The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

Image may contain: text that says 'THE LORD GAVE & THE LORD HAS TAKEN AWAY BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD. JOB 1:21'

Before the COVID-19 crisis, we had been studying the book of Job in our Sunday adult Bible study. Job’s story is one of tragedy. In the span of a few minutes, he learns that all of his wealth is gone. His thousands of sheep, camels, donkeys, and oxen are all stolen or destroyed. Then, worst of all, he learns his ten children have all been killed in a violent windstorm.

What’s beyond comprehension is Job’s response to this. He tears his robe and shaves his head (typical signs of grief in his culture), then bows down to the ground in worship and says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

These days it feels like a lot has been taken away from us. Our workplaces have been taken away. Our ability to sit and eat breakfast at Diggers or Min’s Kitchen is gone. Our ability to send our kids to school or preschool has been taken away. Tomorrow we will not gather in person for worship. This might be the first Sunday in the 80-year history of First Lutheran that this happens.

Perhaps what Job’s story can teach us is that all these things that have now been taken away were gifts from God, gifts that He gave freely, gifts that we perhaps didn’t recognize as gifts.

It’s appropriate to grieve the loss of these things. But we must also remember Job’s words: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” No matter what is given or taken away, we continue to bless God’s name. Though we can’t meet in person, we will still bless the Lord’s name on Sundays through our live stream worship at flcconcord.org/live.

And we will also remember that Job’s story didn’t end with everything being taken away, but that everything that was taken away was restored to him, doubled even. My prayer is that the Lord would restore our fortunes as we continue to bless His name through this time of things being taken away.

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

Pastor Andy

In Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul says this,

“For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Paul wrote Colossians from prison. I’m not in prison. I can go outside for a walk or a run and to the grocery store when need be, but I am absent in body from all of you.

Normally on Wednesdays at 12 noon and 7pm a few dozen of us would gather for Lenten services, but not today. Today we are absent in body from each other.

But we are not absent in spirit. Despite these challenging circumstances, it has been great to hear some of your stories of grace. To hear about a neighbor who gave one of our parishioners a massive amount of toilet paper out of sheer kindness. To hear of our preschool teachers connecting with their students via technology even though they can’t be together in person right now.

I’m not absent in spirit either. You are all in my prayers. And I will continue to work diligently to care for you by writing, recording videos, and doing whatever else needs to be done while I must be absent in body.

God’s blessings. Keep the faith.

Pastor Andy

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor, text that says 'For you were once darkness, but now you are lightin the Lord. Live as children of light! Ephesians 5:8 NIV'

One of the things we are still allowed to do in this time of sheltering in place is to go outside to walk or run. I had been walking and running outside regularly, but it’s different now. I jumped over a few hedges yesterday to make sure I kept appropriate social distance from other people who were out walking or running. Normally this would have been an extremely strange thing for me to do, but now it is an act of love.

In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about how since we have been removed from darkness and are now children of light. He encourages us to walk in the light, not in darkness. To walk in wisdom, not foolishness. To walk with the Lord, not in sin.

The weeks to come are going to be challenging for a lot of people. The lack of community is going to feel like darkness to many of us. When we have opportunity, we are going to need to be light in this dark world. When you are out for a walk, say hello to people, smile, wave. When you are out shopping for essentials, be kind to others. Just because we are keeping our distance doesn’t mean we need to be distant emotionally.

Be warm. Be friendly. Be light. For Christ has shined on you.

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

Pastor Andy

I started doing some daily devotions as we began sheltering in place. Here's the first one.

Image may contain: sky, text and outdoor

I’ve been thinking about waiting. For the next three weeks we are going to spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting to see our friends. Waiting to go to our favorite restaurant. Waiting to go to church. It’s not going to be easy.

But as I look through the Bible, I find all sorts of people who spent a lot of time waiting in uncomfortable situations. Daniel waited overnight in a lions’ den. Jonah waited three days and three nights in the belly of some massive marine animal. Lazarus waited four days while dead for Jesus to come and speak his name. In Exodus, God’s people spent 40 years waiting while wandering in the wilderness.

And of course, Jesus waited. He waited in the tomb for Easter to arrive, to arise from the grave and destroy death forever.

As we wait, we draw strength from God’s Word. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

We are waiting, but our God continues His active work. You can too. Take a minute to call a friend, a church member, a family member. Pray. Pray for politicians and healthcare workers and grocery store employees. Pray for those who aren’t sure how they’re going to survive this financially. Pray for the lonely. Pray for each other as you wait.

Pastor Andy

Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, twilight, outdoor, nature and water, text that says 'Turn to me and be gracious to me, for | am lonely and afflicted PSALM 25:16 25:1'

I discovered today that the word “lonely” appears only three times in the Bible (well, at least in the translation known as the English Standard Version). One of those times is in Psalm 25 where David writes:

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.”

The next few weeks will undoubtedly get a bit lonely for all of us. While many of us have families and still have some personal connection, many people in our congregation live alone. I feel for them most of all in this time.

King David writes wise words as he turns to the Lord to help. He turns to the Lord for grace. He turns to the Lord to bring him out of his distress.

I hope you are also able to turn to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, to your neighbors, and hopefully we can make it through this time together with the Lord’s help (and an assist from technology).

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

Pastor Andy

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

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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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