On Sunday, September 23rd, I was preaching on the example Jesus used of the child to teach His disciples the meaning of greatness. They needed to be like a child where the things that matter are expressions of joy, love and trust in the Lord. At the second service, the front row, which is almost always filled completely with our middle and high school youth, got involved. (We’ve got some great kids which help keep hope burning brightly within me when seeing our world today.) These youth are very involved in the church and have a solid faith in Christ, which in today’s world is special indeed.
In the sermon I used an illustration of how a CBS poll estimated that there are about 93 million selfies taken every day. Well, they were listening because at the end of the service I was bombed with every one of them coming up to me and taking a selfie picture. Two by two, a youth with camera and me, again and again and again until all of them, with a few extras from the congregation thrown in, had taken a picture with me.
I don’t know if those pictures will turn up anywhere. It was threatened with the biggest grins and chuckles that they might pop up on the church web page or, worse, Facebook. It was fun for them and me, whatever happens. But there is more.
Due to the demands here at church on several issues and helping Karen with her therapy, I had missed out on the first few chapel sessions with the children from the day school. Our children’s minister, Donna, filled in and did a great job, but it wasn’t me. This past week we were together. It’s always a special time as the children get to know me and I get to know them. It’s a time I treasure.
To top it all off, my oldest daughter and her fiancée are coming for a visit from Minnesota. Sadly, the grandkids have to stay at home because of school, but at least they are coming for five days. I wish all the kids and grandkids could come since we missed out again this year from seeing them. It’s been two years. This year because of Karen’s knee surgery and last year because of my legs being operated on. It’s tough when Papa and Grandma don’t get to see them. We miss them.
Dan and Dawn will be helping out with stuff around the house which will be a wonderful blessing. I’ve even decided to take several of those days off so I can spend some real time with them. That’s important.
Whether it is as a parent or grandparents or adults, we need to spend time with our children and youth. However, just as important as spending quality time with our children and youth is how we spend that time. I can’t think of a richer, more rewarding way of spending time than with God.
I am well aware that for many adults, parents and grandparents included, time shared in sports with our kids is a primary concern. However, we have gone way beyond the joy of watching our kids play in some sporting endeavor. We have deified sports into a god that must be worshiped and sacrificed to with total commitment and surrender. It’s no longer the inter-school games played for competition and bragging rights. It is team sports and club sports gone to extremes in that every weekend is filled with practices, games or tournaments. Even Sundays are no longer sacred for they have become the feeding ground for tournament events where people must drive for hours to reach their playing field altar. What happened to coming to God’s house and engaging in worship as a family on God’s day?
We parents and adults need to see in our children the joy, love and trust they have which is the key to our relationship with God. They are the model Jesus holds up for us to follow. But that goes two ways. Our Lord also expects us to be an example, guide and inspiration for our children in faith and devotion, service and commitment to eternal things. Ignoring God and not having a personal relationship of faith with Him in Jesus Christ is also teaching our children lessons we don’t want them to learn.
Maybe it’s time to take a stand on what’s right by beginning with something simple on a way of spending time with our children. Why not try coming to church for one hour of worship and some time in Christian education to grow in spirit as a family? One is never too old or too young to spend time in God’s house. I promise it will be quality time well spent.
Besides, long after the joints have worn out, gravity has done its work, and our aches and pains remind us of our age, our kids, as they grow up, can still join us and come to God’s house and excel in Christ-like living.
And those are my thoughts.
It’s Monday (as I write this blog/vlog for next week), but more important is the fact it’s Constitution Day when we remember and celebrate its importance to us as a people and a nation. From what I saw this morning, we have at least one generation, I fear more, that haven’t a clue when it comes to knowing information about the Constitution of the United States.
On the morning news a number of people were asked questions about the Constitution. I saw that folks at least 50 years and older did pretty good, some excellent in their knowledge of the content of the Constitution, as well as dates and places associated with it. However, the under 30 years old crowd barely knew what the Constitution is, much less any specific details.
I wasn’t surprised because so many schools, it seems, no longer teach civics. So, why should we be shocked when younger people don’t know about our nation’s governing documents. Nor do I blame them when we have an educational system that is more concerned with indoctrinating our children in today’s secular values and principles than holding firm on sound instruction in who we are as a nation with its glorious achievements and its disappointing failures. I think they call it history, which no longer seems important to many today. After all, that’s old stuff and we’re re-writing history to make it fit our modern morals, attitudes and ethics anyway.
We run into the same problem in the church. So many in the church, across all age lines, don’t know much about the Word of God as it is revealed in Scripture. Oh, we have views of what some think the Bible says which is good enough for far too many. Why should we as individual Christians be concerned since the church seems reluctant to adhere to its teachings anyway. Few people have the desire to engage in personal Bible study. Pastors don’t like to teach the basics of our faith, at least as Lutherans, in confirmation to our youth. Even those who might be able to say what we believe as Christians don’t know why we believe as we do.
