February 14th is Coming!

February 14 is just around the corner. Are you ready? Do you need a reminder about what day this is? In need of some shopping tips?

For most of us, February 14 means Valentine’s Day. It’s time to make plans regarding cards, candy, flowers, gifts, dinner reservations and the like for the one(s) we love. Once New Year’s Day passes, the stores are filled with red and pink merchandise and reminders of this much celebrated day in our culture. Red hearts and talk of “love” abound.

For 2018, both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday are on the same day. Yes, Ash Wednesday is February 14 and the Lenten season begins this year on this day of “love”. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season of preparation for Holy Week and Easter. It is a 40-day period where we as Christians are encouraged to examine ourselves, reflect upon our sinfulness and the forgiveness that we have in Christ Jesus. It is a time to reflect upon the greatest single act of love ever undertaken, the ultimate Valentine. It is the self-less, sacrificial agape love that God showed for us in sending His only Son, Jesus Christ to be our Savior.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the love we share in those special relationships with spouses, family, and friends. These are indeed blessings from God. Ash Wednesday and Lent direct us to the greatest act of love, when Jesus willingly gave up His life on the cross and rose again so that we who have that saving faith relationship with Him will live with Him forever in heaven.

So, for this February 14, why not celebrate both the blessings and joys of earthly relationships and love on Valentine’s Day and join us here for our February 14, Ash Wednesday worship service at 7pm? I can’t imagine a better way to start our Lenten journey together, powered by the Spirit and the love of Christ. May we remember to give thanks to God this February 14, this Ash Wednesday, this Lenten season and every day of our life for the greatest gift of love the world has ever known, the gift of His love in His Son, Jesus Christ. Moved by the power of the Holy Spirit, may we love others as God has first loved us.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His only Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4: 7 – 11

In Jesus,
Pastor Tim

Let’s Go Exploring

On December 31, 1995 Bill Waterson published the final “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip. It was a very simple three-cell layout of Calvin, an imaginative six year old, and his stuffed tiger/best friend Hobbes (of whom he saw as alive while others simply saw him as a stuffed tiger) exploring a world of freshly fallen snow. Everything in the strip was black and white with the exception of Calvin and Hobbes. Toting their toboggan through the winter wonderland, they marvel at the “fresh clean start” ahead of them, “a day full of possibilities!” Calvin exclaims. In the final cell, they climb onto the toboggan they had been carrying with Calvin turning to Hobbes saying “It’s a magical world Hobbes ol’ buddy…” and with a push they ride off into the vast whiteness; while Calvin finishes his thought and says “Let’s go exploring!”

I was in fifth grade when that comic strip was published and had only recently really begun to understand and appreciate Bill Waterson’s masterful work of art. As I grew up I continued to cherish Calvin and Hobbes, and to this day I can still be found thumbing through the pages of one of the many collection books I have; and I look forward to sharing them with my son as he grows older. Every time I approach the beginning of the New Year (especially when we are blessed with a new fall of snow), I think of this final strip of Calvin and Hobbes.

There is something almost magical about the beginning of a new year. To echo a line said by Hobbes in the final strip, “It’s like looking at a big piece of white paper ready to draw on.” It’s a year full of possibilities and dreams. We make resolutions, set new goals, and imagine how different we’ll be a year from now, “New year, new me!” But often by February most of those resolutions have fallen to the wayside, and as we progress through the year it can be easy to look back on that big white sheet of paper and see the drawing we’ve already done and think of “what could have been”.

For some of us we can look back at a lifetime worth of “big white sheets of paper” and be displeased with what we see, what could have been. But we serve a God who promises to make us new. Isaiah 1:18 states “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” And this isn’t just a one-time promise, or a time sensitive matter. Regardless of the time of year or what has taken place in our past God promises to make us new. To take whatever seemed permanent, and unchangeable and give us a fresh start.

