• A Tale of Two Widows

    Jesus sees a widow give all she has to the temple, trusting that she will be taken care of. This sermon looks at the various points of view of this text, as well as what we can learn from this widow.
  • God's Good Gifts

    Next Sunday, October 21 is Stewardship Sunday, or Pledge Sunday. This is a time for us to consider our service to God and our neighbors and reflect upon the good gifts that God has entrusted to us. 

    In last week’s sermon, I talked about how Adam was God’s steward in the Garden of Eden. Adam was entrusted with the care of the garden. The land did not belong to Adam. The animals did not belong to Adam. Everything belonged to God, but Adam was entrusted with their well-being. 

    While we may talk about how we own our homes or our cars or whatever other possessions we have, all of our possessions, everything on this planet belongs to God. We are simply entrusted with the care of what we have, what God has given us. 

    We choose what to do with our time, with our money, with our skills, with our relationships. Sometimes we do not have an abundance of these things and we must be very wise about how we use them so that we properly care for our families. Sometimes we have an abundance of time, but not money. Sometimes we have an abundance of skills, but little time. Sometimes we have an abundance of money, but few relationships. Within First Lutheran Church and Preschool, we all have a differing balance of the gifts God has given us.

    In the coming week, I’d like you to think about what God has given you and I’d like you to commit to using what God has given you, in whatever balance that may be, to extending God’s kingdom.

    If God has given you an abundance of time, I’d like you to consider how you might serve in our congregation and community. If God has given you an abundance of money, I’d like you to think about increasing your offerings. If God has given you an abundance of skills, I’d like you to think about how you might use those skills to serve others. If God has given you an abundance of relationships, I’d like you to consider inviting more people to join us for worship, Bible study, and other events.

    We are God’s stewards. We have been entrusted with many things in order to grow God’s kingdom. Please consider how you plan to steward God’s gifts to you in the coming year.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy


  • Online Resources

    Sometimes, it is good to just remind the congregation of a few things that don’t always get mentioned. I’d like to remind you all of our website and some of the useful resources you will find.

    Online Giving

    Sunday Mornings can be hectic. You might not remember to grab your offering envelopes or your checkbook. One option for our members, guests, and friends is to give online. If you go here: Simply Giving Online Give/Donate,  you will be taken to a secure site where you can make a one-time donation or set up a recurring donation for weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly giving. Several people in the congregation are already doing this. Stephanie and I utilize this resource because it ensures that the first fruits of our labor go to the Lord and His work and that we won’t forget or make up some excuse to not give. I would highly encourage you to give this some thought and prayer.


    If you are out of town and happen to miss a Sunday, or you just really want to listen to a sermon again, they are all archived on our website as well. If you go on this link: Pastor's Page, it will take you to a list of my articles from First Notes and links to previous sermons will show up on the right side of the screen.


    Here is a link to our Facebook page. We use the page as a way to communicate announcements, events, and share encouragement with our church and preschool community.

    That’s all for now. If you need any help navigating these things, let me know. I’m happy to help.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • Place, Grace, and Trust

    When Stephanie and I were living in Germany, we had the opportunity to travel to Paris for our fifth wedding anniversary. Paris is a beautiful city. Iconic sites like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triumphe do not disappoint.

    And then of course there is the Cathedral of Notre Dame which was so sadly engulfed in flames last week.

    Before the flames had even been put out, while the building was still smoldering, people from France and around the world were dedicating millions of dollars to rebuilding this beloved building so rich in history and beauty.

    Yet the dedication of so much money to such a landmark was criticized by some who would rather see such donations go to food, clean water, and medicine to those who lack such things.

    The whole situation got me thinking about a lot of things. But we all face such decisions and criticism related to our stewardship, albeit on a smaller scale. It’s not always money that is the concern. Sometimes it is our energy, sometimes our skills, sometimes our time.

    I face this dilemma as a pastor with some frequency. I don’t have an infinite amount of energy and time, so how do I spend the 50 or so hours I work in a week? How much do I dedicate to preparing for Sunday morning? How much to time with the preschool? How much to visiting shut-ins? How much to outreach and being in the community? How much to serving the church at large, the circuit, the district, the synod? If you all got to choose what my time allotment would be, I doubt any two people would choose the same schedule for me.

    All of this leads me to appreciate the importance of two things: grace and trust.

    We all make different choices with our lives, with our time, with our money. We should have enough grace with our fellow human beings to let them focus where they feel led to focus, and we should focus where we feel led to focus. Complaining that a billionaire doesn’t give money to the poor is ironic and hypocritical if I am not giving any money to the poor. As Jesus says in Luke 16:10, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Let’s be gracious and faithful with whatever we have.

