Friday, April 30, 2010

Prayer for the Holy Spirit

A wonderful old hymn by Ralph Vaughn Williams.  You can listen by going to the cyberhymnal site.  Please pray that I and all in need would be given this grace today... and tomorrow... and every day until we see Jesus face to face.  Maranatha!
Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Faith Lift

NOTE: The audio from this event is available by clicking on this link to the Hosanna! Lutheran Church website. Lots worth listening to there. I highly recommend the presentation by Gemechis Buba.


Lighthouse Conference
9600 163rd Street W
Lakeville, MN 55044

Sunday, June 6, 6:00 p.m. through Tuesday, June 8, 12:00 noon

We have our son's graduation from high school on Sunday, June 6, but on Monday June 7 - 8 I plan to attend this awesome Faith Lifting Event.  Will you come with me?  The worship, the speakers and the workshops will help us move from activities to impact, from developing programs to developing people, from internal focus to external force, from ministry to mission. If you would appreciate a ride or a scholarship, email me or call Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato at 320-286-5964.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is Hosanna? Hosanna! Lutheran Church is 25 miles south of downtown Minneapolis; 20 minutes from MSP International Airport, and two minutes from both Caribou and Starbucks. (Click here for detailed driving directions to Hosanna!)
2. Who is hosting Faith Lift? Hosanna! is the site, but the conference is hosted by The Lighthouse Covenant Team – a group of mission-minded, fired-up followers of Jesus Christ. You can read more about the Lighthouse Covenant on Facebook.
3. Is this for Lutherans only? Absolutely not. Faith Lift is for all believers who want to go from pilot light to full ignition, in terms of missions, evangelism, prayer, outreach, and Kingdom. (A special note to Lutherans: Are you staying in the ELCA? We want to support you. Are you thinking about leaving the ELCA? We want to support you. Have you left the ELCA? We want to support you.)
4. Who should come from my church? Pastors, staff members, lay leaders, worship teams, prayer teams, young adults, hockey moms, and insurance salesmen. By the way, even your grandmother would love this gathering.
5. What should I expect?
     • You will come away encouraged and convinced that this is the best time ever to be a missional follower of Jesus Christ.
     • There will be inspirational, powerful worship with personal ministry time available for all.
     • There will be teaching and tools to equip you to lead and succeed in transforming your church from ministry maintenance to missional movement. Really.
     • This could be the best networking event of the year for those who know God is on the move and they don’t want to miss the bus.
     • Good food, laughter, a bookstore/resource center, wireless internet, and really clean restrooms.
6. Who is speaking?
     • Reggie McNeal, Missional Leadership Specialist and Author of Missional Renaissance
     • Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, Director of African National Ministries, ELCA
     • Rick Bliese, Professor of Missions and President, Luther Seminary
     • David Housholder, Lead Pastor of Robinwood Church
     • Bill Bohline, Lead Pastor of Hosanna!
     • There will be breakout sessions on worship, prayer, missions, new relationships, post-modern culture, and more.
7. What if we have other questions? We have other answers. Please contact the coordinator of the Lighthouse Conference, Mari Strong, or 952-898-9132.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Variety of Pieties... & what that means for us

I encourage you to look at Pastor David Housholder's online journal for today.  He describes various kinds of spiritual temperaments, various "pieties" that he labels Athletic, Cool, Warm and Hot.  A "piety" in this sense is the "style" or "culture" of Christian behavior that is common in a particular church.

Here are some quick definitions, but I'd like to encourage you read the original journal entry for a fuller picture.
  • Athletic piety means a serious sort that focuses on issues, saving the lost, bringing justice to the oppressed, and questions of right and wrong.
  • Cool or "Deep" piety is liturgical, contemplative, formal and suspicious of whatever might be emotionally laden.  Hymns must be doctrinally sound.
  • Warm piety is affectionate and informal.  Hugs and hand raising are part of this, as are songs and preaching that is full of emotion. Testimonies are commonplace.
  • Hot is "warm piety with the intensity turned up."  Almost anything can happen, deliverance and personal prophecies are a normal part of worship. 
Here's the comment I posted:
So who are we in Cokato? And who am I in this congregation? And what does this have to do with the pain so many in our church are suffering as we go through the ELCA kerfuffle? I can think of individuals in our local, small town church who are cool, warm and athletic. My son has gotten a dose of HOT and it’s scared the bejeebers out of some in our family. Personally, I grew up a nice blend of warm and cool. The warm side was nurtured through [Lutheran] Youth Encounter, etc., and pretty much won out except I’m more intellectual and an ENTJ/P “thinker” by nature… The congregation here is a blend of warm and cool… but the ELCA issues have made many of our warm and cool folks more “athletic” with a tendency to label the others as enemies. A nice long Cursillo weekend would do us all good. Please keep us in your prayers.
Of course, there is a lot more involved than mere "style" or piety. But the styles get mixed up with the theological and biblical positions on various issues so it gets quite uncomfortable and complex. Can God guide us even thorough this? I believe Jesus can.

Through the Heart

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
— from my friend Steve Gerich, quoting Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago
Father God, do your work in me.  Convict me of my sin and raise me up through the power of your forgiveness, then fill me with your love.  Let me love others as you have first loved me.  In Jesus' name.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No Fear

"After Haari Haamer came back from Siberia, he was fearless!"  -- from the We Shall Live in Heaven book jacket
"I carry a bit of that wilderness, the dark night of the soul, within me all the time... It reminds me who I am and teaches me wisdom... I remember my own weakness and God's strength, that God is my provider... [The wilderness] is a place where I cling to that singular hunger for the pure presence of my Lord.  I go back there, or am taken there, whenever my cleansing needs to go deeper, or whenever I have gotten off track in some way." -- from "The Dark Night of the Soul" in the book Burnout: Renewal In the Wilderness by R. Loren Sandford

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." -- Romans 5:1-5
Where do you find peace?