The only one that can change us is God, we might have a good idea of where we want to go this year, but the only true source of real transformation is Jesus Christ. If you haven’t done so yet this month ask God where He is calling you this year. What are His resolutions for your life? Every day God, through His son gives us a fresh sheet of big white paper. It’s time to go exploring.

~Shawn Jennings

Pressing On

Nerf Wars is one of our most popular youth fellowship events. One of my favorite parts of Nerf Wars isn’t actually participating, but watching the madness ensue. We start off the first games with capture the flag. Easy enough; prevent the other team from capturing your flag while attempting to capture their flag. From a third party perspective these first games are always funny to watch and very predictable. Over the radio the command to “Go”! rings out and kids sprint out of their respective bases. Each team usually makes it down a hallway before they begin to see signs of the opposite team, at which point players from both teams immediately stop and take cover; or usually retreat back to their own base. From an observer’s role it’s funny to see the kids sprint out of the base, hear some screams, and then see three-fourths of the team return. Not because they are out of the game, but because they didn’t want to risk being out. These first games usually are some of the longest because no one is really willing to risk it to go after the other team’s flag.

Eventually small skirmishes ensue from a safe distance, which evolves into people getting a little braver and riskier. At some point players start to throw caution to the wind and start rushing and making advances through the hallways. This is when the real fun begins. Soon a team captures a flag and is deemed victorious.

So it is like our faith. I know nothing screams a faith analogy like Nerf Wars! It did get me thinking, “What does this event, specifically designed for fellowship and fun, reveal about our faith walk? Paul writes in Philippians 3; “13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.”

It takes a risk to press on into anything. The mystery of the unknown and the potential for failure can easily cause us to retreat back to our home base and protect what we already have. But when this is done the only thing assured is our goal will never be reached. We are called to set the things that distract and burden us aside and to press on to our goal of knowing Christ, to be like Christ; and to be all Christ has in mind for us.

Is there something or somewhere that Christ is calling you toward today? Maybe it’s starting a devotion, joining a bible study, serving a ministry, or asking a question. Whatever it may be, If we want to reach an objective we have to move. Whatever it is; it’s time to rush in, throw caution to the wind. It’s time to give it to Jesus and to press on.

 

WHAT IS GOD DOING?

Recently I received several pieces of mail from members describing how God has been moving in their lives through this church. I greatly appreciated their stories and words of encouragement. These stories provide a gentle reminder that God is powerfully present among His people.

Time and again, God has demonstrated His provision. Time and again, God has done the improbable. Our job is to trust and follow His leading.

Being a follower is risky. It is often uncomfortable. It is Jesus-centered. And, it is highly rewarding. Abraham had the choice to leave Haran and follow the unseen God. He chose to step out in faith and follow. He was rewarded with the promise that all nations would be blessed through him. Today, we have inherited that promise. We   are to be the vehicle through which God will bless our families, community, nation, and world. That is exciting! But how will this happen? It is happening now. People are being blessed, lives are being changed, and families are drawn to Him. But, this is just the beginning of what God is doing.

We have been seeking and following God’s leading to hire a consultant, Fishhook, to help us improve our communications both internally and externally with the community around us. Imagine if we might welcome guests to our church more hospitably,  communicate with each other more effectively, and best of all to communicate the Good News to those in our community who do not know Jesus and draw them to Him and into this church. The effort alone says that we are serious about following Jesus as His church. Bathe the outcome in prayer and it could be transformative on our effectiveness for Him.

We are also in the process of searching for a new staff member, a pastor of “Invitation and Connection” who will be assigned to the front end of the membership and outreach process to reach people for Jesus and draw them into discipleship through the ministry of this congregation.

Finally, we are in the process of studying the restructuring of our leadership system in order to promote more effective ministry that better fulfills our  mission to connect people to the Living God. The new system would be subject to congregational vote and would maintain accountability to God and His word, this congregation and our constitution.

