Where Does Your Help Come From? (Ps 121)

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I don’t know about you, but I am emotional during this time. I am worried about my loved ones, about our church, about jobs and the economy. Our world has been tipped over and spilled all over the floor with this disease.

I find I have moments of anxiety and sadness when I dwell on the situation we all are going through. When we feel out of control and everything feels so beyond our comprehension that we can be overwhelmed with sadness in it all.

In the midst of all this fear and stench of death we see amazing human spirit to share and care for others. We see ordinary people carrying out their jobs in order to serve others whether in grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, or delivery trucks. These small acts of heroic service and the gratitude expressed by others remind us of the world God intends for us. Rather than the still ongoing political barfing going on, we are reminded that God has imbued this creation with His goodness. In spite of all our sin and brokenness, God’s goodness still shines past the darkness.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

(Ps 121:1–8 NIV)

The LORD is not sleeping or absent. The LORD is always present working out his Kingdom purposes. The Kingdom challenge for every Christian is how are we a part of what God is doing.

That is why your Church, Concordia, is here. Preaching the Word, reminding you of God promises and encouraging you in the Spirit.

“Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:8

Pastor Douglas

Speaking Clearly (1 Cor 14:1-19)

Promo-Preach-the-Word-600x286.jpgRegardless of the time – in or out of season – the call of the Church is to proclaim and declare the Word of God. This responsibility to proclaim and declare God’s will belongs to the whole Church, but God calls specific people to carry out this preaching and proclamation.

To preach the Gospel is a great honor and blessing in my life. No matter what happens I am grateful for this privilege.

To preach the Gospel is to declare God’s promises and God’s will. While we always look back to celebrate all the ways in which God has been faithful, the purpose of preaching is to give vision to where the LORD is leading us.

Therefore all Gospel preaching by its very nature is prophesy. Preaching the Gospel is declaring the will of God that will happen in our lives in the present, in the immediate future and the eternal future. Preaching the Gospel means declaring that God will render His grace and deliver us from the brokenness of this world.

In Corinthians 14, Paul challenges us to speak the Gospel clearly. He lifts up “prophesying” as the life changing work it is.

“The one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” (1 Co 14:3)

We always live in a sinful and broken human society which needs to hear the prophesy of the Gospel. Christian pastors are called to boldly prophesy the Gospel to strengthen, encourage, and comfort their flock. For such preaching builds and edifies the church. (1 Co 14:4)

Prophesying the Gospel is never about power, acclaim or personal ability. In prophesying, in preaching Paul advises:

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Co 14:1)

People have a great need for the Word of God rightly preached. When the Word is prophesied, preached in the Spirit of God it has the power of God to change lives and guide futures. Pastor Darrell Johnson writes:

“Whenever a human being, Bible in hand, stands up before a group of [people], invites [them] into a particular text of the Bible and as faithfully as possible tries to say again what the living God is saying in the text, something always happens. Something transformative, empowering, and life-giving.” (Darrell Johnson, The Glory of Preaching, IVP Academic).

Preaching the Word of God changes my life; changes your life and changes the world.

In this Lenten season we remember the words of Jesus from the Temptation, we cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

Rev. Dr. Douglas Schoelles

Lead Pastor and Eternal Futures Investor

Concordia Lutheran Church

“Of One Heart & Mind in Christ” (Phil 2:2, 4:7)

 

Be Frantic? (Mark 9:14-29)

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Feeling rattled? Going through anxiety and dis-ease?

Our whole society is on edge and arguing with each other about how best to deal with the coronavirus. So much of our anxiety is because we are rightly feeling out of control. We are clamping down to try to get a handle on this virus and limits its damage. Which we will given enough time.

Yet this whole episode exposes us to the truth that life is always beyond our manipulation.

After Jesus comes down from the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-3) he encounters a crowd arguing about how to bring healing to a boy who is sick and tormented by an out of control spirit. A spirit that is working on killing the boy. The boy’s father begs Jesus to do something.

We are frantic. We are crying out to anybody and everybody to do something to bring life back to normal, including God. Jesus responds to the boy’s father and to us.