Is it found in your life situation?

Or does it rest in God?

Will you join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will push us deeper into the arms of our Father God?  I believe that is the way of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Come to prayer this Thursday, here at church, 6:30 until about 7:30 p.m.

Don't run.  Don't be afraid.  Come lay your burden down.  Let the Lord give you His peace.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In His Father's House

My dad's brother, David Thorson, pictured here on Dec. 10, 1952, is fourth from the left in the second row. The photo was taken at his graduation from Air Force Mechanic's school.  A little over three years later, while working on a bomber, he was hit on the back of his head by a revolving propeller.  Fortunately, the injury was not fatal.  David was hospitalized first in Denver and then in Minneapolis.  He eventually moved back to his parents' home where he lived during all of my growing up years.

As a child I never thought much about why David was living at his parents' home.  David was just "David."  I knew he enjoyed drag racing and I was always interested in all his trophies.  Later I found out that he liked roller skating and was very impressed at his ability the time or two we went with him to "Skateland" or one of the many other rinks he frequented.  When my grandpa died, it was David and Grandma living there at 4340 Washington St.  Then Grandma weakened and needed more care at an assisted living place, so David moved an apartment.  While he was there he made hundreds of paper airplanes which he would launch with a rubber band outdoors.  He would eat at Wendys or other fast food places, buy gas and bread and milk where he could find it cheap, and spend hours watching television.

David was not a very ambitious man, but he was kind and generous.  He never spent much money from his air force disability, so on three or four occasions he gave significant gifts to me and others in our family.  He helped me pay off college loans, paid for our airline tickets in 2004 when we went to Brazil, and on his 76th birthday gave his four nieces and nephews several thousand dollars.  I traded my gift back to him in exchange for his 2002 Honda Civic when he could no longer drive.

David died this past week on Tuesday.  At the funeral my brother talked about how David never got caught up in the things of this world.  That is so true.  David was simple in many ways, depending for many things on the care of my aunt Betty.  We are so thankful for Betty and her husband Glen.

In recent years David's suffering has become more obvious.  He broke his leg roller skating many years ago and his leg never really healed.  He had an leg wound for years, was on crutches and then, most recently, in a wheelchair.  He also suffered from headaches.  I have had severe headaches from time to time too, so I know how they can sap a person's ambition and interest in many ways.  His Air Force injury was "fixed" with a steel plate as a replacement for the bone on the back of his skull.  How much that has caused him suffering over the years, and what affects the injury has had on his brain, we may never know.  But, thanks to Jesus, who died for David's sin and who rose again to open the door to new life, David is now rejoicing and whole in the presence of Jesus.

At David's funeral yesterday, Pastor Tom Johnson of First Lutheran Church, Columbia Heights, shared the following message.  We are saved by grace, not by what we do.  Praise God!
David Thorson had a little prayer book that he kept with him
His family found it in his personal belongings and they shared it with me
It is a wonderful book of prayers and Bible readings
Looking at the book, and the parts that David had underlined, gave me a glimpse into his soul.
One of the scripture passages printed in the book was our reading from the Gospel of John
--John 14:1-6
It is the well-known story of how Jesus told his disciples not to worry about him because even though he was going to leave them
--he was going to a wonderful place
--which he called the Father’s house
Jesus also told his followers that he would prepare a place for them, also, in the house that he was going to
Jesus’ promise of the next life in God the Father’s house was intended to keep his disciples from being troubled and upset when Jesus died and left them behind

And it was a promise for those who believed in him to look forward to
--that one day they would join Jesus there

Interestingly, David underlined two parts of this story from John 14
The words:
Let not your hearts be troubled
Clearly these words brought comfort to him
It helped him to know that he could look forward to a new home in heaven with God his Father and Jesus his Savior
That promise of Jesus must have given him strength when life was difficult here on earth
Those words of encouragement from Jesus
--Let not your heart be troubled
Must have given him hope

I would echo those words for you who gather together as David’s friends and family today
Don’t let yourselves be overly troubled or distraught
Remember that David has gone to the Father’s house
--and that Jesus has prepared a room for him there

The other part of this Bible passage that David underlined was the very last words:
Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me

How do we know that David is in the Father’s house?
How do we know that he is living in the presence of God the Father?
Because David believed in Jesus
It’s as simple as that
Jesus is the way that David, or anyone else, can come to live in the Father’s house
David knew the way
Jesus is the Way
The way to the Father’s house

Besides scripture passages, there are also a number of prayers in David’s little book
Prayers on a variety of topics
Prayers that could be used on many different occasions
Some of these prayers had parts that were underlined by David
One of the prayers was titled “For My Loved Ones”
Clearly, David’s family was important to him
And he prayed for them
These are the words that David underlined in this prayer:
Bless my loved ones from whom I have been separated; guard and comfort them in my absence and grant that we may soon be reunited again, giving Thee thanks for Thy mercy and tender care.

This prayer takes on special meaning today
David has been separated from you now
But he has asked for God to guard and comfort you
And you will be reunited again
--in the Father’s house with many rooms

David did not lead an easy life
An injury he suffered while in the Air Force continued to bother him the rest of his life
But here, too, David found strength in God’s Word
In a prayer asking God for strength and healing David had written in the margin the reference Romans 8:28
That is the scripture that I read a few minutes ago
Where the Apostle Paul makes the bold claim that
All things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose
Obviously, David believed that
He believed that God could use anything that happens in our lives to bring about good
That was the faith that David had in God’s goodness and grace

There is one other place where David wrote a scripture reference in the margin
It is the reference Matthew 11:28
Perhaps you recognize that reference
It is a well known verse from the Gospel of Matthew
That verse quotes Jesus as saying:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest
No matter what burden David had to endure in his life
He knew that he could bring it to Jesus
--and Jesus would give him rest
He could find relief for his burdens as he brought them all to his Savior

Today we will lay David to rest
He will have perfect rest from all his burdens
He will no longer be weary
He will no longer suffer any pain
He will instead be ushered into the Father’s house with many rooms
Jesus, the Way, his Savior, has prepared a place for him
And he will have rest
Thank you, Pastor Tom!  Yes, there is rest for David.  Not only that, but, according to the promises of God, David now has a new body and a new mind.  He is rejoicing with the Lord.  I look forward to the time when I will be with him in the Father's house.

