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Monday, September 29, 2014

Today was a MILESTONE!!!

For the blog, today was a milestone event that I need to thank you for making a reality.

September 29, 2014 Pastor on the Prairie (ProtP) has had over

10,000 Visitors!!!

Thank you for your support.  I would love to hear from you, please fill out the "Speak your mind!" section below and let me know where you are from.

Thank you for reading and supporting Pastor on the Prairie!

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Brian Dodd's Open Letter to Pastor's and Staff

I was reminded this last week that October is Clergy Appreciation Month.  My personal experience aside, Brian Dodd in an article entitled, "An Open Letter to All Pastor's and Church Staff" clearly articulates the love he has for Pastor's and Staff at churches!!!

Personally this letter was a shot in the arm for me!!!!

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

09282014 Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

An image that ‘sells’
Last Sunday night we sat around the table after baptizing Justin, Cheyenne and Jacob and did what most people do in the fall, we talked about sports.  Not just any sport, but football, specifically the nice win of Nebraska over Miami, ironically they did it again last night with Illinois.  Here in the heartland the game of football is as important for some as breathing, how much rain we had and the bushel made on dry land corn versus irrigated corn.  For some famous football players of yester year, their image has been used by business to make money.  Whether Franco Harris and tossing the jersey for the Coca-Cola commercial or even the famous Clydsdales that made Superbowl history with their yearly commercials.  Or even Bubba Smith who was famous for tackling quarterbacks and later known for tearing the tops off of beer with the mantra of ‘taste great…less filling’ for ‘light beer’.  Today we are surrounded, bombarded and inundated by ads for everything from beverages to seeds to which pills we need, but the reality is all of these ads have one goal in mind, to get we the consumer to buy what they are selling, because of the image of the person on the screen.

Are we trying to ‘sell religion’?
Last week was Back to Church Sunday and we as a congregation celebrated with the Blessing of the Quilts and Layettes.  Is the church any different trying to ‘sell religion’ or the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  We try to show how we impact our world by the kits we put together and the quilts that we sew, in the hopes not only of getting more people to come and serve, but also all in the name of Jesus.  I as Pastor sometimes feel like our society at times, trying to sell church and our impact beyond these four walls.

Unless the Spirit is in us, we are ‘trying to sell religion’
But the reality is unless the Spirit of God is in me as Pastor and we as a congregation, we will not be able to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Our Epistle or New Testament reading this morning was written by Paul to the Galatians.  The Galatian people who though good followers of Jewish law were being put down by the Judaizers who believed the only way to God was through Jewish custom.  Not only did both Paul and the Jews try to ‘sell’ their beliefs, just as the big companies still do today, they were clearly making each other to be the enemy.  We are no different today, when we talk of our favorite sports teams, we know our favorites by the colors we wear and the games we attend and hold our teams as the best and favorite and others as the ‘opposition’.  Consider if you will the rivalry between the Bronco’s and Chiefs, KU and K-State, the Rockies and Royals.  We sell our teams.  Paul in the same way with this letter is trying to ‘sell’ the true benefits of being a believer in Jesus Christ.

Are you a bear or burro?  What are we to do?  “Bear one another’s burdens”
This reading clearly asks a question for us to consider, when Paul empowers the Galatian people to “Bear one another’s burdens”.  The question that came to my mind, “Are you a bear or a burro?”  We know that a bear can be protective, whether a mother bear that cares for her young or a male that is protecting his hunting grounds.  But a burro is the exact opposite, it is a beast of burden, meant to carry the heavy load of its master.  As a Christian, are we bears or burro’s?  Do we protect ourselves, our own domains, areas and interests rather than seeing the greater good for everyone?  When challenged do we swoop in like a mother bear protecting her cubs and lash out no matter how we are received?  As a Pastor, this is a personal challenge.  There are times that my personality gets in the way of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I am not heard, whether in meetings, individual conversation or even from here in the pulpit.  This is one reason for my visits to the congregation for me to personally apologize for my being a bear and not a burro and for everyone to hear from me personally not only my confession, but my opportunity to seek forgiveness from you the people of God and become a better burro.

We are called good to all people!
Paul later in the reading says clearly, “the one who sows the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life…let us do good to all people”.  This is what I need to personally and professionally hear.  Not just the admonition of Paul first given to the Galatians, but clearly proclaim, that God is calling me personally and all of us to ‘do good to all people’.  We are called to ‘bear one another’s burdens’, be the light of Christ and live the life, not of ‘selling religion’, but living the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our broken world for those who so desperately need to hear what Jesus Christ has done for them.

We are called to be a burro...bear others burdens.
We have been called by God through our baptism into the greatest opportunity, to not only ‘do good to all people’, but be a burro and bear our fellow Christians burdens.  How can we do this, it is not simple, but we can begin by answering four questions.  In the coming weeks, I will take one of these questions every week and apply it to our lesson and community here at Emmanuel.  The four questions are, Why does the church exist?  What are we to be as a church?  What are we to do as a church?  How are we to do it?  These questions I first read in Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Church”.

