Wednesday, December 25, 2013

T'was the Night

 T'was the Night

T'was the night of first Christmas, and deep in the stall
The cattle were lowing, sweet sounds from them all.
Far away in the fields, the shepherds they saw
A heavenly host with a message of awe.
They ran to see Christ, a baby so dear;
Then off they did go to tell all who would hear!
This marvelous telling continues today,
So listen to what the angels did say.
God has been born our sins to away,
Will you receive this message today?

An original poem by John  & Kitty Rickert (Christmas Eve 2013)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Watchers and Witnesses"

Daily Devos 

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Pastor Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin!  Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM). 

"Watchers and Witnesses"
November 30, 2013
birdhouse, greeneryO God, from my youth You have taught me, and I still proclaim Your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come. Psalm 71:17-18
If ministers see people at their best, lawyers see them at their worst, and doctors see them as they really are. Then television reporters see them at their most tragic.

That's the way it was for a TV crew in Alabama. They were on the scene when a despondent, drunken, unemployed man set himself on fire. They were there because he had called them to let them know his intentions. It wasn't a false alarm because the fearful man did exactly as he had promised.

That was when the TV people had to decide what their roles would be. As newsmen, their job was to record the incident as impassive and disinterested observers. At the same time, they also felt they should be caring human beings and help the man by putting out the fire.

The TV camera recorded that these men remained newsmen for some 37 seconds. That was how long they taped this burning man. That is how long they did nothing to save him. Then after more than half a minute, one of the men decided to change his role and began to battle the flames.

By then it was nearly too late. Fortunately, a volunteer fireman arrived, and he extinguished the flames.

The world is filled with people who, like these newsmen, decide it's not their job to help a neighbor in distress. Truly the world is filled with spectators. Sadly, there is more than one follower of the Savior who can watch starvation, disease, pain, murder, and all of the other world's ills on the news while calmly eating supper.

Somewhere along the line, these hearts have become hardened and immune to the tragedies of the world. Somewhere along the line, they convinced themselves that caring wasn't their job or responsibility.

Thankfully, the Lord didn't become a disinterested observer to the plight of sinful humanity. No one could have criticized Him if He had stayed in His role as Judge and sent all of us to hell. Most certainly that was His right. But we are saved because, in spite of our sin, the Lord continued to care.

He cared enough to get involved.

He cared enough to send His Son into the world to be born in a Bethlehem stable and die on a Jerusalem cross. He cared enough to send His Son to take our place under the Law and offer forgiveness, salvation and eternal life to an entire world.

The wonderful truth that God still cares gives us an example that encourages us to do what we can to help those around us who are hurting. That's because the Lord would have all who have been helped by the Savior, share His love with others who also need that help.

That's because more than just being our Savior, the Lord wants to be their Savior, too.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, this sinful world has produced so much suffering that it is easy to be convinced we can make no impact or difference. As Your saved children, grant us the grace to do what we can to help. This I ask in the Name of the risen Redeemer who has done all to help and save me. Amen.
Pastor KlausIn Christ I remain His servant and yours,

Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"An Apology and Retraction"

Daily Devos 

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Pastor Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin!  Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM). 

"An Apology and Retraction"
November 28, 2013
fall tea cupIf we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. 1 John 1:9-10
One-hundred and fifty years ago, the fall of 1863, was a busy time for President Lincoln. In October he became the first president to decree a day be set aside for National Thanksgiving. The following month, on November 19, Abraham Lincoln stood up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and delivered a speech which lasted a bit more than two minutes.

On this American Thanksgiving Day, I pray you will forgive me if this devotion concentrates on the second of those two events.

Weighing the president's words by the pound, they were a poor and undeveloped thing, especially when they are compared to the oration of that day's featured presenter, Senator Edward Everett of Massachusetts. He droned on for more than two hours.

According to the Chicago Times, Lincoln's words were less than outstanding. It reported, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the president of the United States."

