Freedom is never Free

 

 

 

I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July weekend!  Certainly our celebrations were masked and social distanced, yet a small price to pay so that we can be together and share our love for each other!  What freedom we have in our great nation, freedom we often take for granted.  We exercised that freedom as we gathered today inside the sanctuary at Holy Faith for the first time since Covid-19.  It was a small group, yet what joy to worship as God’s Word and our consciences dictate and to do so in person! 

 

It is always important for us to remember – freedom is never free.  In a Lutheran Hour Ministries devotion I read this morning, the message was clear.  Just consider the cost paid by the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Few were long to survive.  Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died.  Twelve had their homes sacked and looted, occupied by the enemy, or burned.  Two of them lost their sons in the Army; one had two sons captured.  Nine of the 56 died in the War from its hardship or bullets.  They had learned that freedom is so much more important than security.  They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their honor for liberty.  They paid the price and freedom was born.

 

The price to maintain freedom during our brief 244 years of independence has been  high.  During the Civil War, as the course of freedom would find greatest challenge in America, 360,222 northern lives would be lost, 40,000 of them African American soldiers.  The sacrifice for racial equality continues even today. When Fascism threatened freedom, 405,000 American men and women would give their lives (and so many more lives in the racial cleansing that a deranged Hitler and his henchmen would bring upon the world).  These are merely the lowlights!  The price of freedom is truly beyond our comprehension!

 

You know where I’m going with this.  We not only need safety from the conflicts and evil of our world, we need freedom from the conflict that is within.  Paul in Romans 7, as he looks at his failed attempts to live as God would have him live, concludes, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will save me…”   Jesus does!  What a sacrificial Savior we have!  He paid for our freedom, not only for now but eternally, with His very life.  Entering our sinful mess, He lived the perfect life.  Taking our wrongs upon Himself, He dies the death we deserve.  The price is paid and then the gift is given:  freedom from guilt as we receive through faith complete forgiveness,  freedom from anxiety as we have our Risen Savior with us always, freedom from fear that would hold back our sharing Him.  Yes, He paid the price so that we receive His grace freely given.  Jesus words in John 8 are true for us:  “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!”  Share the grace!  Pastor Craig

The Lord has Done Great Things for Us

Psalm 126 has brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart!  It is a Psalm of Ascents.  God’s people would pray/sing these words as they walked “up” to the temple in Jerusalem to worship.  No matter the direction from which one comes, the walk is always upward to the highest point in Israel, Jerusalem and the temple.  The words of the psalm flows from thankful hearts of those returned from exile in Babylon.  We are marching with God’s blessing to worship together again in our temple.  Yes, still a dream, but God has done great things for us and He is moving us ever forward with joy!  May this video psalm fill us with hope!  Love in Jesus, Pastor Craig

 

The Lesson of the Cardinal

What a beautiful day!  Spring has sprung!  Closed in our homes, how we wish that we would all be sprung from our confinement!  As spring has us filled with excitement for the summer to come, what we hear happening in states all around has us expectant to be out-and-about, gathering again.

 

This COVID season has been tragic and seemingly without end; yet God has been good and with His presence has blessed each of us.  An important lesson I will take beyond this season is patience.  Take a deep breath, breathe in His love and forgiveness so that with clear heart and mind the fullness of each moment can be appreciated as God’s gift.  Our gracious God is at work in all things and in His time he brings about all things needful.  He has taken care of our salvation in the sending of His Son!  He is already at work to move us forward to life together again.

 

With the gift of patience and with plenty of time together at home, Fumiko and I have been blessed with each other.  We have spent our time at the dining room table, each facing our laptops.  Sure, we both have had lots to do.  What a joy, though, to do it together!  We have enjoyed cooking meals, each doing a part so that it comes together into a delicious whole.  Perhaps a Sunday tradition for the Lutz’s moving forward.  Even household chores aren’t so awful when they’re done as a team!