Why does the church exist?
First, Why does the church exist?  Paul gives us the answer, we are to “bear one another’s burdens”.  We are called as the people of God to live a life of purpose.  Our purpose is simple not to sell the church, but to live and be the church of Jesus Christ.  We are called as our opening hymn told the story, to ‘serve Whom we adore’.  God is calling us to mission, the mission of sharing the Gospel of Salvation with all of mankind.  God will grant us the wisdom and the courage to be a model and bear the burdens of those around us and have a kingdom impact, not just in another country, but right here in Goodland.

We live for a purpose to glorify God.
Daily we encounter lives that are shipwrecked on the shoals of adversity, from broken relationships, communication that is not understood, to a lack of concern for the welfare of others or even the lack of having a role model of what relationship is truly meant to be.  But God is calling each of us to bear each other’s burdens and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ by living it out in our daily lives.  This is the mission of the church the opportunity of the people of God and our higher calling, because we are responsible for ourselves, but also for how we portray Christ in our lives.

We seek to have a ‘greater purpose’ in life.
Nowhere was this more true than for a man who was well known in football, I mentioned him earlier, Bubba Smith.  Well known for not only being a hard hitter, he also was the spokesman for beer.  “Taste’s great…less filling” the mantra that he heard even at his alma mater of Michigan State.  When returning after retirement, he heard from the stands his famous tag line and came to the realization that by his endorsing this product of beer, he was saying to young people everywhere it was alright to drink beer.  It also hit home for him on a beach in Florida while vacationing where he heard young college kids chanting the same mantra.  After this experience when his contract came up for renewal he declined the opportunity to continue the legacy he began, even though the money was good and brought him instant notoriety.  Not because he personally had never drunk a beer in his life, but because of the impact he had made and he didn’t want to be known as a promoter, advocate or cheerleader of beer and its consumption.  Bubba Smith wanted his life to have a greater purpose.

We find our purpose in Jesus Christ!
Today we are called to a life with a greater purpose in His Kingdom as God’s children.  Not only to bear one another’s burdens, but allow God to chart our path in life and trust Him to use us for His glory. Our sermon hymn today entitled, “Jesus Savior Pilot Me” clearly states what we need.  May God pilot our lives and enable us to bear one another’s burdens as Jesus Christ bore our sins on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind, but especially all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

What should we do when we have a disagreement with other Christians?

Do you stop and take stock of what you are going to do if you have a disagreement with another Christian?

Frank Viola in his article "Warning: The World Is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another" lists seven things to consider when you have a disagreement with another Christian. If we were to seriously consider each of these, we might not need a warning of being watched because we are Christian.

We as Christians are being watched, so we need to not only watch what we say and do, but live as Christ not only instructed us, but modeled for us.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to save the church? A question with clear implications

The following is a quote from “Called to Stay” by Caleb Breakey.  This is a book I have had on my shelf, but only picked up this morning, but from the beginning, it speaks what I have heard as pastor, experienced both as pastor and parishioner and ultimately what I see as an opportunity.

Lead Passionless Believers to Heart Change
Even as I write this, a thousand voices from my peers whisper and shout:
  • I’ve tried being a “change agent” in my church.  It doesn’t work.
  • If you only knew how hurt I am, you’d understand that staying in church is impossible.
  • Church people burn you at the stake when you stop conforming to their hypocritical and judgmental ways.
  • This is all fine for you, but God called me out of the church for a reason—and I’m not going back.
  • I’ve messed up too many times for God to use me in my church.
  • I’ve been stomped, belittled, and discriminated against by church hierarchies in ways you cannot even fathom….

I’m simply here to talk about an action-oriented lifestyle that mirrors Jesus, leads passionless believers to heart change, and draws out believers to timid to go all-in for Christ.”

This is a book I am looking forward to devouring!!!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What is the difference between "Go to church" and "Be the Church"?

This video came to my e-mail today and it hit me right between the eyes.  It poses the best question, "What is the difference between "Go to church" and "Be the Church"?

When I thought about it, I as a Pastor do 'go to church', but when I thought about do I ask my parishoners, 'what does 'be the church' look like?  Honestly, I don't put it this bluntly or in this kind of language, but these two leaders do.  They are Jeff Vandertelt and Caesar Kalinowski.  I really admire them and am discerning whether I need to ask people if they 'Go to' or 'Are' the church?

Here is the video:

Why Saying "Let's Go To Church" Is Bad Theology from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Let me know what you think and whether you agree or disagree in the "Speak your mind!" below!
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Leadership and the declining church

rundown-churchThom Rainer hits another home run with this article entitled, "12 Reasons Churches Don't Address Decline" (

It seems churches are more apt to be like farm animals and stay in the pen rather than see the open gate that could be the opportunity for change.

Well done Thom Rainer!!!

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

09212014 Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

I don’t know about you, but as Fall begins to come to Northwest Kansas and the nights get cooler and the days get shorter, on my bed, I have a quilt.  When we had the recent cold snap, I used the quilt on my bed, because I was cold.  The quilts you see on all the pews this morning were made by the women of Emmanuel and they when they reach their final destination, will be used by people who are in need of keeping warm, just like I was and I would guess you were as well.  These quilts are not just an expression of the giving of the ladies, but how we as a congregation reach outside of these four walls and minister to people in need both of a physical need to keep warm, but also the need to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ in action.  This is a clear fruit of God working in and through us today.

