The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

Image may contain: text that says 'there is now no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus Romans 8:1'

Have you ever felt guilty? Have you ever felt ashamed? Could you articulate the difference?

There are several different ways to get at the difference, but for me guilt centers around actions and behavior while shame centers around being. Guilt says, “I did a bad thing.” Shame says, “I am bad.”

What’s interesting is that the same actions can lead to guilt in one person but shame in another person. If two people fail an exam, one might feel guilty regarding a behavior, “I didn’t study enough.” The other person might feel the failure in their very being and say, “I am stupid.”

As a pastor, I am sensitive to the difference because the Gospel to guilt is different from the Gospel to shame. The Gospel to guilt is forgiveness for the behavior. The Gospel to shame is persistent proclamation of identity in Christ: You are a child of God and He loves you for who you are.

Romans 8:1 gets at both guilt and shame as succinctly as any verse can, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You are not condemned for your actions. You are not condemned for who you are. Indeed, your condemnation has been taken away for you are forgiven in Christ and you will always be His beloved child no matter what.

You are in Christ. No one can condemn you. Not even yourself. Jesus loves you and He always will.

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

Pastor Andy

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

As I mentioned yesterday, Romans 12:12 is a succinct summation of the Christian life. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Yesterday we talked about being joyful in hope. So today, we talk about being patient in affliction.

Patience is the one thing I definitely need more of in this time. Patience with technology as I keep learning new tools to connect with people, patience with governmental leaders as they make extremely challenging decisions that affect millions of people, patience with medical researchers as they continue to work on ways to fight, cure, and test for COVID-19, truly patience with everything and everyone.

Yet the patience I find most lacking is patience with myself. It has been a challenging month. I’m tired. My to-do list keeps getting longer and longer. There are hundreds of people looking to me to be their pastor and I’ve never been a pastor through a pandemic. None of my pastor friends has either. It’s new territory, and it requires exceptional amounts of patience.

Be patient friends, for God is with us through every trial and affliction, including this one.

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

Pastor Andy

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The book of Ezekiel is probably the strangest book in the Bible. The prophet Ezekiel sees perplexing visions from the Lord. It is a book filled with symbolism and strangeness. In one scene, the Lord shows Ezekiel a valley filled with dry bones then asks the bizarre question, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel’s answer is spot on, “O Lord God, you know.”

God reveals to Ezekiel that these bones are the people of Israel and indeed these bones will live because God will raise them from the dead.

Truly, our God is a God of resurrection and restoration. No matter how many times God’s people wandered away, He restored them. No matter how badly God’s people disobeyed Him, He always preserved a remnant of people.

You may be looking at the weeks and months ahead and seeing only decline and decay, wondering if things will ever get better. But God’s view is much longer. And God always restores and raises His people. He will do so in ultimate fashion when Jesus returns, raises the dead, and we will be forever with the Lord.

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

Pastor Andy

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

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

For the past two days, we’ve been looking at Romans 12:12 which says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Being faithful in prayer is one aspect of the Christian life that has not been affected by the shelter-in-place order. Prayer can continue from your home just as easily as anywhere else. God is listening wherever you go.

Continue to pray for those who are sick, those who are lonely, those in essential professions such as healthcare, those who are in danger of losing their jobs. Keep praying.

Continue to pray for churches, schools, your favorite restaurants as these are all facing unprecedented times right now and it is unclear how long this will last. Keep praying.

Continue to pray for researchers and scientists and manufacturers who are all working diligently to develop tests and equipment and medicine to battle this virus.

Keep praying friends. The Lord delights to hear your prayers. He delights to answer them too.

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

Pastor Andy

For me, one of the most challenging things about our current situation is trying to discern the massive amounts of communication from never ending sources. It seems like everybody thinks they have knowledge and wants to share it far and wide. Not surprisingly, the Bible has some applicable words on the topic.

The Apostle Paul writes the following in 1 Corinthians 8:

“We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”

Knowledge puffs up. Please understand, I think we need facts and information. Facts and information are essential, especially in a time like this. But once we’ve heard the facts and information (and seven people’s opinions that might not be based on facts), we blend all of that into our own personal mixture of knowledge. We filter out what and who we don’t like. We add extra doses of the information that is most important to us. And we come out with a so-called “knowledge” that doesn’t encourage anyone, but only puffs up our own egos.

But Paul offers another way: the way of love. Love builds up. Love encourages. We can never have enough knowledge. We will always be lacking. But as we love God and love others, we find that far more important than what we know is that we are known. We are known by God. We are known by love.

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

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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