The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

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: 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

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

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

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

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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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