But the fruits do not stop there, we also celebrate today the fruit that was planted long ago in the Garden of Eden, which was the story the children heard this morning.  It is the fruit of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ that is offered for us and surrounds us like the quilt we cuddle up in when cold.  But this is not a fruit that is to be kept for only a select few, but it is to be shared for and with all of mankind.  And today, we also with all of us saints gathered here today celebrate “Back to Church Sunday”!  It may seem anticlimactic.  Yet today is an opportunity for each of us to renew, refresh, reconnect and reinvigorate our individual and personal faith and be surrounded by and share with others the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can and should clearly ask, why should this be important for us today?  Why should we want to reconnect with the church and Jesus Christ?  But the reality is that we sometimes feel cold and distant from Jesus Christ and have drifted away from our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  Like a farmer who when planting wheat or corn has to continuously correct how the seed planter drills the seed into the line of the fertilizer that had previously been laid into the ground because of the terrain or terraces.  Or the driver of a car that has to insure they keep the vehicle between the lines so they don’t cause an accident.  Or the child that has to follow the lines when learning how to write the letters in Kindergarten.  We Christians are no different, we need to autocorrect in the church to be drawn back and come back to hear and heed the call of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

However, like all humans, we at times have become comfortable because we have gotten used to not being surrounded by the love of God, not coming to church or being involved.  Like, not waking up early on the one day we could sleep in, because we don’t have to go to work and we can do whatever we want before we sit down and watch football or spend time in the shop or even go out and ride our favorite four wheeler.  When we do come and be surrounded and comforted by the familiar here at the church we force ourselves to make sure we arrive before the bell that indicates we have begun worship.  All because that is what is expected of us, by our parents, our grandparents and even sometimes our spouse.

But today, I want to cast a different outlook and offer a greater opportunity for us.  There was once a teacher who introduced the “Balloon Game” to her two classes.  In the first class the students were told the rules that balloons would be tied to their legs and the object was to protect your own balloon and ‘break’ the other persons balloon in the game.  And the last person left with their balloon unpopped, was the winner.  With gusto the children began the game and in the end the last person left wasn’t the most athletic, nor the most popular, but ironically the least popular person in the class.  He was the winner, because no one wanted anything to do with him, he was different from everybody else and didn’t have any ‘true friends’ or relationships.  Does this sound familiar here in the church?

In the next class, the same rules were stated, but the difference was that this class had mentally challenged students.  As the game began, the teacher noticed something in stark contrast of the first class, the kids who had heard the same rules, didn’t do the same thing, they did the exact opposite, they instead of trying to win for themselves, helped each other pop the balloon.  One child would hold their balloon and invite another to ‘break their balloon’, then in turn the other would hold their balloon, while the other child would ‘break’ theirs.  This went on until every balloon was burst and all of the kids felt like winners.  This is different direction, because the kids were inclusive insuring everybody won and nobody was left out.  This was a clear fruit of grace in action and everybody a winner.

Today we have this same opportunity for all of us to be winners, because we are invited by Jesus Christ to spread and share the message of the Gospel of Salvation.  Simply, the Gospel message is that Jesus Christ died for each and every one of us in order for all of us to be with Him in His Kingdom.  If you believe this offer of grace is for you, God invites you to trust Him and have a personal relationship with Him.

What Jesus Christ is offering all of us today gathered here today is a bridge?  A bridge that connects us with the promises God offers to each of us today.  I know some of us feel we can figure life out on our own, make our own decisions and plot our own path, without any help.  But the reality is that we cannot.  The bridge God is offering is a bridge that connects our soul and spirit with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ into the most personal relationship we have or will ever experience.  There may be doubters among us today non-members and members of Emmanuel alike, they are not alone.  Even in the Bible people doubted, like Thomas, who did not believe until they saw and touched Jesus, or the writing on the wall and sometimes only if it was a last resort.  God today is offering all of us the greatest opportunity to have the deepest connection and personal relationship with Him.

God is offering us His hand to each of us by a bridge through the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  The Gospel of Jesus Christ simply states that Jesus suffered and died and it is the way and means that we can bridge us from our current life without God of certain death to eternal life.  God offered His Son to die in order that we might be saved and we only have to accept it and be surrounded with this truth like a quilt.

Just as most of us have a bank that keeps an accurate accounting of our checking or savings account balance, lets us know if we overdraw the account, gives us an accurate statement of our transactions and the speed that we consume our limited finances.  Today we have the greatest opportunity to build a relationship with God.  The reality is that no matter what our debts may be for what we have done, God when we trust Him and the bridge He offers us, wipes the slate clean, doesn’t have an overdraft fee and when we are forgiven, God will not hold our sins against us.  All of this because of what Jesus Christ paid for each of us on the Cross of Calvary.

Nowhere is this clearer than when we ask the question, how much do you trust God?  The following is a true story that my friend gave me permission to share.  He contacted me because he was depressed.  His family life was stable, but he was unsettled.  He wasn’t doing what he loved to do and he was in a clear funk.  His dream job always seemed a stretch for him and just out of reach.  He wasn’t fulfilled doing what he was doing.  His wife could sense it, his kids though young couldn’t understand it, but for this young father, he felt his life was spinning out of control.  After nearly an hour of talking, I asked him simply ‘how much do you trust God?’  He said, he truly trusted God.  I said I hear you, but I believe you are just going through the motions.  Just spinning your wheels and not really putting all of his trust in God.  He said, he was frustrated and impatient for what was to come.  I responded that I understood, but believed God was orchestrating for him a blessing beyond measure, and that he only needed to ‘put it all on the table’ and trust God.  He didn’t discount my advice, but I know he struggled with it, but appreciated my listening to him.  Less than 12 hours later, God fulfilled His promise to this young father and gave him an answer to his prayer in helping him make his dream a reality.