 

It has been the lesson of the cardinals for us.  No, I’m not talking about the St. Louis Cardinals (though I DO miss baseball).  Just outside the dining room window is our bird feeder.   We have especially been visited by a pair of cardinals.  A beautiful reflection of God’s creative power, they have become special to us.  Fumiko calls them “her” cardinals.  Whenever the feeder is empty the male comes and sings his song to let us know.  As soon as it’s filled, the pair is there feeding each other.  It almost looks as if they’re kissing!  With a little research we came to find out that cardinals select a mate for life.  They work together to build their nest, the male bringing the material while the female puts it together.  Especially during this period the male will bring her food and actually feed her.  Yes, God even has a plan to bless the cardinals with each other.

 

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mt. 6:  “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?…  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”  Our heavenly Father has given us Jesus!  Our lives are eternally secure in Him.  He has blessed us with relationship:  our spouse, family and friends.  And we have one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, to love and encourage each other in our task of walking with Jesus.  Our Father has a plan for us to worship and hug and share in person again!  Know the Savior and my love.  He has given us Jesus and each other.  Pastor Craig

Be Kind

I wanted to share a mass email that struck me with insight.  It goes like this…

 

“As governors are trying to figure out how to ease back in to a new normal, please remember:

 

🛑 Some people don’t agree with the state opening…. that’s okay. Be kind.

🏡 Some people are still planning to stay home…. that’s okay. Be kind.

🦠 Some are still scared of getting the virus and a second wave happening….that’s okay. Be kind.

💰 Some are sighing with relief to go back to work knowing they may not lose their business or their

                homes….that’s okay. Be kind.

👩⚕Some are thankful they can finally have a surgery they have put off….that’s okay. Be kind.

📝 Some will be able to attend interviews after weeks without a job….that’s okay. Be kind.

😷 Some will wear masks for weeks….that’s okay. Be kind.

💅 Some people will rush out to get the hair or nails done…. that’s okay. Be kind.

❤ The point is, everyone has different viewpoints/feelings and that’s okay. Be kind.

We each have a different story. If you need to stay home, stay home. But be kind.

If you need to go out, just respect others when in public and be kind!

 

Don’t judge fellow humans because you’re not in their story. We all are in different mental states than we were months ago. So remember, be kind.”

 

We believers in Jesus have special empowerment to “be kind!”  Galatians 5:23-25 says:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Let the Spirit bear fruit through us as we lead the way in being kind.  We walk with the Risen Savior who is kindness in the flesh!  You are loved by Him and me!  Pastor Craig

A Poem by Jon Boschen

 

 

“There are those of us who live by “Faith”

and those of us who live because of our Faith!

A destiny that has been altered by the Cross

The Expectation the Cross brings,

allowing us to live a full life

One full of anticipation of a promised destination.

I am a survivor because of that Promise 

Fulfilled by Grace

A Grace that emanated from that cross,

Radiating his love through survival

For the deep sense of hope and promise it brings

YES, to us the survivors

 due to the sacrifice given…..

For us on that Cross”. J. A Boschen 4-19-20

How’s the Lord Messing with You?

            Greetings everyone!  I pray that all of you are well!  We in the Lutz household are doing fine, only by God’s grace.  You have heard it many times before and here it is again:  How’s the Lord Messing with You?  How is he getting your attention with His undeserved love?

 

            He is, you know!  In the midst of this COVID containment, He’s making Himself seen more now than ever.  He sure got my attention yesterday.  I was dropping something off at the rear of the church when I heard someone up front.  The door was open and there was a young lady, Janet.  She wanted to drop some wonderful foods she had purchased for the pantry.  I had an uplifting chat with her as she shared her story.  She was a nurse, giving care in the frontlines of the COVID battle.  She wanted to do more, though.  Helping the food pantry was her extra sacrifice to bless others.  It turns out that we had helped her during a difficult time by helping her with an electric bill.  Having been blessed through that challenge in her life, she wanted to bless others in this COVID challenge.  Wow, “thank you Lord for opening the eyes of my heart to see how You will bring us through and use each of us to make it happen!”

 

            I was reminded of a passage in God’s Word:  “Keep on loving each other as brothers (and sisters).  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”  (Heb. 13:1-2).  Such was the case for Abraham and Sarah, visited by angels in human form to bring word of hope, a son for them in their inability to have a child (Gen. 18)  In Jesus that son has become a blessing to all nations, especially us.  He has blessed us with forgiveness and forever life through what He has done on a cross and through an empty tomb!