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mk 9:19)

In our fear and frantic anxiety, we do not trust God. Jesus confronts the father for his lack of trust, for his unbelief. You and I are confronted right now by our circumstances for being fine with motoring along in unbelief. Now that our world is not being tossed to the ground and thrown about we are crying out to God.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24)

The Good News is that Jesus knows exactly what we are like. He knows we are unbelieving. Which is why faith does not depend upon us. Faith does not depend upon how much we believe we believe. Like the father, we cry out for help with our unbelief.

Jesus doesn’t wait for us. He simply acts in our  lives. He rebukes the sin and darkness, the death and the devil in our lives to raise us up.

When we wonder why we cannot drive out these wicked powers on our own? When we wonder why we cannot manipulate our situations so we would not need Christ Jesus, he replies:

“This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mk 9:29)

So frantically rely on God.  Even in your unbelief, trust Jesus who goes to the cross and is resurrected for you.

 

REMINDER:  Our Sunday worship will be live on Facebook or our website (https://concordiakingsburg.org/)  Sunday @ 9:30 am (Pacific time)

You can find the worship liturgy at https://outofthekiddiepool.com/sunday-morning-worship/

DO NOT FEAR, THE LORD IS NEAR

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Our world has been turned upside down by this whole corona virus pandemic. Our world will not be the same after this event. We are afraid of our own biology. Whereas before only children were considered petri dishes, now we look at each other as sources of infection. We are cautious to touch. Social distancing is now a common phrase. The effects of this episode will have impacts for years to come long after life gets back to “normal”. Truthfully we know there will be a new normal.

In this time of pandemic, fear and panic have gripped our nation. People are fearful if they will have enough flour, enough milk, enough toilet paper. People have gotten into fights over grocery lists.

Why do we have this fear? We are not afraid of catching a cold. We are not afraid of running out of sugar. We are afraid of something much deeper and darker. The fear which shakes our comfortable world is nothing less than the fear of death. We are afraid that death will stalk our loved ones; maybe even ourselves.

In this time of fear and darkness, we must remember who is the Lord who gives life. This time is also a great opportunity to wake from our spiritual slumber to see the power of God. I encourage you to fight against the depression and fear by leaning into the Living Lord. Rejoice because you know even in this present darkness the light of God is shining. In His Word, in His Church. Look to see that the LORD is near.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7).

Even in distressing times as these the LORD is working. I encourage you to look for the goodness and faithfulness of God shining in love and care of others. Each day, even during these days, the mercies of God are new every morning.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9).

While the LORD did not cause this virus, consider:

  • How might God be using this moment to advance the Kingdom?
  • What do you hear the LORD saying to you about your life during this time of distress?
  • How might this time be an opportunity for our church to grow disciples?
  • How do we shepherd and look after one another?

 

“LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.” ~ Isaiah 33:2

Pastor Douglas

Listen To Him (Mark 9:1-13)

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Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up a high mountain. As they were alone he was transfigured shining with the light and glory of heaven. He was shining with his true holiness and majesty as the Son of God.

There talking with Jesus are Elijah and Moses. What would they be talking about?

Jesus knew where he came from and where he was going (John 13:3). He knew he was on his way to the cross. He knew he would return to the Father and the Spirit. What could Elijah and Moses add?

Elijah the prophet and Moses the law giver are celebrating the Promise Giver. Jesus is fulfilling all the hopes and dreams of the Law and Prophets. Jesus is the one who is the Promise to all humanity. Perhaps they were excitedly talking with Jesus about what a big surprise his rising from the dead will be. As he and the disciples are walking back down the mountain, he tells them to keep quiet about everything until after he had risen from the dead.

As the disciples ask him about why the Elijah messenger must come first, Jesus affirms he must come first, but then adds:

Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? (Mk 9:12)

Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist who was jailed and beheaded on the whim of King Herod. So too the Son of Man will be rejected by a world too callous and hard of heart to repent and turn towards God.

The disciples are of the opinion that Jesus is on the wrong track going to the cross. The world is of the opinion that the cross is the wrong track to bring redemption to this sin-soaked world.

Yet Jesus knows this hard-hearted generation, the entrenched powers that be, and the deceits of Satan will only be humiliated and vanquished in his Cross and Empty Grave. Jesus is prepared to go all the way through the depths of sin and hell to redeem this broken and sinful world; to redeem you. Jesus is prepapred to do whatever it takes to fulfill all the promises of God!