Another newspaper, the Patriot News, (back then called the Patriot & Union,) out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, wasn't much more complimentary. Suggesting the speech was motivated purely by party politics, it described Lincoln's message as having been nothing more than "silly remarks" and "shortsighted."

Now you and I know that history has been far kinder to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address than those papers. Indeed, those 272 words are considered to be among the most beautiful, profound and insightful presentations ever written in the English language. Today I am pleased to tell you the Patriot News agrees. Two weeks ago they published an apology and retraction for their critical editorial, which had been penned a century and a half ago.

Now it occurs to me that if a hard-boiled East Coast newspaper believes it's never too late to repent of an error, Christians ought to feel the same.

Unfortunately, repentance over past transgressions is something which is often left undone, and if it isdone, it shows up pretty low on our list of priorities ... sort of like ... thanksgiving.

I imagine that is because we Christians rejoice in the fact that Jesus has done all which was necessary to save us. Washed of our sins by His precious blood we are able to stand before the judgment seat of God without blemish. In other words, if we're forgiven already, why do we have to repent?

A few good reasons can be given. First, because the Lord said we should. If there were no other motive given, that would be enough. Second, because the Lord likes to know we are conscious of the wrong we have done and the right the Savior has accomplished. Third, because all of us need to acknowledge our sins lest we become overly comfortable with who we are.

So, if you haven't done so in a while, why not take some time to repent of those old sins and, as long as you're at it, include the new ones as well.

An apology and a retraction, and a whole lot of thanksgiving to our God of grace -- that's a fine recipe for Thanksgiving.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, my sins are many, which is why I give thanks for Your grace which is boundless. For all You and my Savior have done, I give thanks. Amen.
Pastor KlausIn Christ I remain His servant and yours,

Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Favorite Holiday

Daily Devos 

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Pastor Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin!  Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM). 

"The Favorite Holiday"
November 27, 2013
Christmas tree, nighttime(Jesus said) "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them. Mark 10:15-16
A few weeks ago I shared a Daily Devotion that asked, "How low can a person go?" It is a topic you probably will see again in the future. This week the scale is balanced with a new category: "How good can we get?"

The story centers on Port Clinton, Ohio. Port Clinton, situated on Lake Erie somewhere between Toledo and Cincinnati, has about 6,000 residents: 6,000 very special residents. They are special because they have special hearts. At least they had special hearts for 13-year-old Devin Kohlman.

To understand Port Clinton you need to know a bit about Devin. Devin loved playing sports, but that stopped in the summer of 2012 when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Devin, his family, and his doctors fought that cancer, but it was a losing battle.

When the doctors said, "He doesn't have long," the family brought Devin home for his last days. At the time Devin said he hoped he might be around to celebrate one more Christmas with his family. Christmas, you see, was Devin's favorite holiday.

Devin's physicians said, "That's not going to happen. His time is numbered in days, not weeks." All I can say is this, those doctors knew Devin's physical condition, but they didn't know the hearts of the folks in Port Clinton.

And this, my friends, is where it gets good. Even though it was late at night, when Devin came home, the folks of Port Clinton showed their support by standing along the route of his police escort. Then they put up and decorated a Christmas tree outside of Devin's window; then they brought in mountains of "snow" out of shaved ice and put it in his yard; then hundreds of them sang Christmas carols outside his home; then Santa Claus showed up on a Harley; then Devin's friends came to visit him. (Each was given a teddy bear from the gazillion teddy bears which had been sent to him.)

How good can we get? The folks of Port Clinton have set the bar pretty high in helping a boy with cancer celebrate his favorite holiday: his Savior's birth.

Well, the folks of Port Clinton, the doctors, Devin's parents all did their best. Sadly, their best wasn't good enough to keep him around until the calendar turned December 25. Devin died a few weeks ago. And, for many folks, that means this beautiful story has a sad ending.