As a little preview of that, after laying David's body to rest with the playing of taps at the cemetery, we took two big bags of paper airplanes and played with them, like children, launching them into the blue sky. What comfort to know we can be children in the eyes of our God--and that we always have a place with Him.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

God's Word Is Our Daily Bread

I picked up the book We Shall Live in Heaven at a convention this week.  It is Pastor Harri Haamer's testimony of faith, recounting his experiences in a Soviet slave labor camp.  One chapter is entitled "My Bread Is Thrown In The Trash."  I haven't finished the book yet but am totally enthralled with Pastor Haamer's story.  It is a testimony to the unfailing power of God's Word.

Here's part of the chapter I mentioned--this happens on July 19, 1948, just before Pastor Haamer is put aboard a railway cattle car to Siberia.:
The officer hands me over to a soldier, who orders me to take off my clothes right there.  The all-too-familiar thievery begins once again.  And yet, the only loot that this man with the red epaulettes gets from me is my wife's letter, my belt and my New Testament.  He orders me to read the letter and throw it away.  That is how I must say good-bye to my wife, tearing to pieces the letter that I have kept with me as kind of a talisman. He puts my belt aside and throws the New Testament into a garbage bin.

I turn to the soldier with a question that startles him, "Why did you throw my bread into the trash bin?"

"What do you mean--your bread?"

"Look, that book is my bread.  If I cannot read it, I will starve to death."

The Russian boy's interest is aroused. He retrieve's my New Testament from the trash bin and asks, "What kind of book is this?"

"It is God's Word."

"Then it's a Bible?" he asks. "But you're not allowed to take it with you."

"But if I ask you for permission, is it still not allowed?"

Apparently this soldier has his heart in the right place.  He stops a passing officer and shows him by book. The officer says, "All right, give it to him," but is suddenly seized by doubts, and takes my treasure to a table where several other officers sit. In the meantime, I have dressed myself once again and approach the table to sign for the things that have been taken from me.

My belt and my New Testament lie on the table.  Neither one is returned to me.  My belt is confiscated because I could use it to hang myself.  My New Testament is kept from me because I might use it to spread propaganda.

A haughty captain sitting at the table reassures me, "You'll get it back when we get there."

"But I'm asking you to give it to me now.  We may have a very long trip.  If I cannot read this book, I will die," I beg.

"Then write your name in the book. That way I'll know it's yorus, and you'll get it back when we get there," the captain replies stubbornly.

Once again I turn to him beseechingly.  "Please let me take the book with me. If you don't let me keep my book, you might as well not give me any bread at all."

"Go," says the captain darkly.

Leaving them very sadly, I turn around to look at them one more time. He calls me back, takes my book from the table, and gives it to me.  He grunts, "Take your book."

I thank him and bless him to the best of my ability.  Then they open the door of a cell filled with men...
Do we value God's Word?  Do we hang onto it for dear life?

Some from our church who have been feeling particular grief and turmoil during recent weeks and months have told me how precious God's Word and prayer have become during these days.

I know that is the case for me.  I don't ever remember searching the scriptures and praying so much as in the past few months.  I do not say this to brag in any way.  I just want to let the people of our church know where I find daily bread so they can find it too.

It is in times of trial that we learn what daily bread really is.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Religious Patterns and God-Truth

The following is from David Housholder's journal.
I have been especially aware of patterns this week.

People all have a certain way of being in the world. A pattern.

There is a Muslim way of being in the world, a Mormon way, a Right-Wing-Fox-News way, a PC-liberal way, etc.

Some of these patterns are potent (Islam). Some are not so potent (mainline Presbyterianism). Some are on the rise (Hipster-ism), and some are on the decline (the “emerging” church).

I’ve done extensive live-in stints with:
  • Lutheranism

  • Action Sports World (surf/snowboard)

  • Theological Academia (22nd grade and a Fulbright Scholarship)

  • Pentecostalism (even wrote a book on it)
Each “ism” has abundant self-serving circular reasoning and tribal litmus tests. They have buzzwords and enemy images.

I am about to be voted off the Lutheran island for good. Sad, because I have nothing against it, and consider myself one of its more original and helpful thinkers.

Am increasingly troubled by the American liberal/conservative polar opposite political thinking. The left doesn’t understand the power and creativity of the free market and globalization, and the right doesn’t understand sustainable environmentalism, and the potency of collectivism for certain public endeavors (fire, utilities, roads, etc.). We are disintegrating into TV attack ads with stupid sound bites. We need an intellectual like Lincoln to come back, who sees deeper nuances.

In any case, these political “patterns” relieve everyone of the responsibility to think.

And the world is just plain out-growing the need for religious patterns. Especially the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist global young people.

Let’s just have real conversations about who God really is. Let’s pray together. Let’s talk about Jesus and how his message is so different than that of Buddha (see E. Stanley Jones and the “Egg and the Bubble”). Let’s talk about God’s preferred future rather than argue about the merits of competing eschatological “systems.”

Does God Almighty really care about the victory of Confessional Lutheranism or TULIP Calvinism? Is he secretly pulling for a return to a stricter Reformed theology? Is he really upset about the idea of married Catholic priests? Is he hoping we finally secure the Mexican border?

Are we willing to set aside our patterns, even ones we love, to seek the truth?

I have this crazy idea that God is real, and that he doesn’t report to a pattern.
Let's share -- comment or email.