So the Spirit encourages you in the Word to trust the Promise Giver. In the midst of chaos and crisis, beyond the herd-hearted rebellion of this world and callous rejection of the Promise-Giver, you are urged to listen to the Beloved Son.

 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7)

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? (Mark 8:14-21)

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Jesus warns the disciples not to be influenced by the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod (Mk 8:14).  The confused disciples wonder if this discussion about baking supplies has anything to do with not having bread.

Frustrated with the disciples, Jesus says what we are thinking. “Why are you talking about bread?

Do you still not see or understand?!” Now we know right off the bat that he is not talking about bread because we are just so smart.

“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” (Mk 8:18)

During this CoronaVrisu crisis the political and cultural disputes just continue to roll on. Since all of us have opinions, we get sucked into these controversies. We let the yeast of the worldly authorities influence and deceive us. Turns out we are not smart as we think. We are busy baking our days with tainted yeast to create the Bread of Discontent.

 “And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” (Mk 8:18–19).

Jesus calls his disciples back to his presence and His word. Jesus asks them specifically to remember. What did God do when there were 5,000 people and not enough bread? What did God do when there were 4,000 people and not enough bread?

To be the people of God is to be people who remember. We cling to the Word of God because in it we remember all that the LORD has done. We remember all the ways God is faithful. When we remember the LORD is faithful we are encouraged to look forward with faith, not fear.

So during this time as we shelter avoid the yeast of this world. Be transformed by the Word of God. Let the Word leaven you’re your thinking and perceiving.

This is why our worship is so critical. In the liturgy as we respond to all the ways we remember that God is faithful, we are leavened, we are transformed.  Rather than just going through this crisis, you are called to remember. To come to worship and recall who the LORD is and what the LORD does.

In this midst of all this craziness, Jesus asks you:

“Do you still not understand?” (Mk 8:21).

I hope you will join us this Sunday when we remember how our God is faithful. You can find us worshipping at https://concordiakingsburg.org/video/

BE GRATEFUL: (Mark 8:1-13)

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We have all seen the empty shelves. While some of this can be attributed to hoarding, much of it was whole communities going to their grocery stores at the same time and stocking up. Thankfully farmers are still farming and truckers are still trucking. We are so blessed in this country.

In Mark 8, crowds gathered. There was a worry there would not be enough. That people would go without. Jesus says, “I have compassion on these people.” (Mk 8:2)  Jesus is concerned they will be hungry; they will collapse. Jesus is concerned about their physical well-being.

Jesus then turns to the disciples and enlists their help. “How many loaves do you have?” (Mk 8:5)  Seven loaves is not a lot for a crowd of more than 4,000. A disciple might even be tempted to hide and hoard that loaf.

Jesus commands the crowd to stay in place. Then comes the worship. Jesus give thanks.  The beginning of abundance is always gratitude and thankfulness. To be thankful that the LORD is providing for us even when we may not see all that God has for us.

When we only focus on what we do not have, we are left with despair. The disciples only saw scarcity and could not imagine where they could get enough bread to feed every one.

When we focus on the LORD who is the source of our daily bread, we have hope. The LORD is faithful and does provide. The people had enough. When the meal began with the agreement to give thanks first, then everyone had enough to be satisfied.

SO I ask that during this CoronaVirus crisis to remember the poor, here and around the world. As always they will be effected disproportionately. Pray for the LORD to provide for them. Consider also how God is calling you to be a part of his miraculous provision. Consider how God might be calling you to participate in a miracle.

This was supposed to go out yesterday, but I did not click on all the right buttons. Sorry.

BE INUNDATED

pray_immersedEvery one of us has been inundated with information about the Coronavirus. Now we should immerse ourselves in prayer.

Since becoming your pastor I have encouraged us to grow in prayer as a congregation. Now we have been thrust into circumstances where our prayer life is more necessary than ever. As many of us our staying put in our homes, between binge watching television, scanning the news, and cleaning out cupboards, I urge you to set aside some time to pray. To pray together as a family.

Just as our prayer group gathers every Monday morning, you can do in your homes around the kitchen table or sitting in the living room.  I imagine that some of you have probably never prayed with your spouse, our children, or as a family.