            While God has used actual angels in human form to bring His message of grace, He also uses humans in angelic function to bring hope and blessing.  He used Janet to bring me a message of hope.  He’s using each of us as we reach out to others with our risen Jesus as our motivation.  He makes us those folks doing the work of angels!

 

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters!  Pastor Craig

 

A Living Hope

  

 

 

        Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  In Him we have living hope!  God’s Word through Peter says:  “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”  1 Peter 1:3-4

 

          Two young brothers attended their first funeral.  At the cemetery they watched fascinated as the coffin was lowered into the ground.  One by one the relatives came by to throw a handful of dirt into the grave.  The boys watched it all!  When the funeral was over and they were riding home, the teaching/learning moment happened!  One of the boys wondered, “Is that what happens when you die; they put you in a hole in the ground?”  His dad, focused on driving, replied, “Well, that’s what we see, but…”  Before he could finish his thought the other brother chimed in, “Yeah, that’s what happens.  But don’t worry, Jesus is strong enough to get you out of that hole.”  Dad had a great opportunity to share as they drove the rest of the way home.

          You heard Peter!  Words coming from the mouth of the denier, yet a new heir in Christ’s forgiveness with a new birth, a fresh start:  “He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus!”  It’s a certainty that we will never perish.  Our trust is in Jesus Christ, who has defeated the power of the grave through His death and resurrection.  As Jesus has taken care of death, He will provide all things needful all along the way, especially now!

          Let Peter’s words provide comfort!  With death and challenge all around, if we feel fear and anxiety, especially in the death of a loved one, know today that sure and certain hope.  As it will never perish, spoil or fade, neither will we.  The risen Jesus will always get us out of the hole.

 

Keep trusting in Jesus, PC

A Morning Message

       Good morning, brothers and sisters in Jesus!  As God’s grace is new to us every morning, I pray that we will see His loving hand blessing and working good despite the challenging circumstances!  I start the morning with a Lenten devotional called “On the Way of the Cross” by Thomas Oden and Joel Elowsky (it’s published by InterVarsity Press if interested in purchasing).  It’s a daily devotion that uses quotes from the early church fathers, strong men of faith empowered by the Lord to fight against false teaching, maintain the Gospel’s purity, and proclaim it boldly in a pagan world!
 
       In this morning’s devotion the father quoted was St. Basil of Caesarea, also known as Basil the Great.  This was not the Caesarea familiar to most:  the port city in Palestine on the shores of the Mediteranean.  It is best known for the work of an evil, worldly one called great, Herod.  On our tour of Israel we had opportunity to see the amphitheater and fresh water swimming pool (remember Jesus Christ Superstar as Herod sings “C’mon Jesus, walk across my swimming pool”) that Herod, the great builder, constructed.  Of course, everything Herod built was to human glory!  In his Caesarea, Herod’s great edifices were built to the glory of Caesar Augustus (only so that Augustus would recognize Herod’s glory).
 
       Basil’s Caesarea was in a different place and his greatness radically different from Herod’s.  He lived in Caesarea of Cappadocia, a region located in what is today central Turkey.  Born in 330 to pious and well-to-do parents, he would receive the best education which he then used in service to Jesus.  He was a great theologian, effectively confronting the heresy of his day:  Arianism.  While a great theologian, though, he is known as “great” because of his great love for humankind and his action to help others in Jesus’ name.  Basil donated land to the church and on this land he placed soup kitchens, medical care centers for the traveler, hospitals for the community, hospices for the dying and so on.  The area so flourished with compassionate care in Jesus’ name that it became known as the “Second City” of Caesarea.  Yet this second city of Caesarea, while still bearing the name of Caesar, was built to the glory of God for the good of His people!
 
       It was inspiring to read of this man, living in difficult times, who did small things with great love, actions that became great by and to the glory of God.  My difficult circumstances pale in comparison to life in Basil’s day.  But Jesus walks with us and brings to our lives so much blessing.  He gives us so many gifts that we can use for Him.  The appeal for cards to our Bethesda friends is a wonderful opportunity for us, the sewing of masks to cover and extend the usefulness of N95 masks, helping out at Crossroads Food Pantry, making a delivery for Backpack Bites, phone calls or Facetime or Facebook to the elderly, to our neighbor, to a friend all seem like insignificant tasks.  But done with Jesus’ great love to the glory of our Father, He makes great their blessing!  Keep your faith eyes open for Jesus’ blessing today.  And allow him to make you part of that blessing in some way to someone!
 
