Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 MSG

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 95 RE's of Jesus for 2017!

Well – in true reformation spirit I want to share 95 words that begin with RE – words that put us into God’s lap 100% - no holding back – leading us in our identity and mission!
You ready?? Let’s go!
First – we must repent if we refuse to reignite that which God has given us.
Then we can resume that which Jesus lived, died, and was raised for – so that the whole world could come to him and have life abundantly.
That is why we must return to him, respond to him, receive him, recognize him, remember him, rehear him, refocus on him, reinstate him as the Lord of your life, reveal him to others, recommit to him, be reconciled in him, to let our whole life revolve around him, to be reborn in him, to resubmit to him, to resume a daily relationship with him, to reclaim him as Savior of the world, to rely on him for every need, and to experience redemption in him, because he will make all things new.
This means being receptive to change
Reinventing the old to make new
And then – refining the new
Reinforcing the word as a powerful force in life
Reliving the love of Christ daily
Restoring God to the center of life
This requires Realizing, relearning, removing, replacing, resigning,
The us, we, and I from the center and letting God alone dwell there
Then we can begin to Rearrange, retrain, renegotiate, remodel, revise, redesign, restructure, rework, reformulate, reassess, and reorder - Why we do what we do and for whom are we doing it
After that the We, You, Us will experience
Relief, refreshment, remarkable relationships
There will be revival in our lives
Rebar in our foundation that makes us stronger than before
We will have a rebuilt definition of life
A reenergized spirit
Reheated hearts that burn bright
Renewed responsibilities for sharing the gospel
Refreshed resources in the Lord
And have a reshaped mission for the church
We will have all this in the Lord
Regardless of the resistance, recoiling, redoing, regulations, repacking, retrying, reservations, rerunning, restarting, redundancy, resentment, remaking, rescheduling, reactivity, and retakes
Through all things
Let your reflexes in this world be reflections for him
As Jesus is to be reincarnated in you
Replay the stories of faith
Retreat to pray, reconvene with the people of faith as often as possible
Reach out with outstretched hands
And recommend Jesus to all
Rejoicing in his remarkable victory
And Do all this while remaining on the foundation
There you will find the resilience that is required
There you will be redirected
Realigned, renewed, reassured, resized, refitted, retooled, reelected, reused, and resent for the world
The reason why?
It all results in – not just an ongoing reformation
But a daily resurrection for the life of this world!
Whew! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Becoming a FIRST FRUITS giving congregation

At our recent Trustees/Council meeting we voted to step forward in becoming a FIRST FRUITS Giving Congregation. What does this mean?

It means that the very first financial gifts that are offered each month are given to our local, synodical, and global outreach partners. The current practice has been to give roughly 5% of our total approved congregational spend plan to these partners, sometime throughout the year. We are now moving to a plan where we will step toward a 15% congregational giving goal that goes beyond our doors. Most important, is that those gifts are given each month, with our mission partners notified in advance as to what they can expect from us as their ministry partners in the year ahead. It allows a true accompaniment model of partnership where we fully walk together, counting on one another, and making missional plans for what can be accomplished. By living this way we are putting our trust into God that through our Generous Living and Giving there will be blessing, spirit filled energy, expectant hope, and abundant resources!

In 2018, we are taking that first step. While we dream of going to 15%, we know that we need to grow in our generosity and capacity in making this possible. Our first step in 2018 will be to get closer to 10%. One change that goes along with this is that our monthly Mission Focus envelopes will no longer be used for monthly outreach giving. We will give to our outreach partners through our congregationally approved spend plan. This will allow all of us to increase the amount that we commit to on our Generous Life Commitment Cards for 2018. 

The Mission Focus envelopes will still be available, and will be utilized when natural disasters strike, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, etc. Lutheran Disaster Relief does amazing work and we will support by growing awareness as those things take place. Also, if someone feels the call to give above and beyond to a felt need that they have heard about, they can utilize those envelopes as needed. Those gifts would add to our outreach impact as a congregation but they are not part of our overall congregational plan.

