just as Jesus had said.

Now it is our turn. As Christians, it is not our job to be the writer of the story. That is the Father’s business, but it is our job to bear witness to what the Father has done for us in Jesus. While we may not know what comes next, we do know how the story ends. Our part is to let the world know about Jesus and that, because of Him, all people can be part of the only true, “happily ever after!”

Together in His Service,

Pastor Matt




May 8, 2016, 2:04 PM

Pastor's Post - May 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

I guess you could title my post this month,  “Raising an Ebenezer.”

In the Old Testament, we read:

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mitzpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12).”

In our studies of the books of the Old Testament we have seen that it was the custom of the Hebrew people to set up a stone at any place where God had worked on the behalf of His people. We have always referred to these stones as memorial stones. However, I recently read that Jewish people gave them a particular name, calling them an “Ebenezer,” or “Stone of Help.” Samuel set one up when God intervened and saved them from the Philistines. It served as a reminder of where and how God intervened to help His people.

When Jacob fled for his life after deceiving his father Isaac and stealing his brother Esau’s birthright, Jacob had the dream of the stairs to Heaven. The next morning he set up a stone to make the place where God had comforted him in the dream. When Israel entered the Promised Land by crossing the divinely dried up Jordan River, Joshua commanded the leaders of each tribe to take a stone from the riverbed. They carried those stones to where they camped and set them up to remember God’s miraculous intervention in the laws of nature to bring them safe and dry into their new home. There are many other examples of God’s people raising up memorial stones / Ebenezers to remember God’s goodness.

Often times I hear people say, “It was a God thing.” I think they are describing what they perceive to be an Ebenezer; God stepping into our lives to help us when we need it most. Maybe it would be good to set up a few stones in our lives to remind us God is present and comes to the aid of His people. Maybe it is a literal rock. Maybe it is a stone with words of remembrance written on it. Maybe it is as simple as a cross, which has served God’s people for 2000 years as the greatest Ebenezer of them all – the place where God stepped in to help His people!

 

Together in His Service,

Pastor Matt


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