Faith Does Not Dwell In Our Brain

From The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz
Faith does not dwell in our brain or in our thoughts.  Faith is not a work which we accomplish; it is not something that we give to God.  Being made righteous by faith does not imply that faith is some kind of payment that will serve in place of our alms-giving and good works.  Is it not written that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit?  Faith is, then, a poverty of spirit, a hunger and thirst, a poor, empty heart opening toward God so that He can put His grace into it.  When God bestows His grace upon us, we are born anew and become partakers of the new life.

Asking your prayers for my family

My dad's brother David Thorson died this morning at the nursing home in Fridley where he had lived for many years. David served in the Air Force about 60 years ago where he was injured. Since then he has lived on disability. My dad's sister Betty has cared for David over the years and we are very thankful for her. David was very generous with me and my sisters and brother. I will miss him. He has suffered much but now, thanks to the grace of God, he is rejoicing and whole in the presence of Jesus.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ordinary to Extraordinary

When the LIVING Lord Jesus shows himself, the ordinary becomes amazing!  When Jesus comes every moment is an opportunity for the Lord to make himself known.

This Sunday we have the extraordinary opportunity to hear Pastor Wendy Berthelsen.  Author of several books including The Wise Economy of Your Life and Custom Designed--A Life Worthy of the Call.

Pastor Wendy is co-pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, suburban Dallas, Texas and founder of Call, Inc.  Her ministry is dedicated to helping Christ followers find God's unique call in their individual lives.  
Seeking and knowing God's unique call to you is an amazing, uplifting and joyful experience! As you seek God's call, you will find the depth of life that you seek. In the end, you will answer two of life's most significant questions:

Who Am I?

What Am I To Do?

This Sunday we will hear from Pastor Berthelsen as she preaches at worship.  She will also be available from 10:00 - 10:45 in regard to Call Centered life and ministry.  It will be a good morning.

Incidentally, Toni and I have known Wendy and her husband Joel since Wendy and Toni were "housemates" in the early 1980s.  Our families have gone to family camp together for a long time--becoming known as the "Berthelthors."

More about Pastor Berthelsen:  She was born in St. Paul Minnesota and received a Bachelor of Arts in General Science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master of Arts and Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary. She has had nearly twenty years of broad professional ministry experience. Previously, she was a biomedical senior research engineer at Medtronic Inc. for eight years, receiving three U.S. patents. She and her husband Joel have been married for over 25 years and have four children. For several years, she was primarily a stay-at-home mom. Blessed by the Holy Spirit with the gifts of teaching, leadership and administration, Wendy has dedicated many years to teaching people about God’s call.

May 17-22 Prayer School

After prayer group last night we were talking and the outcome was that I extended an invitation to Pastors Karl Kruse and Bjorn Petersen to lead a week long "Prayer School" called Heart to Heart with God at our church from Monday. May 17 through Friday, May 21 (8:30 - 5:00 p.m.) and then 8:30 to noon on Saturday, May 22.

The main leader is Pastor Bjorn Pedersen.  Pastor Bjorn graduated from Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) in 1968 and 1971 from Luther Northwestern Seminary. He lived in the Alexandria, MN area--working there as a banker and as a part time preacher.  On Sunday, April 27, 1986, God gave him a vision of prayer for the worldwide body of Christ, described in scripture as Christ's bride.  For ten years, from the late 1980s until 1997, he served as Pastor of Prayer at Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona.  During that time he provided many prayer growth opportunities, including the College of Prayer with nearly 100 different courses. In 1997 Pastor Bjorn launched Prayer Watch International. Bjorn Pedersen is also the author of the book: “Face to Face with God in Your Church: Establishing a Prayer Ministry” published by Augsburg-Fortress. 

The Heart To Heart With God Prayer School focuses on Waiting on the Lord, Learning to Recognize His Voice, and Obediently Doing What He Says.  In the John 10 scripture for the upcoming Good Shepherd Sunday on April 28, Jesus says "My sheep hear my voice."  This shepherding analogy means that ordinary human beings who trust Jesus are given the ability to hear Jesus and be led by him.  Those who attend this prayer school will learn through experience how hearing God's voice can be a part of our every day lives.

On the Prayer Watch International Website Heart to Heart with God is known as "Prayer School Three" but there is no reason to take the first or second before the third. Here is a further description of what you can expect:
"Heart to Heart with God is designed to develop a deeper and more personal relationship with Jesus. ...Prayer is a relationship between God and His people. The relationship is greatly enhanced by meaningful communication.
"Prayer is meant to be a dialogue. Meaningful prayer needs to include times of listening to what God wants to share. In order to effectively listen, believers need to recognize the voice of God and how He speaks. Heart to Heart with God also trains believers in how to journal what is received during listening prayer times. There exist, however, hindrances to hearing and recognizing God's voice. After God has spoken, He will confirm His message. How does He do that? All of these areas are major courses in Heart to Heart with God. Add to this learning important principles of guidance, recognizing false guidance and knowing God's will."
  • Orientation and Overview
  • Preparation: Establishing a Strong Prayer Foundation 
  • Prayer Journaling Training and Practice (processing) 
  • Applying the Theory to Daily Life and Ministry
  • Graduation and Commissioning: Go and do it!
More details will be forthcoming.  Contact our church office at 320-286-5964.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's Not My Life It's God's

