Amazon Smiles

Every day a little girl walked to and from school. Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to the elementary school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up along with thunder and lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school, and she herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child.

 

Following the roar of thunder, lightning, like a flaming sword, would cut through the sky. Full of concern, the mother quickly got into her car and drove along the route to her child’s school. As she did so, she saw her little girl walking along, but at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile. Another and another were to follow quickly, and with each, the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile.

 

When the mother’s car drove up beside the child, she lowered the window and called to her.  “What are you doing? Why do you keep stopping?”  The child answered, “I am trying to look pretty; God keeps taking my picture.”

 

May God bless you today as you face the storms that come your way with a smile!  Jesus walks with you!

 

And, remember, Holy Faith is an Amazon Smile charity!  Just click the banner below, go to your account, and designate Holy Faith.  Amazon will share their smile and include us!

Jesus is “In All Things!”

What an awesome time celebrating “In All Things” August 9th through the 13th  in Houston.  Yes, we saw Jesus at work all around us.  Through Mass Events at Minute Maid Stadium (the only youth gathering to be held at a baseball park) including a band, skits, worship and just plain Christ-centered fun. Jesus was right there.  We attended cool (pun intended because they were in the George Brown Convention Center and it was literally cool and huge) learning sessions that shared Jesus in many youth connected ways.  Our church body, the LCMS, did a great job in facilitating this event where Jesus was “In All Things!”
 
One of the gathering sessions that really intrigued me was called “In All Things Marvel.”  Yes, it does mean to “marvel” at our awesome, risen servant-Lord Jesus!  But when they shared with me that it had to do with another universe than the one I know, I wasn’t sure I would stay awake!  This session was led by Pastor Lee Hopf, a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) geek who proceeded to present how the story of Jesus, the greatest ever, is woven throughout the 23 Superhero movies that make up this cinematic universe.  While I didn’t know many of these superheroes , I thoroughly enjoyed his rapid fire talk (he had a lot to cover and was truly excited about it) and plan to watch the original Avengers and some of the others during my staycation this August.
 
On my return, I couldn’t help but recall my childhood superheroes.  The characters with stories larger than life were not from Marvel but DC comics.  If you are a Baby Boomer or even a Buster or a few generations down, you know these superheroes:  Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman to name a few.  But my favorite was Superman!!
 
The day after I returned I was looking in a file and came upon an article from AARP Magazine (yah, I’m an old guy with a young heart).  It was called “Five Things You Never Knew About Superman.”  Here they are…  He had a SS#!  Are you ready?:  092-09-6616.  It actually belonged to a flesh-and-blood New Yorker whose family never knew why it was picked.  I’m glad there was a 1 between those three 6’s; the anitichrist he’s not!  He not only fought fictional characters like Lex Luthor.  He fought real villains through the course of the comics.  He battled white-hooded KKKlansmen and hauled Hitler and Stalin before a war crimes tribunal.  He failed his Army physical during WWII.  Because of his x-ray vision he read an eye chart in an adjoining room.  Superman has a middle name revealed in the comics in 1997 – Joseph.  And finally, and most along the lines of Jesus in all things, Superman’s Kryptonian name:  Kal-El which is Hebrew for “Vessel of God.”  Superman’s beginning is almost straight out of Exodus as his parents launch him to safety in a spacecraft instead of a reed basket.  To read Superman comics is to find victory, good over evil, almost gift-like as x-ray eyes locate those in need.
 