This pandemic is an opportunity for God’s presence to grow in your life. Set a time with your family to pray together. Read some scripture. It helps grease the wheels of your prayer. Then simply pour your heart out to God.

This prayer to God is not just reading prayers, but simply talking with God.  You don’t need fancy language.  Just bring every care to the throne of Grace. Call on your Heavenly Father.

What prayer concerns might you have?

  • Pray that people will turn to God as their strong refuge and healer.
  • Pray for our government leaders (Romans).  Ask the Lord of Heaven and Earth that they would be able to come together to make wise and common sense decisions to protect the vulnerable and ease the financial burden on those affected by all the shutdowns.
  • Pray for those families who will be challenged to both continue to work to provide an income and at the same time care for their children who will not be in school, pre-school or day care.
  • Pray for the businesses in our communities who will be drastically affected by the mandatory shutdowns that they might survive, recover and thrive once again.
  • Pray for those who are working in the health care fields, those who will have direct contact with folks who are showing symptoms of Covid-19.
  • Pray for our congregations, leaders, and pastors that together we might be light in the darkness and salt to a world that still cries out in pain, hurt, confusion, and frustration.
  • Pray for the poor, here and around the world, who will bear the brunt of this disease.
  • Pray for the elderly who are most susceptible to this virus and for the sut-ins who are even more isolated
  • Pray for those in agriculture and shipping who continue to supply our needs.
  • And pray for all, in every nation that are suffering illness now because of this pandemic.

 

Some Scripture that would be helpful.

  • 1 Peter 5:8 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares about you.”
  • “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”– Matthew 6 (the whole chapter)
    •  Let today’s trouble be enough for today (one day at a time).
  • Romans 8:28:In all things, God works for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
  • Revelation 1:17: “Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” Be not afraid is a frequent word from God to us throughout all of scripture.
  • Psalm 23
  • Matthew 26-27: This is a good time to ponder Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and recognize God uses every darkness and evil in this world to turn it around to his grace and glory.

While first responders, medical professionals, truckers and so many others are on the job taking care of others and us, we need to be on our job praying taking care of others.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

Pastor Douglas

 PS: We will be sending out devotional material in the next couple of days to help you to grow in your prayer life.

Avoiding Contamination (Mark 7:1–23)

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Touch the keypad on the gas pump. Hold onto a rail going down stairs. Turn a doorknob. These simple everyday tasks now are accompanied with dread. Could I be contaminated?

We are afraid of our own human biology. Lysol and liquid soap are indispensable to cleanse and keep healthy.  We are cautious about what touches us.

In Mark 7, Jesus addresses a group people who were preoccupied with washing their hands and cups but ignored washing their spiritual lives. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, he says

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ (Mk 7:6–7, Isa 29:13).

While we worry about this current pandemic which threatens to kill millions, we take for granted a pandemic that already exists killing millions upon tens of millions every year.

The whole human race is infected with the disease of sin. The effects of this disease are real and costly. Sin is destructive and deadly ruining lives and killing people in its wake, but we live with it. Humanity makes all kinds of rules with the illusion that we can manage sin.

We see the effects of sin in poverty and famine, war and street violence, in disease and pandemics, in crime and corruption, in broken families and mentally ill people, and in unbelief and despair. Hardly an affliction in this life exists that cannot be said to be the result of sin contamination. Sadly, this contamination has affected every human being. We are all infected and polluted with sin. Jesus addresses each of directly about our infection.

Jesus went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mk 7:20–23)

While we deal with this COVID-19 infection, I pray we will recognize this greater infection. The amazing good news is that Jesus took on our infection. He came to embody our sin who had never known sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). He bore in his body our affliction, took on the curse of this infection so we could be cured of sin (Isaiah 53:4-7). For this we give God all the praise and honor. As Christ has conquered sin, death and the devil he gives us new life.

Beloved, you have been uncontaminated!  While we deal with the biological disease, let us rest assured and draw hope from Christ who has delivered us from our spiritual disease.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)

As we know Christ has conquered let us lift up our prayers in hope that God will deliver us from this global affliction.

 

“LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.” ~ Isaiah 33:2

Pastor Douglas

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