Here's another take on the EXTRAORDINARY gift God gave our family and our church this past weekend as we met the crosswalkers from Bethany College of Missions--written from the point of view of one of the walkers, Andria Jasper:
On Saturday April 10th we were instructed to be out at the flag pole on campus at 5am. We were told we were going on a cross walk, going to be dropped off at least 2 hours from campus, with no money, no food, no phones, and no watches. Basically just water and our bibles. So we got into the van and were told to put our blindfolds on, and off we went with a six foot cross in the van with us. On my team was Luke, Hannah, Julia, and Nicole. We sat in the car in silence waiting to be dropped off in anticipation of what this weekend was going to be like. We had to be back to campus by Sunday night at 8pm or we had to call to get a ride back. Finally we were dropped off in the middle of no where by a lake, at what we think was 7:30am on Saturday. All we could do at this point was rely on the Lord to get us back to campus and provide for us everything we needed. SO we prayed about which direction to start going and headed out left.......
For the rest of the story go to Andria Jasper's blog at It's Not My Life It's God's.  (Mark Anderson from our church plays a role in this--read the rest of the story to find out how.)  Hannah Dunbeck shares her perspective at A Ripple In the Water.  One more P.S. ... My message prep from Saturday (both before and after the encounter on the road) plus audio from Sunday morning is found at Stand Up!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hearing God's Voice

"My sheep hear my voice." (Jesus in John 10:27)
Tonight I got an email from a member of our church who will be doing the children's message on April 25.  Everything we do in worship is guided by the scriptures, so I looked at what is assigned for that day (The Fourth Sunday of Easter) and the words "My sheep hear my voice" stood out right away. Picked up a bulletin from church and those were the same words printed on the cover.  Went over to the church member's home, planned the children's message in about 5 minutes flat, spent a little time with the husband and wife and was back at home in 45 minutes from the time I got the email.  And I did not feel like I was in a hurry.

Amazing things can happen when we are open to hearing God's voice.  I believe God is ready to guide us every day when we are ready to obey.  We get used to his voice by spending time in the scriptures and with people who are likewise immersed in God's Word.  As we read the Bible we focus our attention most on Jesus, striving to learn from Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  The Bible is a library, not a book, and it's good to start with the most important parts--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  When we hear his voice often, we can recognize it also in the rest of the scriptures, and our spiritual ears and hearts are open to his call in the rest of our lives.

For the children's message on the 25th we'll have some parents speak while their children's backs are turned.  The children will recognize their parents' voices because they are used to them.  So it is with the voice of our Lord.  Spend time with Jesus in scripture, in friendship and in prayer, and you will recognize his voice more and more.

From the time I was a small child God spoke to me through my faithful, loving parents.  They taught me the heart of Jesus over and over again until it has just become second nature to me.  God gave me my wife to help and correct me, and her wisdom has often kept me from going off in wrong directions.  She was likewise raised with the voice of Jesus from her parents in her ears and in her heart.  Now, it seems, not a day goes by without hearing God's call. 

What experiences have you had in listening for and obeying God's voice?   How have you been trained to hear that precious voice?  Are you seeking guidance today?  How can we pray for you?  Comment or email me so we can share!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Makes Me Love Everybody

Our church choir sang a concert this afternoon with the Litchfield Area Male Chorus.  One of the songs our choir sang was "Old Time Religion."  The words (more or less) go like this:
Give me that old time religon (repeat 3 times).  It's good enough for me.
Then the next verse says:
Makes me love everybody (repeat 3 times).  It's good enough for me.
I'm thinking about that in connection with Luke Cada's message from today's church services.  He talked a lot about the importance of God's law--how the Law of God is needed so we will KNOW we need JESUS as the CURE for the death dealing SIN in our lives.  That's "old time religion."

How can that make me love everybody?  When I see how I am a sinner in need of grace--when I know I am a lost wretch that needs to believe and be saved--then I will have a lot more patience and love for the other sinners who are around me every day.  And when I receive the forgiveness God gives, the Holy Spirit comes along and brings his BIG LOVE into my heart.  No more will I look at others except as brothers and sisters, standing in the need of grace, of prayer, and love.

Knowing myself as a sinner, saved by grace, it does make me love others so much more.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stand Up!

Here's the beginning of the message for tomorrow as I've prepared so far... and as the Lord provided for it to be finished!  See the end of this for links to the audio so you can listen one or both of the two parts as preached Sunday morning.
"The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him." (Acts 5:30-32)

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)
David Housholder is a pastor of the ELCA out in California. He recently wrote an article – Why Lutherans Can’t Evangelize. We have great teaching and excellent theology, but, he writes We have no idea how to get someone saved.

He explains in his article how Lutherans grow up with Sunday schools and Confirmation classes, but when it comes to helping someone who did not grow up in a Christian home become a Christian, we really don’t know what we’re doing.

We don’t even know what to do with people who drift away and need to come back. When I left the church in my twenties I had to come back through an independent church down on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. It was at a non-Lutheran church where I was challenged to get up out of my row and come down front.

In Lutheran churches, we generally don’t know how to do that. It’s very rare, in churches like this to have a time when people are called to stand up as individuals, to just top blending in with the crowd.

But in our scriptures today we have at least two God given examples of standing up or standing out from the crowd—the first in our Gospel, from John 20, and the second from our first reading, Acts 5.

What keeps us from standing up? Why are we so shy about telling our faith stories or asking our questions? At the annual meeting back in January someone suggested that council candidates say how they felt about the ELCA. Then someone else said let’s just have each one tell how they came to know Jesus. Many of us are starting to talk more openly about ELCA issues… I wonder if we can start being more open about Jesus too.

I know it might seem strange to put these two things together—talking about how we feel about our church and talking about Jesus… they do have things in common though—sometimes the reason we don’t want to stand up and say how we feel and what we believe about anything important can be (1) because we just don’t know what we really believe and (2) because we’re afraid to speak up.

The Gospel from John 20 deals with the first—about questions and the First Reading from Acts 5 (and really the Revelation reading too)… they deal with the second—there’s no reason to be afraid.

When we have questions about what we believe, Jesus says that it’s okay. Just bring those questions out and get them answered for yourself. If that’s the reason that you don’t want to talk about Jesus it’s really important that you do what Thomas does and get those questions answered. Don’t be lazy about this! Don’t sit back and think someone else can tell others about Jesus! If you care about your friends and family, if you care about those people you have coffee or a beer with, you will find a way to tell them about our Lord. As we read in Acts 4:12—there is saving grace in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven [ ] by which we must be saved.