Yes, Jesus is in all things, even the stories of these superheroes.  But above all, Jesus story includes us.  The theme Word for the Gathering:  15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  (Colossians 1:15-17, 20-21)
 
There’s the superhero beyond compare!  THE universe that causes us to marvel is His creation.  He not only made it, He holds it together in His love and mercy.  He became the SUPER man as through Him God and human flesh became one so that He could fight the greatest enemy ever, the devil (the one who truly bears the mark of 666).  Through His blood on the cross, we are reconciled with God our heavenly Father, and with the gift of faith Jesus’ super promises become fulfilled and active in our lives.  Thank God Jesus’ peace is ours and we have a super job to do:  sharing the Story of Jesus who is “In All Things!”  We are able to do all things in Him, who strengthens us!  (Phil. 4:13) 
 
So keep your eyes open.  Not x-ray eyes but even stronger eyes of faith to see Jesus “In All Things,” especially your ongoing story!  Let Him use you in “super” ways to connect others to Him!  Pastor Craig

People of Promise

Online Orchards Kwanzan Cherry Blossom Tree Bare Root FLCH001What a joy to see daffodils and tulips and flowering trees!  The cherry trees outside Holy Faith’s front doors are ready to bloom!  Praise God for the budding and sprouting of new life all around us.  And in this Easter season, the new life within us through Christ’s resurrection and our Baptism into Him!

 

Easter celebrates restoration.  Our heavenly Father has kept His Word!  He promised to send a Savior to save the world and He did!  He promised that the Savior would live among us, suffer for our sins, and He did!  He promised that our Savior would die just so that you and I would be forgiven, and He did!  And He promised that Jesus Christ, our Lord, would rise victorious from the grave.  And He did!  Easter celebrates that God kept His Word for us, His loved ones.

 

God’s love ones we are!  A higher price has never been paid for anything or anyone.  The suffering and death of Jesus, our focus during Lent, tell us how valuable we are in His sight.  No amount of money or gold could bring about our transformation into God’s children.  Nothing we possess or accomplish, nothing we do or say can change us from the inside out.  Only God, in His continued grace activity for His love ones, can cause new life within!  He takes what Jesus has done and makes it ours.  Through His “kept” Word, He moves us to believe and hold fast to His fulfilled promises.

 

So that we can rise to new life as His People of Promise!  Christ’s resurrection gives eternal significance to everything we say and do.  We are empowered to live joyfully and triumphantly!  Not only are we equipped to handle any obstacle the world might place before us – yes, even death – we have His transforming gift to share as those around us struggle and fall.  In fact, God counts upon His People of Promise to share His transforming power in Christ.  Because He lives, we live also! (John 14:19)

 

Yes, the end of winter is here!  Spring has sprung!  And along with it, Easter!  Live now and always as God’s People of Promise!  Alleluia!!  Christ has Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Pastor Craig

You Could Say

You could say “I wasn’t there when the cross was made,
          It wasn’t me that joined together those heavy wooden beams,
I didn’t strike those metal spikes, driving them past His mother’s screams,
It wasn’t my hands that formed the thorny crown, and placed it on His head,
I certainly didn’t yell “CRUCIFY!” Or stand idly by as our dear Savior bled.”
“I wasn’t the one who painted the sign that mocked His Sacred Holy name,
          No, you’ll have to look somewhere else to find the ones to blame!
I wasn’t there to deny Him thrice, nor did I run and hide…
          I didn’t take the sharp edged sword and thrust it in His side,
It wasn’t me that heard His final words, as the thunder ripped the sky,
I didn’t see the horror on His mother’s face nor watch her as he died!”
Oh you could say it wasn’t me , but that would simply be a lie!!!
It was for each one of us that He was beaten and crucified!!
It was all our sin that brought Him to this world, inside a virgins womb,
Our sin alone hung Him on the cross , and sealed Him in the tomb.
God’s love was was so much stronger then all our careless sin and hate,
And He didn’t end it on the cross but pushed open deaths dark gates…
Then He Rose!! Praise God, to ignite our souls and in its brilliant flame,
All the dark places in our hearts were cleansed and freed of blame!!!
So let the Joyous news ring out, His Glory and Power to proclaim!!!!
Rejoice!! He has Salvation won and there is Power in His Name!!!
 
                                                                                         Barbara Janis

God is Like

He is like a strong river that never runs dry,

and like the sweet rain that falls down from the sky.

As He daily refreshes my body and my soul,

so my testimony can be strong and bold….

Bright like the sun always lighting my way,

warm and embracing with each golden ray!

