The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

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

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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

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

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

This Sunday we celebrate a feast day entitled “St. Michael and All Angels.” We don’t celebrate this every year, only when the specific day (September 29) falls on a Sunday. There is a lot of confusion about angels in our society today, so I thought it would be appropriate to address a few myths about angels that are commonly spread around in today’s world.

Myth 1 – When you die, you become an angel.

This seems to be the assumption of every movie, television show, and cartoon out there. I blame the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life for the prevalence of this. Angels are not dead humans. Angels are created beings that serve various functions in heaven and on earth. The word “angel” means “messenger.” This is one of their primary tasks. We see angels appear regularly through the Bible and very often they are delivering messages from God to God’s people.

When we die, our hope is not to become angels. Our hope is to be raised from the dead as human beings. When Jesus is raised from the dead, He has a resurrected, perfected, human body. He is not an angel. The same thing that happened to Jesus will happen to us when Jesus returns.

Myth 2 – Everyone has their own, personal, guardian angel.

I’m not saying this couldn’t be true, but there is no biblical evidence to support this idea. Yes, some angels are charged with spiritual battles on earth that involve our protection. We see this in the book of Daniel and a few other places. Yes, some angels could easily be called "guardian angels," but that doesn't mean each person or even each Christian throughout the world has their own guardian angel only charged with guarding one person. God’s protection of you may certainly involve the use of His angels. But never forget it is God’s protection. He is the one who deserves the credit, glory, and praise.

Myth 3 – Angels are cute.

In the last 50 years, angels have become this cutesy, kitsch decoration item. They look comfortable and harmless. The picture we have in the Bible of angels is quite different. Angels are often depicted with six or eight wings, and every time an angel shows up in the Bible, people are terrified. As Luke writes in the Christmas story, “And an angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” The first thing out of the mouth of whichever angel appears is, “Fear not!” or “Don’t be afraid.”

I’m not saying you should throw out decorations or anything of the sort. I just want to make sure what we are passing down to the next generation is not from TV or some marketing scheme, but rather from God’s Word. Angels are created beings that serve God. Humans are also created beings that serve God. But we are in fact very different from angels.

God’s richest blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

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

One of the topics I get a lot of questions about is the will of God. People often wonder what God wants for their lives. Sometimes these decisions can be life altering. People often wonder: “Should I switch jobs? Should I move? Should we buy a house? Should we have a (or another) child?”

These are tough calls. The Bible doesn’t outright give answers to these questions. So how are we to decide what to do?

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But how do I know if what I want is what God wants? Martin Luther once wrote the following regarding that section of the Lord’s Prayer.

“How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.”

There is a lot to unpack there, but I find that as I read through Luther’s words, I see that our God is at work. He is not idle. Our God is actively working to break and hinder the plans of Satan. God is actively strengthening and keeping us in the one true faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice, God’s will is done when He does something. He doesn’t depend on us. We depend on Him. He conforms us to His will. I think in essence, we can say this: when we are strengthened and kept by God’s Word, we are on the right track.

If, in the choice you are making, one path will lead you away from God and His Word, that’s bad. God doesn’t want that. If one path will clearly lead you toward God and His word, that’s good. God longs for that.

Of course, sometimes it is not as clear cut as that, especially with the big decisions of life. And obviously, we cannot always see how things will play out, but we can rely on God and His presence and His promises to lead us in our decisions, no matter how big or how small.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy


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