I tell this true story for one reason, only when we trust God, and His promises of life and salvation and are willing to push in all the chips meaning we are ‘all in’ will we truly understand and have as a reality what the Cross of Jesus Christ really means for us today.  This is why we will sing in a few moments the hymn “Amazing Grace”.  The author, John Newton, former slave ship captain also put all of his chips in the center of the table and in this hymn with clear and deep understanding of the relationship with Jesus Christ tells his own personal story of his trust in God.

This is where today God is inviting us to a personal relationship with Him and calling us to ‘push all of our chips into the center of the table’ and begin a more committed and meaningful relationship with Him. For this is not just for a select few but for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel celebrating the quilts and layettes of the women and also all of us that are the fruits of countless generations gathered here for Back to Church Sunday at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Gospel in 4:05

In preparation for Back to Church Sunday, I found the following video.

This is a simple four minute video telling the Gospel Message.
Here is the link.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Would you like a simple vertigo treatment?

Do you have vertigo?  Have you ever had vertigo?

One of the hardest things I have had to deal with that pills and over the counter medicines cannot cure is vertigo.  Since coming to Kansas I have had more bouts with Vertigo and I searched for some help.  I even asked my medical doctor for help.  They sent me to physical therapy, but that only helped temporarily.

Then I learned of Dr. Carol Foster from Colorado University Medical Center.  She has come up with the best procedure of how to deal with vertigo.  I want to share it with anyone who reads this blog.

The cause of vertigo is crystals in the inner ear that help with balance.  The crystals have become dislodged from their intended location in the inner ear and need to be 'moved back'.  The current treatment is known as the Epley Maneuver.  Effective as it is, there is a better way.

Dr. Foster developed the 'half-somersault' maneuver.  Here is a You-Tube Video (link) that tells the story.  Here is the link to the article entitled, "Vertigo Patients Flip over Somersault Maneuver".

I am a firm believer in this treatment.  I use it whenever I have vertigo and it is the best treatment bar none.

Here is also the link to the full text article that shows the treatment in a step by step procedure.

If you want a fast treatment for vertigo that YOU can do at home.  Check this out!!!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Back to Church Video for September 21, 2014

Back to Church Sunday is this coming September 21, 2014.

This video link ( from Sermon Central puts a new face on church.  Come and hear the Gospel and invite a friend or family member that hasn't heard what Jesus Christ did for all of mankind!!!

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

09142014 Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

Gospel Reading Audio
Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

In the early 1980’s my parents on one of our trips to Iowa to visit my Grandmother, took us on an extended road trip.  It wasn’t the typical kind of road trip we think of today of ‘staying at motels’ and eating in restaurants at every stop, it was a trip where we ‘camped’ along the way and cooked our own meals morning and night and ate cold lunches, because we were on the road.  On that trip we even made it to Kansas where I was able to see the boyhood home of one of my heroes, Dwight David Eisenhower.  While planning the trip we had hoped to venture to points further North and West, especially the picturesque scenes of Yellowstone, but since time, money and distance was a challenge we were not able to experience one of the common experiences of Big Sky Country of the Bears of Yellowstone.

There is a story of these famous bears, not “Yogi Bear” of cartoon legend, and how in the early 60’s and 70’s when cars began to frequent the park, tourists would roll down their windows and the bears would come right up to the car and eat whatever the person fed them out of the palm of their hands, whether it was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a fast food hamburger.  After many years of this, those bears became not only more curious, but at times aggressive if a car and its occupants would not ‘share their bounty’ or that implied covenant or promise they had from countless cars before them that the bears ‘allowed’ into their home.  The aggressiveness of the bears became such a common occurrence that the park officials finally had to trap the bears and forcefully remove them to the high country, back to their more native habitat.  But it didn’t help, the bears had become used to the ‘handouts’ and had an extremely difficult time adjusting back to having to forage for food.  Sadly some of the bears even died, because of their becoming used to the dependence upon the food from the tourists.

Unfortunately, this story and habit of dependence is also true today for some churches.  Where members become nothing more than consumers of what is provided at church.  Emmanuel thankfully has not fallen into the trap like the bears or other churches that only ‘consumes’ what is given out on Sunday.  Our church began with people who had to work for everything and build everything, from the parsonage, built by the hands of the members in a little over three months, to the church, with dedicated members like Marty Spomer and others of sainted memory, to the educational wing built under the direction of Russell Briney and others.  We have a rich history of the fulfillment of the promises of farmers, with their giving of loads of wheat at the elevator in fulfillment of their tithe and promise for improvements and now others who help put windows and doors in to make our church more energy efficient.