Please pray for all of this. Pray for our church. It is a great church. It is Jesus’ church. It is, with other branches of the Body of Christ, the hope of the world. You will continue to be updated on all of this through this newsletter, temple talks at worship, and discussion forums this fall. The goal is not to change St. Michael, but to make us as effective as we can be so that through us, God might change our world.

Power Source

I always know when I’m getting overly stressed when I start having “Restaurant nightmares”. I worked in the restaurant industry for close to 9 years as a cook. Working a lunch and a dinner rush can be extremely stressful. Orders just keep piling in one after the other. The ticket counter becomes a sea of little white receipts hanging in front of the window between the wait staff and the cooks, often times forming a complete curtain where the other side can’t be seen. Everyone is yelling, and rushing about. It can be chaotic.

“Restaurant nightmares” are when I have a dream of simply working during one of these stressful moments. Nothing weird is going on, people don’t start flying or monsters don’t appear. I’m just working. These use to be very frustrating when I’d get off working a double all day, to then go home to bed only to dream about being at work again (and then wake up and go to work!)

It’s been 8 years since I last worked in a restaurant but I still have these dreams when I get stressed out. It sounds sort of odd, but I guess that’s where my mind goes when I’m stressed.

I handle stress pretty poorly, I just try and push through on my own strength. Which generally leads to more stress and makes everything worse. Simply put, I run out of power. God however did not make us to “go it alone”.

If we leave our phones or computers off the charger too long they soon will drain of all power and be unable to function. We too need to stop and plug into the power of God before we find ourselves in empty.

He has given us the power of the Holy Spirit, an unlimited and greater source of power than we could ever imagine.

As our Summers begin to wind down and we rush to squeeze in those last summer events, while we also begin prepping for our fall routines; remember to stay plugged into the one true power source.

~ Shawn Jennings

Who Are You?

What makes you… you? Is it your DNA? Everyone has a different fingerprint, maybe your fingerprint is what makes you – you? Of course, if I were to describe you I would talk about your height, weight and appearance. Do those things define you?

What is your identity? Is it your experiences? Your mistakes? Your successes? Does where you live define you? Who you spend time with? How much money you have? Does that define you?

All of these things are temporary. These things do not define who you are. And if you get a sense of identity from them, it will not last. When everything else fails, at your core who are you? What is your identity? And why is it important?

Many believe that their identity comes from what they have done. This is a lie from Satan. Your identity comes from what God has done for you! God has given his most valuable person (Jesus) for you…. His precious son. This makes you Valuable, Acceptable, Significant and SECURE in Christ! Your true identity also comes from what God has said about you. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God ~ John 1:12. There is no reason to live in defeat and depression when you know whose you are and what HE gives you as his child.

You ARE GOD’S CHILD!

As God’s child, you have an inheritance from Him through the Holy Spirit, that affords you all that you need for life and godliness ~ 2 Peter 1:3

You are an acceptable child of God ~ Romans 5:1

You are a saint ~ Ephesians 1:1

You are a forgiven child who is free from condemnation ~ Romans 8:1-2

You are complete in Christ ~ Colossians 2:10

You cannot be separated from God’s love for you ~ Romans 8:35-39

You are never alone ~ Hebrews 13:5

God is your helper, you have no reason to fear ~ Hebrews 13:6

You are anointed and sealed by God ~ 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

You have been given a spirit of love, power and a sound mind…NOT FEAR ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

You can find grace and mercy any time you need ~ Hebrews 4:16

You have been chosen and appointed to produce spiritual fruit in this world ~ John15:16

You are a light in this dark world. God has work for you to do and people to bless ~ Matthew 5:13-14

You do not need to be ashamed because you are God’s workmanship ~ Ephesians 2:10

You may approach God with freedom and confidence anytime ~ Ephesians 3:12

You can do all things through Jesus who gives you strength ~ Philippians 4:13

No defeat!

Live and behave according to these truths because this is YOUR IDENTITY!