If you care about your friends and neighbors you will do as Thomas did and ask your questions so you will have one less excuse about telling others about our wonderful forgiving Lord. When the Holy Spirit is given to us we will want to share that forgiving grace. The key is in our hands. What excellent grace we have to share.
There are many ways you can get your questions answered. You can look at books—The Case for Christianity and The Case for Christ are two… ask a friend if you can’t find them. You can also talk with me or text me or email me.

Last week I invited people to text me questions and during the week I had this conversation by text message.

Someone said:
Why did the stone need to be moved from the tomb entrance?
That’s a good question since the Bible says that Jesus could just appear later in a locked room. Why would the stone need to be moved? I answered that the stone needed to be moved
So the women and the disciples could see evidence that Jesus had risen!
If the stone was still in place they wouldn’t have been able to see!

Then my friend came back with:
The ‘but’ in my head asks how did they plan to prepare Jesus’ for burial, they would have had to move it to get to him.
I answered...
Yes—one of the evidences that the resurrection is real and not carefully crafted fiction is that there are loose ends. I think the women were overly emotional and hadn’t worked it all out. Or they expected that the guards would open the tomb if thaw asked. Who knows?
In any case, we need to get our questions answered if we’re going to be able to tell anyone about Jesus Christ.

And, once we know… once we know enough… then it is time for us to stand up and let others know. That’s the point of the Acts 5 reading. People need to know two things—they need to know they are sinners—and they need to know about the forgiveness that’s given for free… so they will come to Jesus and receive the forgiveness gift.  But how do we do that?  We Lutherans just don't know very well...

So, at this point in my preparation for preaching tomorrow, I decided to take a break and I went biking... coming into town from the west I saw this:

Naturally, I stopped to see what was going on.  It was a group from the Bethany College of Missions who are on a "Cross Walk" of faith and witness.  They were blindfolded in Minneapolis and driven to a random location--ended up being dropped off in the Spicer-New London, MN area this morning.  Totally dependent on God at work in people's lives, only having their clothes, the cross and a Bible, they are to tell people about Jesus and make it back to Bloomington, MN by tomorrow evening.  

So since I didn't know what to say at the end of this sermon about WITNESSING for the Lord Jesus, I naturally invited them to church.  They're staying at our house tonight (picture below with our son Jon) and one of them will be doing the second half of my sermon tomorrow.  We stopped at Marketplace to get food for supper, had a very sweet prayer time, and now are chatting and trying to find space for everyone to sleep.  You'll need to come and hear God will use all this to help call us to STAND UP and share the good news of Jesus with the world.
You can listen to my first part (about 9 minutes including the Gospel reading) by clicking here.  Listen to Luke Cada's second part (about 20 minutes) by clicking here.  (In the picture above, taken when they arrived at our home last night are--left to right--Julia Engebretson, Hannah Dunbeck, Andria Jasper, Luke Cada, Nichole Downer, and our son Jon.)  Thanks to Andria for the first two photos!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stand in the Gap

Over the years my wife and I have been involved in the lives of many troubled souls, especially teenagers and young adults.  One thing that seems consistent in those who have come to us is that there are difficulties in their families.

Today I heard from yet another person who suffered for years in an inappropriate home environment.  She says it was only when a friend invited her to a sleepover at the friend's home that she learned that the way she grew up was not good.  And though she was removed to a foster home after that, she has continued to suffer the effects of her growing up years throughout her life.  She has been through various treatment programs, has come to peace with God and has led a fairly successful life.  Now she is around retirement age--but still there are still times when the darkness closes in for her and she needs a listening ear and a caring shoulder to cry on.

We all need friends and compassionate Christian helpers in our life.  This is particularly true when there is trouble at home---when shouting and cursing are commonplace, when physical, sexual or emotional abuse occurs, or when our common need for tender loving care is neglected.

Some families, some friends and even some counselors tell those who are suffering that they need to "toughen up" and "handle things" on their own.  The trouble is that often causes pain to be buried deep inside one's mind or heart or soul, and such buried pain causes terrible consequences later on.  This is one of the roots, I believe, of the Biblical concept of "iniquity" carrying through the generations.  Many times, though certainly not always, mental illnesses can be traced to painful circumstances in childhood.  And many times parents who neglect the needs of their children, or hurt them, were victims themselves earlier in their lives.

Usually this suffering is buried at home and kept behind closed doors.  Many times it seems "normal" or "tolerable" to the family themselves or even to outside observers, whether they be extended family members or caring neighbors.  A veneer of respectability often covers the truth.  Families normally want to present a favorable impression to others, and that is particularly true when there is pain.

This is similar, I think to how a callus forms when skin becomes tough and thick "in response to repeated friction, pressure, or other irritation."  The callus can be attached to the whole family system, or to the individual who has suffered, making them tough and hard--causing them to close in upon themselves.

But God calls us to love our neighbors, not to just assume that everything is fine.  God calls us to a life of love--and love does not first just tell someone to "put up and shut up."  First, love listens, cares, and tries to make a difference.  And when no immediate difference is possible, loving people and loving families become refuges for those in pain.  So many people, including the older woman I talked with today, have sincerely benefited from "outsiders" who are just there to care, to listen, to pray--and to provide an example of what a truly caring home can be.

I am so thankful for all who "stand in the gap" for those who suffer for any reason, but particularly for children and youth who are so vulnerable, who have no "rights" of their own, and who are so often misunderstood.  If you are suffering in your family, I encourage you to talk with a caring friend or neighbor.  You need to know you are not alone.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sex and Cheese

Last night we had a delightful time at DC United.  DC United is a series of events put on by Dassel-Cokato area youth directors.  Last night's event featured Molly Sandborn, aka "The Cheeseball Chick."