All of this is a result and from the example of the covenant promise God made with the Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden for the coming of a Messiah.  In our Epistle this morning, we heard very clear reference to Abraham and the relationship with the covenant of promise from God to “Abraham and to his seed”.  This is the promise from God in Genesis to His people the Israelite nation that God would lead them to the promise land.  We are looking right now to Advent in a few months where we will see the fulfillment of this promise in the Messiah Jesus Christ and this is why Paul states specifically of God speaking to Abraham, about one person.  Paul writes, ““And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Though we have heard the promises of God of Jesus Christ to Abraham and to us today, there is a reality that we experience a kind of disconnect because of our personal experience.  The promises of God of the Messiah, as good and graceful as they are and how it does give us eternal life, but still in our life and lives today does not prevent our experiencing pain.  And by pain, it includes but is not limited to the death of a loved one, a child, our spouse of many years or the friends that we make both here in the church as well as the community.  It does not mean we will not experience the pain of separation and even questioning whether God exists in our lives today.  This is the kind of experience that clearly everyone faces in their lives daily and for which the church is meant to minister and provide counsel. 

This week, I counseled an individual who struggles daily with a question, not if God exists, but more why God is not ‘showing up’ in their childs life?  Why when they plead with God to show Himself, He does not clearly in their eyes, nor tangibly ‘show up’, or make Himself known, seen or experienced?  This parent is fearful that their child will be lost to the Christian faith, if God does not show up in a powerful way.  They clearly stated that they can see more of Satan and his increasing influence around them and in the community and what is done, than any action or even hint of God.  This is where Paul and I would agree we need to point to the promises of God and their fulfillment by God in history and here in the church where His Word is preached, the Sacraments are shared and the people of God hear the promise of life and salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and take personal faith and trust in these promises.

For the Gospel of Salvation offered in the covenant promise of God is fulfilled in Jesus Christ death on Calvary.  The resurrection was the fulfillment of this promise of Jesus Christ to His disciples as well to each of us who gather here today.  We like the young person of our faith community are allowed and even encouraged to ask the hard questions about God.  We are even allowed by God to be angry at God for what has or has not happened in our lives.  Let me say that again, it is okay to be angry with God, but in order to be angry we need to be in a personal relationship with Him.  We need to understand that ‘We need to build our relationship with God and Jesus Christ on the promises of God that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.’  This is about relationship and the personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. 

We clearly understand our relationship with food and the need and hunger to eat at least three meals a day and even have snacks because our stomachs are growling, but our relationship with Jesus Christ is no different.  It is like a muscle we have been given in our baptism, we need to exercise it, feed it with not only the spiritual food of Jesus Christ Body and Blood when we come for Holy Communion, but be fed daily by reading the Bible that tells of the Gospel promises of Jesus Christ.  For Satan will knock at our door, he will try like with Adam and Eve to deceive us and pull us away from God, but we need to stand on the promises of God and quote the Bible back to him, because God has won the victory in this battle.  God took the hill of Calvary and won for us on it our salvation through Jesus Christ for eternal life.

We have the opportunity to mend our relationship with God and with each other.  How is this accomplished?  The movie “Courageous” showed one way a man through tragedy of the loss of his daughter, built, regained and relied upon the promises of God and forged a new focus and relationship, not only with God through his reading the Bible, but also with his son who had been drifting.  He mended the relationship he had with His Father in heaven and drew strength from the promise of God and the covenant relationship.

But this did not just stop with this man, he learned more intimately that God’s covenant was and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but he needed and heeded the importance of being held accountable for his relationship.  So he went and found other men who may not have felt the need to ‘change’ their relationship, but needed and desired to be a change agent for others.  Just as the scriptures clearly say in Philippians 4:19, ‘God will supply our need’, God will not leave nor forsake us, but we need to resolve to find our identity in God, have intimacy with Him and find our fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  Let me state that again, because this is key for our relationship with God.  We need to seek God to find our identity in Him, we need to daily have intimacy with His Son Jesus Christ and ultimately find fulfillment in Jesus Christ Who was perfect.

Martin Luther once said, the “Promises of God are what make the church, not the church that makes the promises.”  These same promises are what we find from God to each of us.  It is God that promises us forgiveness at the beginning of the service, I as the Pastor only act as the mouthpiece of God, you the congregation called me to be this for you.  This is why I declare, what God says of the forgiveness of sins.  For it is God Who forgives us and offers His Son, Jesus Christ for us.  At the end of our reading from Galatians, Paul says, “the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”  We are the called, we are to believe and we can daily clearly ask God to help our unbelief.

For yes, we live in a time where we can and do question God, but His promises made to Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus Christ and made manifest for each of us will not return to God without fulfilling His will.  Just as the community that we live in has a distinct busy seasons like drilling of wheat right now, harvest in a few weeks of corn that has been growing this summer and anticipation of the harvest in the spring of Winter wheat, we look for the promises of God to be fulfilled for each of us gathered here today. 

As a child I not only watched, but heard the beloved children’s story, “Charlotte’s Web”.  Wilbur was the pig that was to become the Christmas meal and Charlotte, just a little spider made a promise to Wilbur that she will find a way to save him.  And this little spider does just that, Charlotte, saves Wilbur.  She fulfilled her promise to her friend, she kept her word and Wilbur was saved.  God is no different for us today, He fulfills His promise to us of sending His Son Jesus Christ and this is the message we are called to spread and bring others to come and hear about.  Next week is Back to Church Sunday, I challenge all of us who have heard the Gospel of our salvation today to ‘put our faith in God’s promises’ and seek someone to bring next week and hear clearly the message of salvation for them and us.  For this message is clear, it is for all of mankind, including all of the saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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Emmanuel Back to Church Sunday

Go check out this in preparation for next week!!

