Author Archives: smlc_blogger

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.

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!

Summer’s Gone?

Say it ain’t so! But as great as summer is in Michigan, how can you beat the fall? Each season is a sign of God’s blessings to us. Fall means football, cooler weather, luminescent leaves, and the start of a new season at the church. Everywhere you turn you can see the signs of a gracious God.

The other day I saw another sign of God’s graciousness. Linda and the twins and I sat down to eat. We always pray before we eat, and Linda lives to bring the girls into faith in the Lord. So, when we sat down and before I could open my mouth to pray over the food, Taylor started to pray. If it were an adult prayer, it would maybe be thought to have not had much content. But, out of the mouth of a three year old it was the Magna Carta, song of Zechariah, and Psalm 23 all rolled into one. Yes, she did forget, until reminded, to thank God for the food. But the prayer itself was a sign of young faith. It was the sign of God’s love for this little child.

When Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” it meant something. It meant the smallest and least powerful connected to that which is greater than all else that exists. It meant those who could not possibly earn God’s favor enjoying it. It meant a sign of God’s love and graciousness.

This fall, bring a child to Jesus. A grandchild, your child, your neighbor’s child. We have amazing opportunities for kids. There is Sunday School, Leaping Lambs (the pre-school dance group), Sonbeams Choir, Kids Kingdom on Wednesday nights, an elementary-age youth group, Children’s sermons, Children’s Church, activity bags, MOPS, and the list goes on. All for one purpose: to do what Jesus said. To bring kids to Him.

As great as summer is, it is now fall. It’s time to experience God’s graciousness in a new season.

 

I’ll see you in church.

Pastor Dave

IT’S SUMMER?

So, this is Michigan! One day I was running my air conditioning in my house. The next day my wife finally persuaded me to turn on our furnace. One day it seemed like summer. The next day I was thumbing through the newspaper for news on the Lions games. It seemed like fall! What season is this?

In life everyone goes through seasons. It might be easy to look back and see the seasons of life you have been through. Sometimes it is harder to see what season you are in.  Some retire, and then go back to work.  Some, like Linda and me, are empty nesters who wind up caring for twins.  Some are in a season of employment with a particular company, only to find themselves in another season with another company, or in a different field altogether.

Believers also go through seasons in their faith.  Seasons when faith is growing and alive and God is intimate and close. And there are seasons when faith seems dry and God seems distant. You might stop and look back and see pretty clearly the seasons of your faith life. The question is, what season are you in right now? What season do you want to be in? If you aren’t in a season of spiritual vitality, do you want to be? Do you have a plan to be? What might have led to past seasons of vitality? What will you be doing this season to grow your faith?

Before Jesus returned to the Father, He told His followers to remain in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high.” They were going to enter into a new season of spiritual power and faithfulness. But, they needed preparation for that season. On the day of Pentecost, they were found gathered together, praying, worshiping, looking forward to what God was going to do. None of them knew for certain what that would be. But, they were found in His presence, so He might work. And He did work. The Spirit descended on them so powerfully that everyone around stood up and took notice.

Before you know it, it will be fall. Summer will be gone. Summer is a season of growth. We have great opportunities this summer for you to be found as were the disciples, gathered with other believers in worship and in prayer and studying His word. Seek Him while He may be found. This is the season of Pentecost.  The season of the Spirit’s working. This summer, seek Him. Tis the season.

Have a Heart: A Matter of the Heart

February:  the month devoted to love.  Stores are filled with heat-shaped boxes of candy and heart shaped cards and vases of flowers with heart-shaped gift tags.  All this is available for the consumer so that he can find the appropriate expression of his devotion to his loved one.  If that expression of love has been preceded by a year of thoughtful and loving words and deeds, it is welcomed and cherished by the recipient.  If not, it is just an empty ritual, done out of duty rather than true devotion.

Our relationship to the Lord is similar. He, too, desires our sincere devotion, not empty lip service.  “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’ ”  (Isaiah 29:13).

Stewardship is serving, helping, giving, but love is the basis for stewardship.  Without love, our good deeds are empty and without merit.  The first act of true stewardship is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  Jesus called this the most important commandment (Mark 12:29, 30).  With that love for the Lord in us, we are enabled to be good stewards.  Then we can do acts of good stewardship, acts of true devotion.  We are enabled to . . .

  • “Give generously to Him and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:10).
  • “Carefully observe [His decrees and laws] with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 26:16).
  • “Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

God, through Ezekiel, promised, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  This promise He has fulfilled in His Son, Jesus, Who has followed His Father’s decrees and kept His laws for us.  As we strive to live fruitful lives of stewardship, at the same time, we rest in Christ Who has been the perfect steward for us.

It is a Matter of the Heart!

In Jesus,
Pastor Tim