 

This is TRULY Who you ARE!

Expanding Your Vision and Influence

The news is getting difficult for me to wrap my mind around lately.  Last week I read of a woman who tried to shoot her hairdresser because she did not like her haircut!  What?!  (California).  The gun jammed when she tried to shoot it THREE TIMES!  No one was killed, praise God. This is discouraging to me because I do not know how anyone could possibly think that this is an acceptable response to such a small frustration.  I turned off the news and turned to my bookshelf  to my well-worn favorite Christian books that I knew would encourage me. The small yet power-filled book, The Prayer of Jabez found my gaze. I haven’t read this one since 2003 when I was the dean of women at a bible college in Minnesota.  An anonymous donation came to the college with 100 of these little books for the students! We took the donation as a –not so subtle- hint from God to read them!

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your curtains wide, do not hold back, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” Isaiah 54:2   Making Christ Known… Partner with God in His redemptive mission in the world.

So after reading it I have a few thoughts for the church today.  Every ministry a mission, every member a missionary!  The Apostle Peter wrote “… you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness, into His marvelous light”. I Peter 2:9 WOW! This verse hit me right between the eyes. It’s SO POWERFUL!   I believe the church and myself needs to re-connect with its roots.

Peter was at Pentecost when the church was born. Peter realizes the church is God’s plan to bring the Kingdom of God into the community. If the church does not “Make Christ Known”, who will?

God’s plan began with Abraham. To Abraham was promised a people that would bless the nations. From Israel came Christ. Through Christ salvation comes to the world. The church, the Body of Christ; is the continuing presence and work of Christ in the world.

We are a part of a local church. We are a partner with God in His amazing mission and plan to save the world from darkness and death. WE are His missionary. You bear the name of Christ. We have the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is in our head and heart. The blood of Christ covers us, setting us apart. The love of God is in us.  We must do the work of building God’s Kingdom in our home, on our street, at our workplace, with neighbors and friends. The world is waiting. Be Jesus on your street!

A Helping Hand of Love

We often associate the word “Love” with the month of February. As Christians we love others because of the love that we have first received from Christ. We are saved by grace through faith on account of what Jesus has done for us, the ultimate act of love. We are not saved by our works but for a life of works. Out of our love from Christ flows our desire to help others in need. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

We live in challenging financial times. We are surrounded by people in need. A number of years ago, the Helping Hands Ministry was established here at St. Michael Lutheran Church. This fund seeks to help our both members and non-members who are going through a dire financial need or emergency and can use a “helping hand” prayerfully and financially. The need might be caused by a job loss, change in insurance, the death of a loved one or a health challenge. Financial assistance can be provided to assist with a house or rent payment, a utility bill, car or medical bill.

This ministry is funded through donations by St. Michael Lutheran Church members and are kept in a restricted account. I (Pastor Tim) oversee this program. All grants to recipients are handled with great care, sensitivity and privacy. If you know of a St. Michael member who may be in need for some assistance from this fund or an individual or family from the community who might be a worthy candidate, please contact me. We strive to be careful stewards of the funds donated to this ministry and such grants are meant to be a one-time, monetary helping hand to people experiencing some extraordinary financial hardships.

There are so many “God stories” and “God moments” that have taken place through this impactful ministry because of the generosity of this congregation. One can designate financial gifts to “Helping Hands”. Parish Life will be hosting the 2nd Annual Hoedown & Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, February 20 at 6:30 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Helping Hands Ministry Fund.

If you have any questions regarding this ministry or people who may be in a position to be blessed by the generosity of our members, please contact me (timewell@connectingwithgod.org). Thank you and God Bless!
In Jesus,
Pastor Tim

ONE LONELY NIGHT

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. At least it’s supposed to be, right? And actually, there are many wonderful things about it. My favorite is late on Christmas Eve, following the 11:00 Candlelight service on a cold, starry night when all is still and peaceful and quiet. It reminds me of God’s presence and the peace He came to give to us on that first Christmas night.