       Start your day with a prayer by St. Basil the Great:  O Lord, the helper of the helpless, the hope of those who are past hope, the Savior of the tempest-tossed, the harbor of the voyagers, the physician of the sick; You know each soul and our prayer, each home and its need; become to each one of us what we most dearly require, receiving us all into Your kingdom, making us children of light; and pour on us Your peace and love, O Lord our God.  Amen.
 
Love in Jesus, Pastor Craig

We Are the Church!

Greetings church in exile!  After all, that’s what we are right now.  At least in part, we know what the children of Israel experienced as they lived in far-away Assyria and Babylonia.  They were forced to live apart from their beloved temple in Jerusalem.  They weren’t able to worship the Lord as they had since the time of Solomon.  No more sacrifice.  How isolated and individual the worship they carried out in their houses.  How empty life felt without the uplift of worship together in the house of God!

 

So for us.  It wasn’t enemy armies that carried us away.  Instead a virus has forced us to physically distance ourselves from the church.  Yes, the service has been canceled this Sunday.  It is necessary for us to protect each other by separating ourselves from those of like faith.  As the Israelites had no idea when (or if) they would ever return and rebuild the temple, so we have no clue when we will be free to go and worship as the family of Holy Faith. We are left to worship at home in any form we can around the Word of God.

 

Yet God was always with His people.  He called them to repentance, to turn from themselves, and to rely upon Him!  Throughout their time apart from the temple, God spoke words of hope and promise through His prophets.  Lent is a great time to read those words.  Listen to Joel:  “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13).  Yes, He was the Israelite’s God in exile and He’s our gracious God, abounding in steadfast love for each of us!  Or my favorite from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).  God’s plan would return Israel to their homes and their temple.  Through them He would bring forward  the Savior Jesus, who is God’s loving plan for us.

 

Even as we are away from the church building, we are the church.  Peter, whose name means “rock,” is the one who said that as we come through faith to Jesus the “Lliving Stone”, we become Living Stones, built into a spiritual house…”  While apart from the church building, we are the church.  While we cannot worship in the church building, Jesus is there uniting us as one even in physical separation.  Reach out in God’s love to each other in any way you can.  And be open to God’s love as it comes to you from others.  Jesus loves you and so do I!  Pastor Craig

Peace in the Storm

Greetings, everyone, in the peace of our Lord Jesus.  He is the captain of our ship and working His love in our world.  This morning for my devotion I focused on Luke 8:22-25.  If you have a Bible handy (it’s a good book to keep close at all times, especially now) why not take a moment and read it… 

 

Experienced fishermen, with their sea legs under them, quaking in their sandals with fear.  They had encountered storms before, but not like this one!  And what made things even worse, their Master Jesus is asleep in the stern.  Doesn’t He care?  We know the answer.  Of course He does!  Jesus’ Words, His promise of presence and power, are not empty.  They are His loving action for us.  Jesus words come to life as He commands the wind and the waves, “Quiet, be still!.”  From life-threatening tempest to a sea like glass.

 

We are in another tempest of sorts.  Covid 19 is frightening.  Feeling alone, shut into the safety of our homes doesn’t necessarily lift our spirits.  But we are not alone in the storm.  Jesus is NOT asleep!  His Word, perhaps sitting in our laps right now, is not empty and powerless.  It is filled with the forgiveness, power and peace that Jesus is working for us right now.  As Jesus bid the disciples to trust in Him, so He calls upon us to know that He is at work for us right now.  And He will use us to do those small acts with great love – sharing what we have, encouraging someone who’s down, making a shopping run for the elderly – that is part of His turning the tempest of this storm.  Know Christ’s peace this morning as we move forward in faith, trusting in Him, making those decisions that keep our loved ones safe while doing what we can as we walk with Jesus.

 

In His peace and power, Pastor Craig