• Daily Devotion. Day 7, Joyful in Hope

    Image may contain: nature and outdoor, text that says 'Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer ROMANS 12:12'

    Romans is the book of the Bible I probably spend the most time in. It’s filled with memorable gospel proclamations. It speaks eloquently to the wonders of baptism. It encourages us to use our spiritual gifts for the up-building of the church.

    One verse that stands out in this time is Romans 12:12. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” This sums up the Christian life in general, but in our current context it hits home with a bit more force. There is too much in this one verse for one devotion, so why don’t we spread this out over the next few days.

    Be joyful in hope. If you look for it, you will find there is a lot of hope out there. There are moments of grace that I see every day, even while sheltering in place. People are sacrificing for the benefit of the community by donating masks to hospital personnel, donating blood. I’ve even heard of people foregoing their salaries to ensure those with less financial stability can keep getting paid.

    Yesterday I got to help some of our friends baptize their first child from thousands of miles away. Though there are challenges out there, God’s glory is still being revealed every day all over the world.

    There is a lot of hope out there. Be joyful in that.

    God’s blessings on your day. Keep the faith.

    Pastor Andy

  • He Came Seeking Fruit

    Jesus tells a parable of an vineyard owner who wishes to cut down a barren fig tree, the vinedresser intervenes on behalf of the tree to help it bear fruit. Jesus is the Vinedresser. He is chopped down in our place and through His death and resurrection be bear the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Hymn of Praise

    The Hymn of Praise is a moment of unbridled joy. It's a time when the congregation bursts forth in loud praise of God for who He is: a God of mercy, a God of forgiveness. In one common Hymn of Praise, the congregation uses words from the book of Revelation to note how God is deserving of blessing, honor, glory, and might. God is worthy to be praised because of what He has done for us in sending the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who was slain, whose blood set us free to be God's people. The Lamb has begun His reign and we await its full and ultimate fulfillment when Jesus returns.
    It's hard to capture the amount of joy present in this moment. I imagine Merry and Pippin singing and dancing on tables in the pub in the first and third Lord of the Rings films. 
    I imagine the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, in which Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are trapped in a trash compactor. When it finally stops moving, they shout for joy with such vigor that C3PO thinks they're being crushed to death. 
    I imagine Buddy the Elf's uncontainable excitement when he hears Santa is coming.
    Many Christians around the world are very good at expressing joy in worship. Dancing, movement, and shouts of praise are a part of their Christian traditions. 
    Other Christians are less good at expressing joy in worship. Being subdued and stoic is culturally ingrained into many people of northern European descent (myself among them). In some cultures, worship is viewed as a place of such extreme propriety and piety that joy and praise somehow don't belong. Big emotions are seen as a sign of weakness.
    This is a misunderstanding of joy and praise. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is a gift given to all Christians. It is a fruit to be shared with others. It is not a reckless emotion in need of subduing. Joy is a fruit meant to be multiplied. 
    The Hymn of Praise is a moment for joy to come forth. It is a moment for us Christians to bask in God's glory and our forgiveness because of Christ. 
    So the next time you sing the Hymn of Praise remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
  • The Grief and Joy of All Saints' Day

    I haven’t put a lot of photos up in my office yet. My desk is mostly filled with papers and books. I have two framed photos on my desk, though. One is of Stephanie and me in Paris on our fifth wedding anniversary. The other is of my grandpa and grandma. Growing up in Minnesota, my grandparents lived on the same farm place. I spent as much time in their house as I did in my own growing up, and I miss them dearly. I think of them often this time of year.

     This Sunday we celebrate All Saints’ Day. This is a time to remember those who have died in the faith and celebrate God’s grace and mercy in their lives. It’s a time when we look around at life. We look to the past, remembering our family and friends who are no longer with us. We look to the present, at the saints gathered together with us week after week to worship God and receive His grace. We look to the future, knowing that there are those among us who will not be in the pews next year, but will be asleep with Jesus.

    All Saints’ Day is a time of grief and joy, a time of sorrow and hope. It’s hard when loved ones die, when they are no longer a part of our routines, when we can no longer visit with them and hear their stories and feel their hugs. We may feel regret for harsh words spoken that cannot be unsaid. We may even feel relief that a loved one is no longer with us because they made our life so challenging. And that feeling of relief can produce guilt and shame in us that we may not know how to handle.

    No matter what feelings of struggle come up with the memories of loved ones, we still look forward to the day when Christ returns and raises us all from the dead to live with Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

    Until then, don’t be afraid to shed a tear. Don’t be afraid to share a story with someone. Don’t be afraid to listen to someone else’s story.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

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LCMS logoFirst Evangelical Lutheran Church is a member of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a family of congregations focused on bringing Christ to the nations and sharing His unconditional saving Love within our community.

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