He tends to my soul with such deep loving care,

There is nowhere I go that He is not there…

There’s no pain that I suffer He hasn’t felt first,

No loss, or sorrow, no hunger or thirst.

He holds all my days, in the palm of His hand,

All My hurts and my sorrows He understands,

I will serve Him with all of my heart and soul,

For His love to me is more precious than gold…

Thank you Lord Jesus for loving me so,

For planting your seeds and helping them grow!!

Thank you one day I will see you in  glory!

Help me till then to share your sweet Gospel Story,

For by sharing your love with others I can plant salvations seed,

And assure others that For them Christ did intercede!

Then on the day when at last I’m called home,

Finally I will be able to worship before your throne!!

Thank you Lord for all you have done,

Especially for the gift of your precious Son!

 

By: Barbara Janis ♥️✝️♥️✝️♥️✝️♥️✝️♥️

The Presence Above All Presents!!

Christmas is over!  The presents have been unwrapped.  The mess around the tree, fallout from an explosion of celebration, has been cleaned up.  Maybe we’ve begun routine again, perhaps at a slower pace with another holiday, New Years, yet ahead.

 

Here’s a question for you:  Did you get what you wanted?  Did you receive that present long anticipated?  Maybe it was a car (don’t I wish!).  Perhaps it was that ring, filled with sentiment and symbolism, from your honey.  Maybe it was time with a person you really care about.  I received an invitation to a Christmas party where the invitation emphasized not to bring gifts.  The host stated she wanted the greatest gift of all:  my presence (go figure).

 

Yet God has given us the most important gift of all!  The most important present I received this Christmas was not something material.  It was the presence of my Lord and Savior, Jesus.  Christmas Day’s message in worship was summed up with these words of the Bible.  God’s greatest gift:  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as His children.”

 

When the time was just right, God sent His Son Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem, to be our Savior.  He was born of a woman, Mary, so that He could keep God’s law perfectly, to earn the right to stand with us in the punishment we deserve.  As the sinless Son, He then died under the law, not for any wrong He had done, but for those doomed to punishment.  The Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes becomes the Savior enveloped with the sins of humanity.  True to His name Jesus, He dies to save and set us free!  In Him we have life and a place in our heavenly Father’s family!

 

Let me ask another question:  What do Aristotle, Babe Ruth, Gerald Ford, Steve Jobs, Faith Hill, Edgar Allan Poe, Nelson Mandela, Nancy Reagan, Shania Twain, and Simone Biles all have in common?  I’ll bet you’re thinking it’s something to do with writing, politics, sports or country music.  But it’s none of these.  These famous people were all adopted as children.

 

Because of God’s greatest gift, we have that in common as well.  Some children wait many years to be adopted and some parents wait many years to adopt.  The long anticipated Savior, God’s greatest gift, came in His time, when it was just right.  Even He was adopted by an earthly father, Joseph.  The reality of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection means that in our time, even as we enter the new year 2022, we have God’s presence in the person of His Son.  We have been adopted as God’s own because of Jesus!

 

This New Year will bring joys as well as challenges.  But whatever the year holds for us, God’s greatest gift, His presence, will make 2022 blessed.  His promise is fulfilled and sure in Jesus:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).  So that we can together do the work of sharing the gift:  “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching, and surely I am with you always,” Jesus says (Matthew 28:19ff).  Share the presence and live a blessed 2022 in Jesus, God’s greatest gift!  He is the presence above all presents!

Maranatha, “Come Lord Jesus!”

As the Church of Christ, we find ourselves positioned between two great victories.  Behind us is the victory of our Lord who died upon the cross and was raised again.  That moment of human history spelled the end of the power of sin and death.  Now we await the second victory, the final liberation of the world from sin, evil and death at the re-appearing of our Savior when He comes again at the end of the age.  We are in a period of waiting and expectation, with the promise that the One for whom we wait will not disappoint us.