It was on one lonely night many years ago that our Savior was born. That’s cause to sing “Joy to the World.” After all, this is Immanuel, God with us. God has come to us so that we will not be left as orphans, as Jesus said, but to be with us until the end of the age.

Christmas time is a time for families and for memories, which is wonderful if your family is intact and you are still making memories. But that very emphasis on families and memories can make this an especially challenging time for those who are separated from loved ones, or who have lost someone important to them. In spite of all the crowds and parties and bustle, and maybe even because of them, a person can find themselves lonely in a crowd, longing for meaning and significant relationships.

It is for such people that Jesus came one lonely night in Bethlehem. Psalm 68:5 says we have “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” He came to a lonely place among the crowd gathered in Bethlehem for the census. He came into a stable because no one would take Him in, not even for money at the Inn. He came to take your loneliness on Himself, the pain of loss and the ugliness of broken relationships and nailed them to the cross with the rest of the effects of sin. He has come to be alongside you and in you and with you through every season, especially this one.

Christmas isn’t really just about family and memories. It’s about a Savior. It’s about a Father. It’s about an angel announcing to shepherds on a lonely hillside outside Bethlehem, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:10-12).

This Savior has been born for you. He is Jesus. Born one lonely night that you might know what real love is all about. Love Him. Worship Him. He is Christ the Lord.

-Pastor Dave

SEEK FIRST: A MATTER OF THE HEART

“But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The Bible is the greatest love story ever told. God loves us and we are called to love and serve Him and our fellow man in response to the love that He has first shown us. As Christians, our hearts have been touched for now and for eternity with the love of God and His grace, mercy and provision. Jesus desires us to seek Him first in all we do, in response to His awesome love, a matter of the heart!

You are being invited to continue to “Seek Him First” as a part of our 2016 Stewardship Campaign. Our November stewardship sermon series is titled   “Seek First” and how often the worries of this world can hinder our generosity and the happiness and effectiveness of the life God has called us to lead. God is the maker and owner of everything. We are called to be heart-felt good stewards, managers of what God has entrusted to us – our time, talents, treasures, bodies, emotions, relationships and life itself.

The Lord has richly blessed St. Michael Lutheran Church this past year as we strive to continue to carry out our mission of “Connecting People with the Living God”:

  • We continue to be faithful to the Word of God.
  • The Lord is opening up increasing doors of ministry here and in the community and our facility is being used more with each passing month.
  • We have been blessed with a hardworking staff, lay leadership and members who passionately serve in harmony, led by the Spirit, to carry out this mission.
  • We continue to aggressively reduce our indebtedness.
  • We have been blessed with numerous capital improvements to the building and grounds to enhance our worship and other ministry activity.
  • The Spirit is moving mightily amidst our ministry and I believe God has so much in store for us ministry wise, by His grace, for a time such as this! We are thankful for the generosity of God’s people this past year and His provision. We  desire to be able to meet the additional opportunities He is putting before us.

We are prayerfully asking each member to over the next few weeks consider their financial commitment for 2016. By faith, we encourage you to reflect upon the blessings that God has graced your life with and boldly and prayerfully accept the challenge to consider increasing your financial support for the mission and ministry of our church for 2016 for a time such as this.

In addition this year, in keeping with our church mission statement, we are asking you to prayerfully consider strengthening your connection to the Living God by planning to participate in one of more of the following in 2016: attend a Bible study, volunteer in a ministry, work on improving your health and/or prayerfully lead a person to Christ. This can be noted on the Faith Giving Card.

In a separate mailing, you will receive your 2016 Faith Giving Card. Since a Faith Giving Statement is an individual commitment between you and God, it will not be recorded, but dedicated to God at the altar,   on Stewardship Sunday, November 22, 2015, as a faith based gesture and later destroyed sealing the individual faith commitment!

The Lord’s blessings as you Seek Him First!