Mission Moments will still take place each month. Our wonderful Missions Team will organize those speakers and will work to identify where our monthly outreach gifts are allocated. We will share each month where those dollars went and the impact that they made.

Our hope is that in 2019 we will realize the goal of again being a congregation that gives the first 15% of all that we have to the most vulnerable among us. Just imagine the joy that God and we will experience when these gifts are shared! Lives will be transformed! New life will be experienced by all!

May we live and love generously!

Pastor Chad

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Apprenticed To Jesus

As it states in The Message written by Eugene Peterson, “you’re blessed when you have worked up a good appetite for God.” This phrase speaks volumes, especially when it comes to us looking upon ourselves and this world as apprentices of Jesus. 
The disciples were those first apprentices. Everyday of their life following Jesus was marked by his ministry. His teaching, healing, prayer, voice of power and praise of pointing to the Father, his compassion, forgiveness, clear words of redirection and purpose, sacrifice, peace, centeredness, footsteps on the way to the cross, his pouring out of body and blood, and his profound joy lived in light of the resurrection, all was gifted to the apprentices.
Imagine on this day being apprenticed by Jesus himself. Imagine the above elements being front and center in your daily life. Imagine God giving God’s best to you. When the leader speaks the apprentice listens. When the Savior shows how to live, the apprentice follows that same way of life. 
In the living of our days, we need a Savior to apprentice us. We need the Word of God poured out into the very situations we find ourselves in. We need to be showed how to live as the full people of God. We need to witness the marks of discipleship in order to fully live as the Church. What a gift to receive – for God’s own Son to be the One who apprentices us. 
God looks upon God’s creation and says, “You’re hired!” “You’re the Ones that I raise up for real life and love.” “You’re my people with whom I seek to shape the world into Gospel living.” “You are my heart, hands, and feet in this world!” 
As we hear in Matthew, blessed are those who live as Jesus lived, who model their apprenticeship and thus become a shaping force so that others may receive that same apprenticeship gift that we ourselves have received - for they will receive the kingdom of heaven - the comfort, the inheritance, the being filled up, the mercy, to see God, to be children of God! 
May we be apprenticed by Jesus and may we pass that gift, that legacy, that Christ-like life onto future generations.
From one apprentice to another, 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Psalm 23

As the church, the body of Christ, we live in the already but not yet. We already are experiencing resurrection, but often times not fully. We already are experiencing the abundant life that is found in Jesus, but often times missing the mark in our own humanity. 

We are called to journey together through the highs and the lows, the bummers and the blessings, the joys and the sorrows. Weekly worship centers our lives around the pivot point that is Jesus. This crucified yet raised Jesus shapes and changes how it is that we are called to live!

One of the age old Scriptures that inspires us in this life is Psalm 23. Spend some time this week reflecting on the meaning of those verses. I have included a key word to meditate on with each phrase. 

Psalm 23
The Lord is my Shepherd -Relationship 
I shall not want - Supply 
He makes me lie down in green pastures - Rest 
He leads me beside still waters - Refreshment 
He restores my soul - Healing 
He leads me in right paths - Guidance 
For His name’s sake - Purpose 
Even though I walk through the darkest valley - Testing 
I fear no evil - Protection 
For you are with me - Faithfulness 
Your rod and your staff they comfort me - Discipline 
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies - Hope 
You anoint my head with oil - Consecration 
My cup overflows - Abundance 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life - Blessing 
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord - Security 
My whole life long - Now through Eternity

May we live this story of Jesus in the already but not yet time in which we find ourselves and may it bring life to all!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In the midst of brokeness

Like so many, my mind and soul is numb on this heart hurts for all in the midst of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. 

Words often feel inadequate. Who among us has not felt completely at a loss of what to speak in the midst of this world’s brokenness?  