    Finally, thank you for your trust. You have entrusted me with the spiritual care of this congregation. Such care is something I do not take lightly. As I continue to learn how to be your pastor, I hope you will continue to grace me with your trust as we continue to follow where the Lord leads, together.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • Psalm 23 and Stewardship Sunday

    In the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and Palestine for a seminary class. It was simply amazing to see the Temple walls, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and so many other places.

    One day we were near Jerusalem and Bethlehem (they’re only about six miles apart), and it was a dry, rocky, desert-like area. The stones were blindingly white. Pastor Zelt, who preached for my ordination service, told a story about how when he was in that same spot a few years earlier, a shepherd emerged from the hills, leading a flock of sheep and he’d stop every once in a while at random places. Pastor Zelt came to see that he was leading them to small patches of crab grass poking up between the rocks. The shepherd was leading them to the sparse green pastures in this wilderness of rocks.

    This Sunday we begin a new Bible study on the book of Psalms. We are starting with the most well-known Psalm, number 23. It’s a Psalm about God’s provision and guidance.

    This Sunday is also Pledge Sunday, or Stewardship Sunday. We’ll be taking some time to consider the gifts God has given us and commit to using those gifts for the extension of God’s kingdom.

    This Sunday may be challenging for you. You may feel some guilt about your giving practices of the past. You may feel like you haven’t contributed as you would like. Or you may feel some indignation toward others who “aren’t giving their fair share.”

    I’d like to offer some words of encouragement and a challenge to both groups. If you haven’t been giving regularly and feel like there is no way you could give a tithe (10% of your income), I understand. I’ve been there. I’d encourage you to start small. Commit to giving 1% of your income in 2019, try for 2% in 2020, increasing the percentage until you can begin tithing. If you don’t like math, start with $10 a week or $50 a month. Establish the habit and discipline of giving, no matter the dollar amount. Your salvation is not in question here. We are simply seeking to follow Jesus and be wise stewards of His gifts.

    If you have been a regular tither for your entire life and are frustrated with others, remember that we are the body of Christ which means we bear one-another’s burdens. If our brothers and sisters in Christ cannot give as much as they wish, we help the church bear their struggle by giving more. Some of us have been blessed to bask in God’s green pastures with few financial worries. Others are moving from patch of grass to patch of grass or from paycheck to paycheck. God is providing for us all. If you have been tithing regularly, consider giving 11% or 12.5% in 2019, bearing the burden of your brothers and sisters in Christ who cannot tithe right now. If God has richly blessed you in some way financially, consider giving a one-time gift along with your tithe. Your salvation won’t be made more secure by giving more money, but you will be helping your neighbors who are in need.

    If you don’t know how much you can give, go to the Lord in prayer. Seek His wisdom. If you’d like to have a conversation with me about this, my door is open, my phone is working, and I can answer emails.

    No matter how much you are able to give, please pray for the future and ministry of First Lutheran Church and Preschool. There is so much we can do to share the love of Christ in our area. Pray that God would bless our giving and open up a door for us to share His Gospel with others.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • Stewarding Finances

    Over the past few weeks, we have talked about stewarding our talents and skills, our relationships, our time, and this week we talk about financial resources.

    Oftentimes stewardship reminders are heard simply as pleas for people to “give more money.” But my responsibility as your pastor is not to fundraise more dollars. My responsibility is to walk with you as you grow in faith. And (whether you want to hear this or not) how you steward the financial resources God has given you is a pretty good indicator of your (hopefully growing) faith.

    God has put each of us into different situations where we have varying financial resources as well as varying responsibilities that demand portions of our financial resources.

    Some people are given massive amounts of financial resources and are able to give vast quantities to the church and other non-profit organizations without ever being in any financial danger.

    Others (probably most of us) have been blessed financially, but we still have to be careful about the money we spend. We can’t go out to eat for every meal. We can’t be on vacation constantly. We don’t have an infinite amount of resources. We have to be wise with what we’ve been given.

    And there are others who are truly struggling financially, who aren’t sure how they are going to pay their bills this month, who can’t fill their gas tanks entirely full and have to hover between quarter and half a tank in perpetuity.