 

However, Jesus warns us that the interim period would not be easy.  As the day of salvation approaches, he warns, there will be greater conflicts and outpouring of evil among people and natural disasters in the earth.  These are the signs that should alert us to the fact that we live in a world that is in need of redemption.  Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

 

Look up!  Raise your heads!  That runs counter to the advice of the world and our own natural instincts.  When things start flying all around us, as one Biblical scholar put it, the inclination is to duck, retreat, and keep your head down.  Instead Jesus calls us to stand up, raise our heads, and be out in front.  Why?  Because as things get worse, and the need for a Savior becomes more obvious, it becomes all the clearer to those who believe that God will act to save His people.  Simultaneously we stand to make bold witness that the Christ for whom we await brings redemption, salvation from all that threatens us.  To lift up our heads is an act of faith and witness to the promises of God that await us and which have been assured to us in the first victory of our Lord at the cross and the empty tomb.  In a year of covid struggle and isolation; with tragic hurricanes, wildfires, and erupting volcanos;  terroristic acts and random shootings; a country that’s politicized in all things, now is the time for us to strike a posture of courage and hope.  It’s not a time for us to take a low profile.  With the worship themes of these last Sundays in the church year past and our entering the time of Advent in the new church year we hear God’s call to renew our expectation and hope in the return of our Lord, and to stand up boldly to call the world to look to Him for salvation!  May we boldly share the forgiveness and strength that only Jesus can bring!

 

Maranatha!  “Come Lord Jesus!”  In His love, Pastor Craig

Thank God for Thanksgiving

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.  Psalm 116:12-14

 

Can you believe it?  Already there are commercials in the media pushing the world’s idea of Christmas!  Coupled with the news reports that if we don’t shop now for gifts, we may not find them when Christmas arrives!  It’s almost as if Thanksgiving and Advent run the risk of getting lost in our Christmas preparations.  Yet there’s Thanksgiving and Advent ahead to prepare us to celebrate our Savior’s birth.

 

With November how important it is for us to remember Thanksgiving.  It becomes the heart-set to the Advent and Christmas seasons to follow.  This morning I read Psalm 116 in my devotion.  The question raised by the psalmist gives us Thanksgiving pause:  “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?”

 

During gift purchasing for the celebration of Christmas, many of us will jokingly complain about how hard it is to buy a gift for the person who has everything.  The joking pun (especially by the fiscally minded like me) is to then say, “I will just give them the gift of myself.  With God, it’s not just a joking matter, but a serious challenge.  God does have everything!  Everything, including ourselves, is the work of His creative hands.  This puts us into a position of obligation.  We owe our lives and everything we have to God.  So, how do we respond to the psalmist’s question?  How do we express ourselves to the God who has given each of us life and eternal life in His Son, Jesus Christ?

 

Fortunately, we’re not left to guess.  The Bible tells us what God is looking for from us.  He is looking for nothing more than a sincere “thank you!”  God expects us to receive His generous gifts with a thankful heart.  That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.  How could we not be moved to gratitude when we think of the lengths to which God has gone to create us and then to redeem us in the death and resurrection of Jesus?  Our heavenly Father loves us so much He gives the gift of His Son!

 

God in His Word repeatedly proclaims that He expects our thanks be given to Him in worship!  After this time of covid and remote worship, maybe it’s too easy to brush off in-person worship with the comment, “I can worship God anywhere, at home or even on the golf course.”  Well, no, the psalmist says, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.”  As I count my blessings this Thanksgiving, high on the list is to be back worshiping in person with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we gather to worship, whether during the time of Thanksgiving at our Thanksgiving Eve Service at 7 p.m. on the 24th or during Advent  with in person devotions at 7 on December 1, 8 and 15 or on Christmas Eve (5 and 8 p.m.) or Christmas Day (11 a.m.) or any Sunday, it is with the purpose of thanking and praising God, giving to Him the only thing which He really asks in return for His generous blessings:  the grateful worship offered to Him in faith and love.

 

May our worship in November/December swell with the hearts and voices of God’s thankful people who take time each week to thank God for all His goodness to us!   Love in Him, Pastor Craig