Don't you believe it. Don't you believe it for a second. You see, when the doctors and the parents and the beautiful folks of Port Clinton had done all they could ... Jesus picked up. When death entered Devin's room, the Lord of life was there and took that boy home. And this year, while we try to celebrate Christmas, Devin will be with the Christ.

And that never-ending celebration of the Savior will be his favorite holiday of all.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, may we who know and celebrate Your love and sacrifice show it to others whenever we can and in whatever way we can. In Your Name. Amen.
Pastor KlausIn Christ I remain His servant and yours,

Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries


Posted under the LWML link on the home page are:
  • The November edition of Carolinas Cross Connection
  • Mite Marathon information - includes Thanksgiving Day & interesting ways to give to LWML for their great mite missions (like measuring your waistline and giving per inch, etc.) - check it out!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Worship Notes for Thanksgiving and Advent 1

Tuesday after Christ the King Sunday (Last Sunday of the Church Year)
November 26, 2013

The Lord be with you

Well the busy half of the Church Year is upon us. For the next month we will have worship services on at least two days each week, beginning with this week. After Epiphany (January 6) there will be a lull until Ash Wednesday, which is March 5th year.
This week we will have a Thanksgiving service on Wednesday (the eve of our national Thanksgiving Day holiday). The service will begin at 7:00 and choir will have their practice following the service. This will be a communion service. The liturgy is specially designed, using hymns instead of many of our familiar liturgical pieces. The readings are Deuteronomy 8:1-10, Philippians 4:6-20 and Luke 17:11-19. The sermon text is Luke 17:16 and the sermon is titled “Remember to Thank God.” The LC-MS synopsis of the lessons reads:

We Praise God for Sustaining Life in and through His Word
The nation resounds with thanksgiving for the earth’s bountiful harvest, crops of wheat and grains, all beneath the canopy of God’s almighty care. But “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:3). The Church is the vessel through which the Word of God penetrates the world with its Law and Gospel. It is this divine Word that proclaims Jesus as the sole source of life, health and wholeness. It is Jesus who heals lepers with His Word, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14). Of the 10 cleansed, only one expresses thanksgiving to Jesus. But true gratitude proceeds from a heart sustained by faith. Jesus bids this one Samaritan to “rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” So also, we are sent from the Divine Service, bolstered in our faith by baptismal and Eucharist blessing to be thankful in our circumstances of plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Phil. 4:6–20).

Aside from the hymns that are part of the liturgy, we will be singing “Now Thank We All Our God” (LSB 895), “Great is Thy Faithfulness” (LSB 809) and “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing” (LSB 643. We also have some distribution hymns that we can sing, but we will see if we sing them.

Below is a video of an Acapella arrangement of the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It is rather clever. The same fellow sings all the parts. He even directs himself.

This coming Sunday (December 1) will be the First Sunday of Advent. For our liturgy we will be using Matins (page 219). Our hymns will be “The Advent of Our King” (LSB 331), “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding” (LSB 345) and “Hark the Glad Sound” (LSB 349). The scripture lessons will be Isaiah 2:1–5, Romans 13:8–14 and Matthew 24:36–44. The LC-MS synopsis of the lessons reads:

The Lord Comes in Meekness and Humility to Save Us Now
The Lord Jesus enters Jerusalem “humble, and mounted on a donkey,” riding on “a beast of burden” (Matt. 21:5), as He Himself bears the sins of the world in His body. Now He comes by the ministry of the Gospel to save us from sin, death, the devil and hell. Therefore, we sing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9). For we are called “to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob,” His holy Church, “that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Is. 2:3). By His Word, we “walk in the light of the Lord (Is. 2:5). That is to live in love, which “does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). We “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” for “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11, 12). Hence, the entire Christian life is a time to wake and watch, “for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42).

Below is the LutheranWarbler singing “Hark the Glad Sound,” which we will sing Sunday. Unlike most of her recordings, she is not playing the piano. Instead she is accompanied by a violinist.