Her message on sex was frank, appropriate, fun and challenging.  She has t-shirts that say "KEEP YOUR PANTS ON!" and talks to youth about not letting anyone mess around "where the sun doesn't shine."

Molly will be speaking on Friday evening April 30 and Saturday May 1 at a retreat for women and girls (age 8 up) at First Baptist Church here in Cokato.  I'd really encourage you to attend!
Friday, April 30
6:00-6:30pm Meet Molly, the "Cheeseball Chick"
6:30-7:45pm God Delights Despite.....
7:45-8:30pm Delightful Dessert
8:30-9:45am The Dangers of Delighting in Guys

Saturday, May 1
8:45-9:15am Coffee and Treats
9:15-10:30am Flight to Delight
11:00-1:00pm Ladies and Girls Spring Luncheon
~Delighting is Exciting~
Reserve your spot by calling the First Baptist Church office at 320-286-2562.

Of course, there is something even more important than sex.  Molly calls this "Meeting the Big Cheese."  On her website she's got lots of cool stuff, including a story that begins like this:
I was in high school and had the opportunity to ride in a car with my older brother and 4 of his really cool friends. I had a crush on all the guys in the car, except of course, my brother. I was sandwiched in between the driver and my brother, so you can imagine my embarrassment as I “cut the cheese” -  no pun intended. I let out a silent but very deadly, slowly seeping fart. Oh wow, it was bad! The color rose in my cheeks as I realized what I had just done.

Of course I nearly started a riot in the car. The guys were yelling, banging their fists on the ceiling, making gagging noises, stomping their feet. Sure enough, the inquisition began. They started in the back seat drilling each guy to try to place the blame. “Dude! Could that have really come from a human? How is that possible?”. Each guy was adamant it was not him. My fear rose as the questioning reached the front seat. My brother was next than me. I am not a very good liar and figured I’d burst into tears of shame and embarrassment when it got to me. It never did.

I was floored when I heard my brother say, “Sorry guys, it was me.” And for the remainder of the ride, my brother was in the hot seat. I sat in silence, wondering if there was any way that my brother really let one go at the exact time I did. I had to find out. When we got home, I pulled him aside. He was quick to explain that he knew it was me. “Molly, I know our smell. I can recognize the Barnhart Fart and I knew you’d be devastated, so I decided to take the blame so you wouldn’t have to.”
You can read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Here are some other little tidbits from a few notes I took at Molly's talk last night:
  • Molly said: When I got married I both my husband and I were virgins and hadn't messed around sexually.  So we didn't need to worry about anything when it came to sex.  We didn't need to worry that the the other person had an STD or an STI (sexually transmitted infection).  We didn't need to think that the other person was comparing us with a previous partner.  It was great!
  • A majority--over 50%--of high school seniors have actually NOT had sex.
  • For guys - having sex now will NOT impress your future wife.
  • Oral sex is sex.
  • Love is PATIENT - first definition of LOVE in the list of definitions beginning in First Corinthians 13:4.
  • A guy once told Molly that he thinks of one word when he sees a girl dressed provocatively: Chlamydia!  She then encouraged girls to look through their clothes with a friend and ask themselves "Why do I wear that?" and if the answer is "to excite guys" or turn them on -- get rid of that clothing.
  • When you feel pressured into sex, remove yourself from the situation!
  • Pay attention to the movies you watch, the songs you listen to, the websites you visit.  Ask yourself - Do the producers sexually provocative or explicit media care about you?  (The answer is no.)
  • Sex is a spiritual thing.  It's not just physical.  The act of sex makes two one (First Corinthians 6:16).
  • But we serve a God who makes everything new (First John 1:9).  Forgiveness and new life and new birth are always available because, on the Cross, God took ownership of us--and our sins.
For more about sexuality, look in our church library for books from the Learning About Sex series or my Interview on Sexuality on this blog.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Audio from Good Friday

Last Friday our community was once again blessed with the richness of God's Word from the cross.  We met for three hours--from noon to 3 p.m.  Pastors and musicians from many local churches participated. The sermons we based on scripture readings traditionally called "The Seven Last Words" of Christ.  Here are the pastors who preached at this year's Good Friday worship.  Click on the pastor's name below for a direct link to the sermon (mp3 format).  Thanks so much to the church that hosted us this year, Good Shepherd Lutheran.
Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”  But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”  And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’ ”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece.  So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”  Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,  save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.  “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.  When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.  At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.”
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.
Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.  And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.  Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.”  And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.


The sermons can also be found and downloaded at a page on the Good Shepherd website that can be accessed through this link.

Monday, April 5, 2010


What deserves our attention?  How much time to we devote to the various demands and pressures we have on our lives?  Who will we obey?

I'm pretty much taking this day off but this evening found myself hungering for soul food.  So, because I have this most excellent job that forces me to study God's Word :-) according to a "lectionary" plan that I don't need to make up on my own, I was led to this coming Sunday's reading from Acts 5 that includes a debate between the then supreme religious authorities and some of the first Christian leaders (apostles).

In Acts 5, the religious authorities have arrested and imprisoned the apostles because they will not stop teaching in Jesus' name.  Their answer "We must obey God rather than any human authority" (or, in another translation, "We must obey God rather than men.") 

This is not an excuse to just go around doing whatever our hormones or emotions tell us.  Human authorities are normally there for our good (see Romans 13).  It's even good to just be nice and try to get along with others (Romans 12:18).  But, when it's clear, through careful study of God's Word centered in Jesus (that's important) that the authorities and human customs are just wrong, then we need to turn our attention away from those "earthly things" and focus our attention only on God.

And what a wonderful one to put our attention on!  God loves us with an everlasting love and gave his son so we might live forever with him.  So if we end up suffering because we obey God, whether it's ostracism or outright persecution, it's worth it.  Let "them" bring their worst!  The final victory belongs to the Lord.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Best No Surprise

Notes for Easter sermon, 2010.  When questions or doubts come into your mind, feel free to text me at 763-291-3499 or email or comment below. You can listen to the sermon from 8:30 a.m. (mp3) by clicking here

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!