I found this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the midst of my searching silence, “For Christians, the beginning of the day should not be burdened and haunted by the various kinds of concerns that they face during the day. The Lord stands above the new day, for God has made it. All restlessness, all impurity, all worry and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, in the early morning hours of the day, may our many thoughts and our many idle words be silent and may the first word and the first thought belong to the one to whom our whole life belongs.”

I remember well that day in April of 1999, when the Columbine High School shootings took place. Our staff had just completed our morning devotions. Helicopters began to swoop overhead and community sirens rang out. I spent the afternoon at the elementary school working with the FBI going over school bus rosters, class attendance lists, and releasing kids to their parents. When I went home that night, we still could not account for over fifty Columbine students. As we gathered the following night for a Prayer Vigil, we still did not know the names of those who had lost their lives. It seemed that chaos, cruelty, and despair ruled our lives. We clung to the hope that God was in the midst of this senselessness. 

God was on the floor of Columbine High School with those students who had lost their lives. God was with their families. God was present in community. God was grieving and crying with us and for us. God was beginning the hard work of raising everyone up. 

This much is true in Las Vegas right now. This will always be true wherever evil seeks to rush in and destroy life. Life and love will win. We the church are called to bear witness to that promise. The world is counting on us to come through. And if God is who God says God is in the person of Jesus, then we are free to bet our lives on him to bring life to all!

Knowing the world that we are raising our kids for and releasing them too, we have much work to do. We get to participate in making all things new. May our witness be one of life and love and service…..even in the face of the great challenges of violence that mark our days.

Peace and Hope,
Pastor Chad

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hold Nothing Back

That is what I see in Matthew 20:1-16, a story of the landowner and his workers in the vineyard. 
But wait, our worldly wisdom tells us that this will not work. Whoa to that landowner, because tomorrow no one is going to show up in the morning! Everyone is gonna be sleeping in. Some may sneak in just before happy hour.
Well we know that this is not the major point of the story that Jesus is diving into here. But it is part of our human experience. It ties into how we relate to things and view our world. It speaks to the underlying tone of jealousy – comparison – and happiness within each of us.
Do you remember going to gym class? Two captains are chosen. You stand in a line – just waiting to be selected. And with each selection, if you weren’t picked, you wondered why did she not choose me? Or even better, are you kidding me….she chose him – her – over me! And then you play the game and kinda forget about that selection process. Until it happens again…and again..and again.
Well gym class represents much of our life. It is played out in the adult realm of things all the time. College applications and Job Fairs…Dating, friendship circles, business meetings, Community and leadership boards, Renting and buying of places to live, Economic engines, government systems, family drama, etc. As a pastor I have seen siblings torn apart. Siblings and relatives who won't speak to each other ever again because of who got what nick nack in the house when grandma passed away. I was here helping all the time. They did nothing. You love them more than me. You gave them more than me. And we stammer and stammer and stammer. Life is not fair! 
And your right… this world….the World’s Story…..playing by the age old rules of things….Life has its ups and downs. The words of Forrest Gump sum it up well. Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you are going to get. It’s true. How many of us have hovered over that box and made that very careful selection….Only to end up at times with that dreaded bitter chocolate that we were hoping to avoid? And Grandma says… have to eat it…you chose it….you can only have one! Oh life is not fair!
On a grander scale, some of us believe that six primary world stories shape our lives, and if we have these then we will have peace and security. Or we will get what we have worked for or always wanted. These six stories can be summed up in the following: Domination – do whatever it takes to be number one - Seek power – Bully – Bark the loudest – create fear. Revolution – put down any voices from below - Silence the poor, the powerless, and disenfranchised - Rule with an iron fist – keep those below you in chaos. Purification – chase away anything that does not look like me - Or think like me – or act like me. Isolation – Drive people away – Pull yourself up - Individualism always over community. Victimization – in order to be victorious you rise above the rest and in order to stay on top you keep others under your feet. Accumulation – the one with the most toys wins – greed goes unchecked - it's a dog eat dog world – I got mine good luck getting yours.
In naming them we begin to notice something. These stories are broken. They do not bring life to us or the world. These stories simply do not work. They serve to drive us apart. They create more and more suffering. And they fail to answer the question of how to make a better world. 
Thanks be to God that Jesus’s story is something all-together different. Jesus does not live by these worldly constructs. He lived pouring out life. He sought to tear down the things that conquer and divide creation and humanity. He sought to build up a new humanity where real life and real love would be experienced by all. Jesus cared deeply about bringing heaven to earth. Jesus came down to show us this. In him we see a vision for what life is to really be about. When the world’s death knell sought to silence him God raised him up. Because He lives we can live too.
This whole parable of the laborers points to a brand new story - a whole different way of living and loving. I love it when Jesus asks, “So you are angry over me being generous? You are saddened by me pouring out generosity on all?” The crowd had to shake their head Yes! And you see….that is exactly what is wrong with the world’s story. With Jesus, if one rejoices – we all get to rejoice. If one suffers – we all suffer. Jesus rejoices when all are fed, clothed, and housed. Jesus rejoices when all have dignity and worth and value.   Not because of what we have done but because this is what God desires! That is God’s story. And it is unlike anything the world typically lives by. But this is how God calls us to live. We are called to write new stories of life and transformation!
We have an abundantly generous God. Our God does not make change. All are gonna receive. All are gonna be blessed. All are gonna be raised up. Not because we earned it – deserved it – or had it coming - only because Jesus will make it so. 
Another kid’s game that you will remember…..when we were in young love in elementary or middle school. He loves me he loves me not!
Ripping off petal by petal we wondered, will he or she love us? Jesus never plays that game. No doubt – he loves us – he loves us – he loves us!
May we be like Jesus and do what Jesus does. Hold nothing back and give our all – to all – with all – for the sake of all! Amen!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Shared Journey