That kind of disregard and lack of interest in how our government works for the people results in people surrendering to “ISMS” that sound too good to be true because they are. Remember, we have a rising love affair with socialism among the young especially that threatens the very roots of our republic. In the church, this disregard for the heritage of our past in the Old Testament, the re-writing the teachings of the New Testament and our Lord, Jesus Christ, to suit modern attitudes, and the lack of a need to know God’s Word becomes the new guide for Christian morals and ethics. The result is we end up with false teachings and heresy.
I fear for the future which is why I try to put such a strong emphasis on the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. It’s what I promised Him I would do. Yet, no one person can do it. It takes all of us who believe in our Lord to hold true to His Word. And it takes an informed citizenry to hold up this republic, established by our founders, as a nation by which we have been blessed. Embracing many of these secular (yes, that includes within the church) values, morals, and ethics is a sure way to lose the blessing God has granted us.
And those are my thoughts. God bless.
Lee Harder from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas visiting with you again this week. I hope all is well with you.
This past week I had a learning curve experience. Have you ever heard the expression, “The best laid plans of mice and men. . .”? It’s a re-write of a quote by Robert Burns that originally used the word “schemes” for which we have substituted, “plans.” It’s a Scottish thing. Well, last Sunday, Rally Sunday, the Sunday where flash flood warnings were out for our part of Texas, made that quote a reality.
We had plans, I had plans — big single worship celebration at a ranch, lots of music, installing education people for Sunday school and confirmation, receiving new disciples, fun and games for the whole family and a congregational picnic/potluck with all the Texas trimmings (brisket being the star of the feast). And if I do say so myself, a dynamite sermon perfect for the day based on James’ message on faith and action. None of that happened. We were called on account of rain.
Yes, we did have worship, but here in the sanctuary. Needless to say, all the stuff we had planned wasn’t going to happen. We weren’t even sure anybody would show up at church since the phone tree (automatic calling) to all the congregation wasn’t working. The best we could do was an email blast which is nowhere near all the folks. (I sure do LOVE sarcasm Windows 10. Anything else I might say on that subject would be unprintable.)
Now, I can wing it without a liturgy and, fortunately, our organist was not water bound; but, the sermon wasn’t going to work. It was totally geared for Rally Sunday and the events connected to it. No Rally Sunday, no sermon, at least not that sermon. That meant in the span of a little over an hour, I had to have a sermon. Nor was the time I had uninterrupted as people asked about Karen and how she was doing after surgery.
Well, the service went off without a hitch. We had about 75 people show up. We celebrated communion, thanks to a volunteer getting things ready. As to the sermon, someone actually said how good it was — one of my best. Let me be clear — it wasn’t my sermon. It was God’s. We preached on Isaiah, how we need not fear or doubt or worry, but be strong in the Lord and trust in Him.
We can have and make all the plans we want to, but God has His plans which will always trump ours. That’s what happened last Sunday. I don’t know why it happened, it just did.
We human beings constantly think we’re in charge and that our planning is all that matters. My response to that is simple — WRONG! Sure, we need to make plans, short-term and long range, consider all the options available, even consult people in the know, but that isn’t where we need to start. We start by asking God what His plans are for us.
This is especially important for us as the church. The church is in the business of sharing and proclaiming our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s that great commission thing again. Our plans must always be formulated under that truth. If we stop functioning as a church in God’s service, living out His purpose and plan for our lives and just do business, we’re no longer the church. We’re about faith and living that message in all we do. We must always be consulting Him in prayer and the goals we strive to reach.
I got another lesson in whose plan is to be followed last weekend. My plans need to be plugged into God’s plans. Maybe one day I’ll learn that lesson. Then again, probably not — I can be stubborn, as Karen says. Don’t you be.
And those are my thoughts. God bless.
I had a rare opportunity last week. Since I wasn’t preaching or leading worship last Sunday, Sept. 2nd, I had the chance to relax on Saturday morning after making our traditional hearty breakfast for my girls (the girls meaning my wife Karen and our two golden retrievers — Yes, they get an egg, too, and bacon.), I watched a little TV. The show was “How It’s Made.” Normally, I’ll catch a little bit of it after I’m done at church on Sunday before I take a sinker in my recliner. Sunday starts really early, sometimes earlier than even I planned.
