Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Praise Report!

Like many congregations, my congregation has had the problem of having confirmands disappear off the face of the earth. It is as if once they get that confirmation verse in hand, they simply vanish never to be seen again.

If one were to look at the past classes of confirmands, you would be hard pressed to find one who still attends today. There are many reasons for this, but I think that the biggest one is that after confirmation, these children (young adults) were not assimilated into the life of the congregation. Somehow this cycle needs to be broken.

This past year, I had, for the first time in my five years, "Confirmands!" The Lord brought three young members forward to confirm their faith. Not wanting to lose them like many of the previous confirmands, I prayed and searched for ways to include them. This is not easy in a congregation where the average age is 70 plus.

I have come up with two great ideas to include these young members. The first was to make one the webmaster for our website and a junior member of the Board of Trustees. The second was to make another a teacher’s aide in Sunday School, working with the teacher that she liked the best. Praise the Lord that both youth have accepted the challenge and are excited about serving their Lord and His Church.

I am still searching for one other way to include the third recent confirmand. Thankfully he has a father and mother who insist on his attending church. This gives me more time to think and search for that right spot. Pray that God will provide a way for him to become more involved.

Answered Prayers

I have members come to me from time to time and tell me about how they have prayed and yet God has not answered their prayers or they have yet to see results. While it is true that they may not have SEEN results from their prayers, I believe that God certainly has heard their prayers and has answered them. The answer is one of three: Yes, No, or Not Yet (ask again later).

Now, I understand that when people say that God has not yet answered their prayers that they are more than likely saying, "God has not answered my prayers the way that I want Him to." And yet, He has answered them. Prayer is an exercise in patience. I'm still learning, as I am sure you also are, to be patient in waiting on the Lord to help me with my problems, concerns, etc.

Prayer and what it means to pray must be on many peoples' minds. Even the Michigan District of the LCMS is devoting the 2012 Pastor's Conference to it. I know that it is on my mind and the minds of my family maybe even yours.

But prayer is not only an exercise in patience, it is a way that we are taught to communicate with God. Through prayer, we grow in our relationship with the Lord. As Luther says in his introduction to the Lord's Prayer, (Our Father who art in heaven) "with these words God tenderly invites us to beleive that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father."

I love when my children come to me with their requests, their "prayers." They can ask me anything. But as their father, I am genuinely concerned for their well-being. I need to decide if their request is good for them or not. I do this because I love them. I don't want any harm to come to them and so I discern their request. I answer their request with the same three answers I have above: Yes, No, or Not Yet. This ‘give and take’ with my children allows them to learn about me and me about them; it allows us to grow in relationship.

This is much like our relationship with our Lord and how it grows. Because we are adopted children of God in our Baptisms, we are able to address the Lord God as our dear Father and we are His dear children. We are able to talk with Him as His dear children. God wants to hear our prayers. He wants us to talk with Him. He is not an absentee Father, but a very active and loving Father. Go to Him often in prayer. Set aside time each day where are alone and able to pray to your Father and don't just pray, but take time to listen meditating on His Word.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Search

This past Sunday we considered the account in the Garden of Eden where the Lord God was searching for Adam and Eve.  While God appeared to not know where Adam and Eve where, His question of "Where are you?" was purely rhetorical.  He knew the results of His query; what His search would produce.

This is not always the case when you or I search for things.  For instance, yesterday, I was working with my 11 year old daughter. I was helping her to find a book online through a search of the Barnes and Noble website.  Our query was a simple one: "babysitting." We wanted books on the how-to of babysitting.  In fact we were looking for a particular book she had seen in the store.

Well, our query did return the books title... and so much more. Along with the "American Girl Babysitting Kit," for which we were searching, came up some very unexpected titles and suggestive book covers from the "erotic genre." I quickly diverted my daughters attention as I backed out of the search page.

After we viewed the book that my daughter wanted and she went outside to play, I decided to contact Barnes and Noble to express my dissatisfaction and ask if they had ever considered a "family friendly" search tool.  The agents response was "no we have not but you don't need one because you can simply select the "Teens" or "Kids" tab. But that doesn't help if the book you are searching for is not on one of those pages. You will then need to use the search engine.