How would you feel if you knew everything – I mean everything – was going to turn out great? How would you feel if you knew that no matter how difficult things may seem at the moment, that there is no reason to worry, and that someday, in the end, everything was going to turn out fine? Could you begin each day with a little praise prayer to God – “Thank you, God, for this new day”? Could you be more generous, more gentle, more patient—more full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Well guess what? IT’S TRUE! Everything IS going to turn out – not just o.k., not just good, but absolutely BEST. And, if you are a person who trusts in Jesus, that should be no surprise.

The Word of God make it clear that there is NOTHING to worry about, and that EVERYTHING and everyone is ultimately, in the end, in the hands of our loving and most compassionate God.
For the time being, in this life, it doesn’t look so good. For now, it looks like Good Friday crucifixion. For now there is poverty and hunger and weeping and hatred and evil. But what does Jesus say about that? Luke 6:23—when things are bad now? “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great… your reward is great…” Romans 8:18 “I consider-that the sufferings-of this present time-are not worth comparing-with the glory-that is to be revealed-to us.” 8:28 “We know-that in everything-God works for good-with those who love him-and are called-according to his purpose.” And another of my favorites: Second Corinthians 4:17 “This slight momentary affliction-is preparing us-for an eternal weight of glory-beyond all comparison.” And verse 18: “because we look-not at the things are seen-but to the things that are unseen;-for the things that are seen are temporary-but the things that are unseen-they are forever.”

It is all going to work out in the end. That is the GLORY of this day—this day of RESURRECTION. One more verse—and this one is on your bulletin—First Corinthians 15:19-26…

So here is the deal… you know those problems in your life? You know the difficulties and the challenges and the sorrows and the pain? All those things are going to be GONE—and in their place is going to be perfect justice, perfect peace, perfect life, perfect love.

So for now… we’re just waiting… we’re just anticipating…

Yes, it’s a long night.

We don’t know when the morning will come.

You and I, we are like those women who came to Jesus tomb. Maybe it’s still the middle of the night for you. Or maybe there is a hint of light in your sky.

But if it’s a day like any other day you know it can be so disappointing. So you go into the day like you’re on the way to the tomb with the women.

It’s dark but you have a job to do. You’ve brought spices so the work will be more pleasant. It’s not generally pleasant doing this burial work, but you want to honor your friend Jesus so you go.
You get to the tomb and the stone is rolled away. That’s good, you think, a bit strange, but good, because that way you’ll be able to do your work, just checking to make sure all is ready for permanent burial.

But you go in, and the body, the body of your Lord and your friend and your savior-teacher—it’s not there!

It’s confusing! What’s happened? Did someone steal the body? But that doesn’t make sense because the body is the only thing that is missing. The burial clothes are there but no body. Why would someone steal the body but leave the clothes?

But then two strangers come. Strangers in estheyti astrapousi – clothes or robes flashing light lighting! Sound like angels to me!

“Why,” they say, and I imagine them saying this in perfect unison—“Why do you look for the LIVING among the DEAD? He is NOT HERE but has risen. REMEMBER? how he told you? while he was still in Galilee? that the Son of Man—that’s what Jesus called himself often—kind of a polite way—but very important too if you study the Old Testament—Remember how he told you that he must he handed over to SINNERS and be CRUCIFIED and on the third day RISE again?

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Risen? Risen from the dead? This should have been no surprise.

I love the response of those "men in dazzling clothes.” Those words sound make them sound like a frustrated boss or an exasperated teacher. Haven't we already gone over this? Didn't you learn anything? Jesus TOLD YOU this was going to happen! Weren’t you paying attention?

That’s the problem with us too. We don’t pay attention to God’s Word and the wonderful promises we have from God! For God so LOVED the world that he GAVE his only Son that whoever trusts in him WILL NOT PERISH but have EVERLASTING life! Have weak faith? Tiny seed faith? Great! Jesus will come to you and lift you up like a mother picking up her beloved child.

Yesterday we had the funeral of Eleanor Hackbarth. She knew God’s promises. And she could relax in God’s care even through her worries and her pains, because she knew God has a glorious future for her that she is enjoying now.

And those women at the tomb, and the “eleven” disciples they went and told—who thought it was all an “idle tale”… they had promises too... they should not have been surprised when Jesus rose!

Turn to Luke 9:22. This is in a section where Peter has just been inspired by God to tell who Jesus is. Verse 22 says… "The Son of man—that’s Jesus… what must he do? suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."

Then look at Luke 18:31-34—this is another time Jesus tells them what is going to happen… They didn't understand, they were confused, they didn't get it. …Kind of like us.

But that didn’t stop Jesus from doing his work. It didn’t stop him from rising from the dead, and it doesn’t stop him from continuing to work everything about for good.

All he asks of us is just a little bit of trust. So we come to be baptized. And we come to the Lord’s table. We ask for forgiveness and a new beginning. And little by little, the faith inside us grows. Until there is a calm, and there is a sense of “resurrection from the dead? Oh yeah, I know all about that. It’s good… but no surprise.

We can become secure in that. We have the eye witness accounts that we will hear about in the next few weeks during this Easter season. We have this day of resurrection and we can look back and see how God the Holy Spirit wove the Old Testament together hundreds and even thousands of years ago in a way that it all comes together in the New. We can see how lives are transformed through faith… And our lives--we get to be part of it too.

Read Romans 8 and Second Corinthians 4 & 5, Read the rest of First Corinthians 15! Dig deep into the battle Jesus wins against sin and death and the devil.

Everything is working for good! The sufferings of today will bring perfection tomorrow. Any troubles, no matter how bad they are, they are just the introduction to a glorious future. We don't know just when the promised "tomorrow" will arrive, but it will--and it should be no surprise.