What struck me with several of the items being made (pool tables, cymbals and oboe reeds) is how labor intensive they are. Who knew? All too often we tend to think the things we buy magically come together. We seldom take into account all the work required and a battery of skilled laborers that combine to make that product. No one person could do it all themselves. It takes many who in every case hone their skills with years of dedicated work which adds to the quality of the end product. We buy the finished product, large or small, and don’t have a clue.
I mention this because it has a very real application to what needs to be recognized in the work of the church on several levels. Allow me to elaborate.
First, no one person can do it all. I saw how many functions or stages, skilled craftsmen in ever increasing steps of creating the final result were required. In the church, it is virtually impossible for the pastor or the office manager, or the additional ministerial offices of the congregation to do all that is necessary. Each have their areas of expertise and responsibility, but even combined they are horribly insufficient to accomplish the work necessary. It takes an army of people (each doing their LEVEL BEST) committed to a finished product of quality.
That brings me to my second observation. There can be no shortcuts. To short change a product by using a cheaper, faster, simpler or more convenient approach to its construction gets a product made alright, but at the cost of genuine quality that really does what was designed as its goal. The church as the individual congregation is no different. Oh, we can do things that will allow us enough to get by, but is that what God expects from us in His finished product — enough to get by? Remember, our task is to proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ making disciples. As messages go, they don’t get better than that one. As a result, our delivery of that message, to all ages, must be nothing short of our best. Personally, I think our willingness to just “get by” stems from a lack of faith and trust that God will provide. He always has.
Finally, when it comes to “How It’s Made”, I seemed to notice that what they produce is being made by organizations that have a long range plan. They plan on making a product, their product, well into the future. They did a lot of work and planning to reach this point and they are not going to stop now as they step into the future. Now, remember, we’re talking pool tables, cymbals and oboe reeds.
Yet. compared to God’s long range planning, they pale in comparison. God’s planning in the Old Testament with the Hebrews building them into a nation from which Messiah would come took thousands, literally thousands of years. That’s some serious planning. Nor should we be blind or ignorant of the last two thousand years of planning on God’s part to create and maintain the Church. Oh, there are some bad times during both of those periods, as there will be struggles in the future for us as the church. However, let me be perfectly clear with this key point. Every time, EVERY TIME, there are problems, it was because we thought we could do a better job than God. We so like our shortcuts.
Our Lord has laid an awesome responsibility on us. We are to help share His product, salvation in Jesus Christ, to save the world. What we need to do is trust in His plan by doing what He calls on us to do and get out of His way to accomplish that task. God will see us through. He always has.
And those are my thoughts. God bless.
Originally I had planned to draw a comparison between a spoiled, self-centered young bride who was going to charge guests $1500.00 to attend her wedding, including her family, and some news stories of WWII vets being honored at some community celebrations. In her case, she had a boorish melt down on the internet because no one was coming and she had been forced to cancel the wedding. I was going to go with the angle of humility versus self-indulgence. Then I realized, there really is no comparison that can be made, certainly not with WWII vets. So let me focus on what matters.
These veterans of WWII have few equals, except with their comrades in arms, and their numbers are dwindling. The news stories made that point clear. What made these stories stand out for me was not that these men were being honored by family, friends and neighbors, they deserve to be so hailed. No, it was the way total strangers showed them honor and deep respect with notes and cards filled with words of praise. More important were their expressions of heartfelt appreciation for the sacrifices they made in days gone past.
These vets were like my father, who was at Bastogne, in that they never really talk about what they endured. They display, by their private silence, a humility that reflects their upbringing and their faith in the Lord who watches over them and this nation they love. They did what they did, endured what they did, braved the struggles they did, because it was necessary. In humility, tempered by their faith and trust in God, they served. Absolutely they should be honored.
As a pastor, I’ve been privileged to know many men and women who have served this nation in times of struggle. From the bitter cold of “The Bulge” to the steamy jungles of Vietnam, from ships sailing into harms way to steel Calvary coursing over burning sands, our military have fought for this country and her people keeping us safe. They should be honored and thanked for their sacrifices daily.
They pay this price and more because it is necessary. They are tempered by humility and faith which gives them the courage and strength to do what they must without a self-centered bravado. They do what they do in a silent fellowship of arms because it was necessary.
This past week we lost another one of those who humbly served, Senator McCain. He, too, endured much and spoke very little of it, because it was necessary. We honor his memory and his service with gratitude.
I know there are lessons here we should apply to ourselves as Christians. We, too, are called into service by our God to do what is necessary. We do what we do out of love for His kingdom and because we have been charged with a sacred duty in His name. So we serve doing our best in silent humility, denying any glory for our part, but with dedicated commitment to God’s purposes because it is necessary.
When the time comes, God will honor us with the glory of His eternal kingdom, as He does to all those who love Him faithfully in humble service.
And those are my thoughts. God bless.
Pastor Lee R. Harder