Just a heads-up. Be careful what you search for... you may find it... and more!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

“Found By Grace”
Genesis 3:8-15
2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 5) - B
Sunday, June 10, 2012
United in Christ Lutheran Church
Flint, Michigan
Rev. David E. Daniel

The Old Testament lesson for today tells us the familiar account about an increasingly unfamiliar but significant matter – a matter of eternal life or death. Adam and Eve were trying to hide from God. They were hiding from God because they were afraid. And if God had not searched for them and found them, Adam and Eve would have forever been lost in sin and doomed to eternal death.
The account of the fall into sin is a familiar one. When Adam and Eve chose to listen to the lies of Satan and eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thereby doing what God had commanded them not to do, guilt and shame came into their lives. They were no longer comfortable in God’s presence. When they realized that God was in the garden, they hid from Him. It is important to note that God did not run from them; they ran from God (and Satan went with them).
I am reminded of an episode of the television show “Little House on the Prairie,” or as Laurie likes to call it “Little Disaster on the Prairie.” In this episode, Albert, the “adopted son” of the Ingalls causes a fire by smoking a pipe in the basement of the blind school. The fire kills Alice Garvey and Mary’s baby. When Albert learns that his carelessness is the cause of the fire and the deaths, he runs away. Charles and Jonathan search for him to bring him home and restore him in forgiveness. [i] They could have let Albert go. Charles could have chosen to start over... to cut his losses and start fresh. But he didn't. He sought after Albert and brought him home.
God could have started over, but He didn’t. He approached the couple in hiding and asked three rhetorical questions, giving them opportunity to confess. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:9-11)
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13)
Adam and Eve offered the first excuses in the history of the world, but unfortunately they were not the last. People have learned all too well from their sinful parents. We too are fond of making excuses. We too are pretty good at ducking responsibility and accountability. We too can be guilty of blaming others. The sad thing is that none of these reactions to sin is a solution to sin. We simply stay lost... hopelessly lost.
God is not the one who is lost. We are! And this is a serious matter! There are many today who downplay the seriousness of sin. Sometimes we hear them say, or perhaps you have said something similar yourself, “Yes, I did that, but at least I’m not as bad as he is.” But, in his Word, God makes it clear that every sin offends Him; every sin leads to death. St. Paul reminds us that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It is time we take off the mild label by which many refer to sin and put back the “poison” label, which in fact sin is. It is poison. It wrecks our life on earth. It destroys our life for eternity.
But God would not allow sin to have the final word. He intervened in grace with a solution to sin and its eternal consequences. And just as He reached out to Adam and Eve, He reaches out to you and me.
It is so wonderful that we have this text for this Sunday when young Layla Nichole Meier is baptized into Christ’s Church. Understand that she is included in that “all” of whom St. Paul speaks. She is like us; in the same boat so to speak. She is a fallen sinner who cannot save herself, just like you and me. But thanks be to God for His love for us in Christ Jesus.
Like Adam and Eve, we have been found in God’s grace. In baptism, He calls us by name. In Baptism, God confronts the seriousness of sin. In Baptism, God joins us to the saving work of Jesus; His life, His suffering, His death, His resurrection. In Baptism, His Spirit gives us faith, forgiveness and life. All of this is in keeping with His precious promise in the garden.
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:14-15)
It was there that God vowed to enmity between Satan and the woman. God quickly demonstrated that He is in control. Almost as soon as sin entered the world, God revealed His plan to take sin away. He promised to send a Savior to destroy the devils work.