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Myths about Kids Worship, but REALLY apply to Adults as well

I recently read an article about kid's worship entitled, "6 BIG Myths About Children's Worship".  It clearly articulated some myths the church has about kid's worship.  Not only were they spot on, but they also I believe apply to the worship we have on Sunday Mornings.

Here is my personal commentary on each myth:
  1. Worship is all about our 'attitude'.
  2. Worship is not age dependent nor ends or begins at a certain age.
  3. Worship is about Who we believe should be honored.
  4. Worship songs are meant to evoke different feelings in each of us.
  5. Worship is not and should not be limited to the instrument nor the means of hearing the music.
  6. Worship does not require the music to be 'perfect'.

These six thoughts hit home for any worship, only when we are honest about our intentions in worship will we understand Who we come to worship and that will bring joy to His heart!!

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Monday, September 8, 2014

090702014 Twelfth Sunday After Trinity

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

With the beginning of school and football season there are certain sacrifices and mainstays that families make to let the kids know they care and are proud of their child and the teams they play on.  Whether it is making sure that their child doesn’t miss a practice, game or match, whether football, volleyball, cross country or even golf.  Parents taking off work and driving hours to games in order to root them on.  And even buying jersey’s and other gear in order to support their team and town, we clearly sacrifice in order for our kids to feel a sense of support, accomplishment and fitting in when they head back to school.  Really this is a healthy pride we take that it is our kid, our town and our team.

It is not that our society demands this level of commitment, but as parents, we look to our schools, clubs and secular organizations to find fulfillment, a sense of family or common purpose and even a place where we are accepted and can be part of the group during the week.  This is why we wear the jersey’s, hats and colors of our teams, black and gold for the Goodland Cowboys.  The purple and gray for K-State, or blue of KU and chant the sayings, “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk”.  Or even our pro football teams like the Bronco’s or Chiefs.  We want this feeling of togetherness and sameness with people that root for ‘our team’, are on our sidelines rooting our favorite players on and celebrating when we win.

Even outside of sports in our community we see this with our selection of farm equipment, John Deere, Case or New Holland, the vehicles we drive, Ford, Chevy, Dodge or Toyota and how we farm the ground, whether strip till or no till.  Or hair styles, short or long, styled, straight or permed.  Makeup that we wear or even our jewelry of rings, necklaces and broaches.  Nevertheless the reality we find and live in is that, we all have different teams, we all have different favorite players and we all have different colors, jewelry and styles that we wear and put on.  We are unique and we are individuals as God made us to be.

But, there is one place where our differences cannot and should not divide us, here in the church.  Our collective understanding and calling of our religious community is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Weekly we come to hear what Jesus Christ has done for all of mankind and be empowered to go and share the Good News, the Gospel of our salvation with everyone we meet.  However, after coming to worship, outside of these four walls, we don’t wear a certain color of clothes that identify us as Christians.  We don’t have a chant that remains our battle cry as we depart from worship every week, nor do we have common and shared expectations of members nor about what we are expected to do once outside the doors of the church.  Our only point of commonality that we point to when here for worship is to hear our organ, see Jesus above the altar and check the box that says we were here this week.  But the reality is that we need to change our motives, our methods and our mantra.  We need to hear, see and lay claim to the truth that our adequacy is from God.  Let me state that again, “We need to hear, see and lay claim to the truth that our adequacy is from God.”  The church needs to show you how God changed the playing field for all of us and where He did it.  The church needs to pull back the cover or veil of our personal experience that covers our eyes and let us see Jesus Christ for Who He is and God for what He has done for us.  The church needs to feed you with the food of God to do God’s work.

Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians stated it clearly, “our adequacy is from God”.  We who gather here today have been empowered, not by the food we eat at our homes and tables, but we are empowered by God and His Spirit for clear action.  Paul says, “the Spirit gives life”.  Like a shot of adrenaline given when someone’s heart is not acting or beating properly, God gives us the shot of adrenaline of His Holy Spirit when we come to church to empower us to action in our daily lives and our weekly encounters outside of these four walls.

Think if you will when you watch a football team huddle up before a game.  They gather centered around their coach who not only is the cheerleader for them, but the person that they focus upon and listen to and he starts a chant and charge to get them excited, pumped up and ready to ‘go to battle’ with the other team.  The chant starts small, but builds with the excitement and anticipation that nothing is in their way and nothing can hold them back from scoring touchdowns, holding onto the ball, holding the line and insuring the score always remains with them as the victor.  That huddle is a perfect metaphor for we who gather here today for worship.

We are huddled here in our church, within the four walls built by the hands of our forefathers, focused upon Jesus Christ, our Coach, in the Word we have heard, above the altar in the stained glass and on the altar in the Sacrament, but we are empowered to begin our chant of the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers for all of mankind, but especially all of us gathered here today.  God sends His Holy Spirit to embrace us and enliven us and give us the shot of adrenaline to pump us up in the Spirit of God to reach out to the people we encounter daily.  We have the greatest opportunity to spread the message, fulfill the mission and not put points on a board, but help and enable people’s names to be written on the book of life that God has in His possession.