So often in life we are tempted to go it alone. It seems it is easy to focus on me, myself, and I. When challenged, a voice within us says pull yourself up. When in the midst of darkness, our voice says try harder. When burdened with the weight of the world, and sinking in doubt, self-help thoughts flood our brains. And in the midst of it all, the lonelier and lonelier we get. God reminds us all along the way that we are not made to do life alone. 

Whose voice will we listen to? Our own? The self-help section of Barnes and Nobles or The individualized drive-thru lane of another fast food restaurant? Or the God of all life?

Did Jesus do life alone? No. Jesus worked hard in developing a community of people that would lead transformed lives. They gathered as often as possible to deeply invest in one another. Those first disciples needed constant reminding of who and whose they were. It was in community that they thrived!

I am not sure who stated it, but it goes something like this, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

I experienced that life in the body of Our Savior’s last weekend through our Family Camp. A multi-generational and multi-ethnic grouping of people coming together – going away – to intentionally spend time with one another. It was time well spent in going deep on our discipleship journey – not alone – but together. We ate together – played together – opened the Scriptures together – talked about and with Jesus together – sang together – wrestled through tough questions together – and came home more alive because of it. We indeed are better together. More alive! More whole and well! Ever ready to take on the challenges that the world throws our way.

Everything that we do as the church is to equip us for life and service in God’s world. But it all starts in a community that is centered in Jesus. It’s why we come together to eat together! At table we experience the real life and love of fellowship in Jesus. All tables at Our Savior’s are tables of life and love. It’s why we do faith formation. Intentional times of being in community to grow and learn together. We don’t just throw Bibles out there and say enjoy reading it on your own. Why? Because Jesus is most experienced in and through the gathered Jesus community!

The temptation…isolate…try harder…wrestle in loneliness…fumble in darkness…do life alone. It does not work. 

To seize on the life that really is life…engage…work together…share our stories…be a vitalized part of the body…live in the light…do life together. This is what Jesus had in mind for us.

Families that eat together, play together, work together, serve together, worship together…are strengthened families. The same is true for the church and community. 

Come out…draw one another together as the church…be made strong again…and live…really live!