When God sent Jesus, the seed of the woman, Satan did not give up. He worked even harder, as the Gospels make it clear. On the Friday of Jesus’ death, the Friday we call “Good Friday,” the devil endured his final defeat. The battle that began with a tree in the garden ended with a tree on Calvary. The serpent struck at Jesus’ heel, and Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) But then in His dying breath he declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and crushed Satan forever.
At the right time... in God’s time... His first promise found fulfillment. Jesus proved to be the solution to sin and death. He offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice, taking the sins of Adam and Eve and every human being to the cross. There He suffered the eternal consequences of our sins, paying the price in full for all of us.
And we receive the benefit of His work when we are baptized; just a young Layla was today. We are connected to Him and called to live our lives according to His Word. Do we fall short? Yes we do. We do sin against God and one another. We live in this world with all of its influences but we are not of this world. When we sin, we are called once again to repentance. We are called to confess our sins and return to God and Word. There we receive the Gospel promise. There we receive His Word of forgiveness, life and salvation.
This Gospel promise teaches us to run to God rather than from Him. Whether we are tempted to take sin lightly or be crushed by guilt and shame, God invites us to come to Him and receive His love and His peace—not the wrath we deserve. While young Layla has received the gift of everlasting life and salvation in Christ, you are also called as her parents, God-parents, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, to teach and encourage her in the Christian walk.
Jesus himself commands us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Many stop there with this portion of Scripture, but there is more.. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
God kept His promise to Adam and Eve, and He will keep the promise He has made to us; to you, to me, to Layla. God is faithful! He finds us by grace and gives us eternal life through His Son.

In Jesus Holy Name, Amen.

[i] May We Make Them Proud, part 2, Little House on the Prairie, Season 6, Episode 19, 1980.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Have you ever wanted something so much so that the wait seems to be killing you? Anticipation at times is good but at other times it can become all consuming and not good at all.

An example of good anticipation...

Today, I had the wonderful privilege of distributing the Lord's Supper to one of the shut-in members of my congregation.  This elderly lady, Marie, is always so gracious and kind. We have wonderful visits and this visit was no exception. Near the end of the visit I lead her through a brief order of service and administered the Sacrament. This is a moment that Marie waits for with baited breath. 

As we move through the service, I can see the anticipation on her face.  She becomes wide-eyed and appears almost as if she were a child awaiting a gift of candy or some other wonderful thing. She  eagerly awaits the absolution that is proclaimed to her following the confession of sins. When she hears those wonderful words of her Lord, Marie is overcome with joy and her face tells the story, she had waited since my last visit to hear those wonderful words of forgiveness once again. She receives the Sacrament in the same way.

When I consider Marie, I must say that she has a "child-like" faith. Not that she acts like a child or lacks understanding, but that she trust her Lord like a child trust her father. She eagerly awaits His attention and all the good gifts that He offers.

Lately I have been dealing with much anticipation in my life.  But this anticipation is not the good kind. It is the anticipation that tends to bring on anxiety. Anxiety from such things as trying to get work accomplished, sermons written, member visits completed, preparing for and waiting for vacation in July, waiting for progress to happen on certain pet projects. This is not the good kind of anticipation.

St. Paul wrote this to the Philipians: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

This needs to be my prayer today and always that the Lord God would remind me to trust in Him with a child-like faith and to not worry about tomorrow. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
(Matthew 6:34 ESV) May God grant peace and contentment for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coffee Wars!

I am wondering what is transpiring in my congregation. I think a Coffee War is brewing. (pun intended)
I had one of my younger members come up to me and ask why we always have decaf coffee at every event and not regular. I explained that the ones making the coffee have health and age issues where caffeine is not a good thing.
His take on it is that we are being insensitive to the younger crowd and not very welcoming. He then declared that he would be setting up a caffenated pot of his own for those who want the leaded variety.
I am surprised. Personally, I think that if a coffee war is to be fought, it should be fought with coffee snobbery... you know "my bean is better than your bean." We'll see how all this plays out. My vote is for regular coffee to be included, but I rarely ever get a vote.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Quest for Holiness

I have recently undertaken the joyful task of again reading Koberle's "The Quest For Holiness." I recently had to remove all of my books and other belongings from my office so that the Board of Trustees could repaint. Now that they have finished, I am back in and have reshelved my books.

While sorting through my books I came across this book again. The reason I paused when shelving it was that a friend of mine had recently heard Rev. Jonathan Fisk speak of it and this friend had asked if I had a copy. I do indeed have a copy and will send it his way... that is once I am done with it once more.