But it requires us to have one desire and one focus, the glory of God and His “ministry of righteousness”.  I have been talking the past few weeks of “Back to Church Sunday”.  We are gathered in our huddle today to be empowered by the Spirit of God to seek and save the lost.  Remember the acronym that I chose to use, PAW, pray, ask and watch.  First, pray for two or three people you know that do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.  Those that don’t know Jesus Christ, or have become distant to the church.  The purpose of our praying is so God can break the hard soil of people’s hearts that have never heard the Gospel or it has been a long time and for us to pray for them to come and hear what God is offering us through Jesus Christ.

Then ask the persons you have prayed for to come and hear the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.  Ask them to come and hear the Gospel of Salvation of Jesus Christ and His innocent death for them and for all of us.  Ask them to come and hear clearly that God wants them to have a personal relationship with His Son.

Finally watch as God follows through.  God will work.  We sometimes just need to like at the football game, sit on the sidelines and watch.  Think about the players who during that the entire week, worked hard in the drills of agility, speed, ball handling, punt returns, field goals and the ‘two minute drill’.  They sometimes only get to see the game from the sideline.  But they have been involved in the first two aspects in preparation.  The same is true for we Christians, we need to pray and ask and then watch as God works in the persons life that we have lifted up in prayer.

We become cheerleaders and the crowd for the game that is happening in their lives.  We do not have the control of the ball, nor are we the referee’s nor the announcer.  We are on the sidelines watching how God’s plan will unfold, but we have been instrumental in the work of God in the persons life we have prayed for, asked to come and hear God’s invitation for a personal relationship and now see how God is working in their life.

Rick Warren wrote a book entitled, “The Purpose Driven Church” that was the rage in church growth in the late 1990’s.  Warren stated that drawing people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was like a game, in his case a baseball diamond.  In the truest sense, we are in this same game, whether we use baseball, volleyball or football, but we are together in this game and opportunity to seek the lost together.

Pastor and people, we are not alone, we are not mavericks only in it for ourselves.  We gather here not to stop after every service we have and count how many people gathered here, what the total was on the offering and make note who wasn’t here.  We gather here every week to honor God with however many people come and invite our friends to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We gather to personally get involved in the game of life of the people we know and love on them as God empowers us through His Word and Sacrament and invite them into the personal relationship with our Lord and Savior.

We gather here today to be fed with His precious Body and Blood and empowered to prepare for our week in the world, with the firm conviction that God is using us to reach out to the lost and all that intersect our paths.  We gather here today to celebrate and understand “our adequacy is from God”, for all of mankind including those we pray for, ask to come and watch as God sends His Holy Spirit into their lives and then into our huddle filled with the Holy Spirit and the Glory of God.  AMEN.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Church Context for Discipleship

5 Contexts Infographic

The above info graphic is a great idea and potential for the church!

This is from an article on:

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Monday, September 1, 2014

08312014 Eleventh Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

As all of you know, I was born in North Carolina and grew up in Virginia.  As a young man, after finishing my first year at Longwood College, I applied for a job with the National Park System.  I wasn’t sure where I would work, but I wanted to work in a National Park.  Weeks after school let out, I was at home and received a phone call from Chief Ranger Jimmy Haynes.  Typical to the South, his drawl was thick.  Words didn’t roll off his tongue, they slid slowly off.  Chief Haynes was calling from Asheville, North Carolina and asked if I would be interested in working for the National Park Service at the Folk Art Center just outside of Asheville.  I said sure and within a few days, I was packed and headed to Western North Carolina and the mountains of the Blue Ridge.

The directions I was told said, follow, I-40 and get off on exit 55 and follow the signs for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  But unbeknownst to me that same exit that I was instructed to exit off of I-40 also had one of the most famous compounds in the world.  It wasn’t and couldn’t have been Camp David that presidents have used as a retreat for the last 60 years, because that was in Maryland.  It wasn’t the secret compound for Congress if the United States was under attack, which had been in West Virginia.  The gates that were to the South of the interstate and headed up into the hills simply stated, “The Cove”.

As I was there in Asheville that summer I learned who owned “The Cove” and why it was so famous.  You see, “The Cove” is the home of the most famous of men who has prayed with Presidents, preached the Gospel in its truth and purity throughout the world and prepared the fields of the hearts of many men and women to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is the home of none other than Billy Graham.  As a child living in the ‘Bible Belt’ I heard stories about him and watched him preach on television.  Billy Graham is a man of character, but more importantly he is a child of God.

We who gather here today are not that different from Billy Graham.  We also are children of God, baptized into Jesus Christ, life, death and resurrection through the Water connected to the Word in Baptism.  But the difference for Billy Graham is that he has a conviction upon his heart to seek and save the lost with his preaching and teaching.  Billy Graham like Paul sought to “make known to you, brethren, the gospel”.  With fierceness and tenacity, bathed in prayer, Billy Graham proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere he went and to everyone he met.

Clearly, God had placed His Holy Hands upon Billy and engrained in him this fierce desire not only to “hold fast the word” but opened up doors and opportunities that nobody could have imagined or made a reality if it were not a God thing.