    No matter where you land on this spectrum, faithfulness in giving is part of the Christian life. That doesn’t mean that everybody has to give 10% (commonly called tithing) as a hard and fast rule. For a person struggling financially 1% of their income may be too much. Faithfulness in giving might mean starting to give at a dollar a week or five dollars a month. For a person who has been abundantly blessed financially, 10% might not affect them at all. Faithful giving likely means far more than 10% for people in such situations.

    But faithful giving isn’t about dollar amounts or about percentages. Faithful giving is a matter of the heart. It’s about trusting that God will provide, that we can depend on God for our daily bread, that God gives us all that we need to support this body and life.

    No matter where you are with giving right now, no matter what the dollar amount is or the percentage is, I want you to prayerfully consider stepping out in faith and increasing that giving. There are many reasons people may ask you to give more, but my reason for asking is for the sake of spiritual health, for the sake of depending less on money and more on God.

    C.S. Lewis puts it this way in Mere Christianity:

    “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

    You might not be ready for that this year. But I hope you’ll step toward that, or at least begin to lean towards it.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • Stewarding Relationships

    When it comes to stewardship, the typical tagline I usually hear is “Time, Talent, and Treasure.” Indeed, these three things are very important gifts for us to steward. We need to use our time wisely, committing to the true priorities in life. We should be using our talents and passions, not just for earning a living, but also for the extension and strengthening of God’s kingdom. And we must steward our money wisely as well. Jesus talks about money way more than you might expect. He knows that money is one of the things that trips us up. We invest too much in things that have no lasting value.

    But there is (at least) one gift missing from this “time, talent, and treasure” tagline. Relationships.

    God has given us a variety of relationships, and just like with time, talent, and treasure, our relationships are good gifts from God that we must steward wisely for the extension and strengthening of God’s kingdom.

    Some of you are parents, and you must steward your relationships with your children. There are dozens of decisions you need to make every day in this regard. What do you feed them? What do you teach them? What do you let them watch on TV? Or if they are older, how often do you call, text, write? How available are you to watch grandkids? 

    Some of us are married, and we must steward that relationship, nurturing it toward continued growth and health and love. 

    All of us have friends. Each friendship requires varying actions and activities to show and share our care for our friends.

    Stewarding relationships is in my opinion the most challenging part of being a steward of God’s good gifts. If a friend doesn’t know Jesus, how and when do you say something about it? If one of your adult children has walked away from the church, how do you bring that up in a loving way? How do you help people move closer to Jesus without harming your relationship with them?

    That’s a lot of questions that I don’t have the answers to. But this Sunday, we will look at two people who stewarded their relationships well, resulting in the extension and strengthening of the kingdom of God. Their names are Eunice and Lois.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • Stewarding Time and Rest

    This week we continue our stewardship emphasis. Two weeks ago, we talked about our talents and skills. Last week we talked about our relationships. This week we talk about time.

    Time is one of the most challenging things to steward in today’s world, especially in metropolitan areas like our own. Many people in our area are happy if they only have to commute one hour, one way. That’s pretty outlandish for much of the country, but here, that seems to be on the low end.

    Even if you don’t have a long commute, you probably have family activities that take you all over the Bay Area, whether it’s your own activities or those of kids or grandkids, everybody seems to be on the go all the time.

    One of the things that gets lost in this overscheduled world is the ability to rest. I’ve fallen prey to this quite frequently. When I actually do carve out some time to rest, I feel, well, restless. I feel jittery like I need to be doing something, like I’m wasting time.

    Rest is not a waste of time. And I think we all probably need more of it.

    Jesus’ sets a good example for us. Numerous times throughout the Gospels, Jesus withdraws to be alone. He withdraws to spend time with His heavenly Father. He withdraws to pray and rest.

    I don’t think any of us can honestly say our busy lives are filled with more important tasks than Jesus’ life. We need to find ways to set up boundaries in our lives to find rest, and I should certainly need by example.

    Monday is my day off. While I initially started off doing pretty well at keeping that day as a rest day, over time I found myself working here and there throughout Monday. I’d answer an email that could certainly wait. I’d write down some ideas for my next sermon or Bible study. I’d agree to a visit that could have been rescheduled.

    As I considered my own stewarding of time, I realized I had moved to a place that was lacking health and wisdom. So, please, don’t be offended if you don’t hear from me on Mondays. In order to steward my own time more wisely, I need to create a boundary around that day. And I think I’ll be a better pastor, servant, and leader because of it.

    Thanks for your care and understanding.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • The Way of Jesus

    The way into the Kingdom of God is impossible for people to find on their own. But Jesus brings us into His Kingdom by His own death and resurrection. We now live under His rule and reign.
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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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