But are we who gather here today any different than Billy Graham?  Martin Luther?  Or Paul the Apostle?  Or any famous preacher that we listen to on the radio or watch on television?  We may not have the charisma, the drive, nor the same abilities as any of these famous men, but truly, we are no different.  Paul said, “For I am the least of the apostles,…But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”  It is this grace that Paul lays claim to that we through our baptism as well can lay claim to.

I know some of you say, I can’t speak like Billy Graham, the words don’t come to me.  I am not comfortable talking about my faith or even my church, nor my personal beliefs and my experience of God.  I just can’t talk about my faith.  But the reality is we are gifted, maybe not in the same way or even like Billy Graham, but God has individually gifted each and every one of us.  We who gather here today are called to be not just the children of God, not just spectators in the world that surrounds us with the cares and burdens of society, but we are called like Billy Graham to a higher purpose.  God through the inspiration of Paul is calling us to reach out to the lost world that we live in and be God’s hands.

But for we Lutherans we feel it is a stretch.  Talking about our faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ is something that we are not comfortable with.  We are comfortable in our church, with our liturgy, our music, our desire to ‘play it safe’.  We believe that ‘change’ is a four letter word.  And the job of talking about faith falls to the ‘paid’ people like Pastor’s, Directors of Christian Education, missionaries and others who have been to seminary or Bible College and ‘trained’.  But ironically we live with and deal with change daily.  Our bodies are in a constant state of change.  For example our brain cells live the longest of any cell in the human body, our entire life span, the red blood cells that carry oxygen live about four months, white blood cells live about a year.  Our skin cells live about two to three weeks.  This means our body is in constant change.  And the church is and should be no different.  God sees the church differently, because of His gift of the Holy Spirit to each of us and empowering us through our baptism to be changed and empowered to tell what God has done. We should be ready for constant change and ready for action for God. 

We can be ready for change even though we are not given the same gifts, but we have been made from the same fabric as Paul, Martin Luther and even Billy Graham.  Personally I do not like change, but I know I need it.  Recently I started reading a book entitled, “Start Here: Beginning a  Relationship with Jesus” by David Dwight and Nicole Unice.  In the introduction they stated some things that I personally needed challenged with.  First, “be sure to be honest with God”, second, “it’s a relationship you enter” and third, “Give[Giving] Him [that is God] access and authority over all of your heart”.

As a Pastor, I am looked to as one who, ‘has to have it all together’.  I am expected to model for the church on a daily basis what life and how we ‘should be’ as Christians.  But the reality is, I have struggles just like you who sit in the pew.  I worry about money to pay my bills and feed my family, I worry about being a good Father for Sarah and husband for Michele.  I toss and turn at night, because of how I am received and perceived.  I hold things in, bottle them up and am the receptacle for hurts, both aimed at me for what I have done and left undone as well as the pain that people from our congregation and community share with me in confidence.  I at times feel beat down and broken and at times wonder if my wife, my child and the world would be a better place if I were to just disappear.

But this is where “Start Here” takes on new meaning and challenges me and should challenge all of us.  I have to ask myself, have I been honest with God about my feelings, my shortcomings, my perceived needs and left it up to Him?  Am I treating the ‘relationship’ that I have with God as nothing more than a “I want” instead of hearing God’s response and trusting Him with my life?  Ultimately, have I given God not just access to my heart, but the authority over me, and my heart, soul and spirit?  There are times where I have to answer “No” to some of these questions.  And this is where God is calling me to repent.

Dr. Henry Cloud said, “An idea without action is only a fantasy.  A true dream, or vision, requires legs.  Put a foot on the floor and get walking towards your vision.”  Personally, I don’t want fantasy for my life, for my family, nor for our church, I want reality and I am putting my foot on the floor and walking toward my vision.

I challenge each of you here today to do the same.  Walk with me to a reality where Emmanuel isn’t diminishing, but daily growing and deepening our faith and commitment to a true and honest relationship with Jesus Christ.  As we walk let’s be honest with God and with one another about our feelings, start by doing this as the bible says, one on one.  Allow the differences not to divide us and fragment us, but help all of us to see ourselves as all part of the Body of Christ.  As we walk, we can be in relationship, not only with God, but with each other.  And all of us can give God full access and authority over our hearts.

A perfect example of this was from the movie, “God’s Not Dead”.  The Muslim girl, Ayisha, was hiding her faith from her family behind closed doors, but once exposed and thrown out by her family, she was willing to lose everything she had known in order to follow Jesus Christ.  She was ostracized by her biologic family, her community of Muslims and sent to the streets, because she defied her parents religion and belief.  But, because she was honest with God, she fully entered into and trusted in the relationship with Jesus Christ as her personal Savior and gave God access and authority over her heart, she was fully committed and freed to be a child of God.

We who gather here today are called into this same fully committed relationship with Jesus Christ.  It began with some of us at the font, for some in the pew hearing the Word of God and for some being blessed as we receive His precious Body and Blood.  But we are no different than Billy Graham or Ayisha, we may not have the skills or abilities, the audience or impact upon millions, but by our entering into true relationship with God, we not only are the children of God, but fellow heirs in the Kingdom and have been bestowed with the Grace of God for all of mankind, including all of us saints who gather here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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