In the Sunday morning Bible study we have just begun Colossians. This past Sunday we finished verse 2. At this pace it is a good thing the book only has 95 verses!

The proposed budget for 2014 should be in everyone’s mailboxes this coming Sunday.

Well, I pray we will see you each Wednesday and Sunday throughout the holiday season.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Disaster Relief

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Because of you, your prayers and your gifts during the past 18 months, LCMS Disaster Response was equipped to support relief and human-care efforts following Superstorm Sandy; the Newtown school shooting and Boston marathon bombing; the Oklahoma tornados and explosion in West, Texas; and more recently the devastating wildfires and flash floods that struck Colorado. Thank you.

But I am writing today with an urgent appeal for your continued help!

Especially in light of the current situation in the central Philippines, there is still more work ahead. Our plan to help with typhoon-recovery work there will be on top of efforts to support LCMS congregations and districts with ongoing recovery and rebuilding efforts in their communities following a series of U.S. disasters. Our own congregations and districts are also looking to LCMS Disaster Response for critical financial assistance.

The amount of available LCMS disaster-relief funds is rapidly being drawn down to the point where we will soon have to make painful choices about the level of support we can offer to those who are asking for our help.

Our partner church in the Philippines is pleading for immediate and mid-range disaster-relief help as I write this. But we also continue to receive formal requests for long-term recovery assistance from affected areas here in the United States and abroad. This is because of our commitment to be in it “for the long haul” well after other relief and government agencies have moved on to the next disaster.

Here is a sample of the requests that will hit our remaining disaster reserves
  • Philippines typhoon — $100,000 (committed), with estimates of future
    assistance of $150,000 or more
  • Colorado fires and floods — $390,000 (pending and/or estimated)
  • Oklahoma tornados — $340,000 (committed), plus $100,000 (pending)
  • Sandy recovery — $190,000 (committed), $750,000 (pending)
  • Long-term hurricane/tornado recovery — $45,000 (committed)
West, Texas, explosion — $25,000 (committed)

Altogether, the committed relief or recovery grants above total $700,000. The pending or estimated grants total $1,390,000. Just in this brief list, affected congregations, districts and partner churches are looking to LCMS Disaster Response for $2,090,000 in additional relief and recovery help during the coming months.

These requests will completely exhaust our available disaster funds and eliminate our ability to offer immediate assistance during the next unforeseen catastrophic event.

This situation may not bother some, but what if it was your congregation or district that needed our help? What if your community was, God forbid, hit by fires, floods, explosions or a life-threatening and property-damaging storm? LCMS Disaster Response wants to be in a strong position to help.

For this reason, I appeal to you to boldly step forward in faith with a gift of $50, $100, $500 or more as the Lord has blessed to help those who are looking to LCMS Disaster Response as they recover from events that have wreaked havoc on so many lives.

But there is still one more request. The months of November and December are when the LCMS receives nearly 50 percent of its total gifts for regular annual operations — things like non-disaster evangelism and other human-care work, congregation services, and Armed Forces ministry. We have been diligently working to get Synod’s financial house in order, including halting internal borrowing to meet ongoing expenses. One year ago, Superstorm Sandy taught us that a generous year-end response to a disaster can unintentionally hurt other important components of our Synod’s work. As the Lord has blessed and because this is a critical time of the year, please prayerfully consider giving to disaster response over and above what you intend to give at year-end to support the Synod’s ongoing, regular mission and ministry, rather than in lieu of it.

You can help our Synod be in the position of never having to say “no” because the funds aren’t there — for disasters as well as our ongoing regular work to share the Gospel. Your best gift sent today can and will make a difference in the life of someone recovering from a recent disaster, and a second gift to the Global Mission Fund of the Synod is equally treasured by those who hear the Gospel through our Synod’s work. Thank you for giving prayerful consideration to my request and for the faith in God that you demonstrate whenever you make a donation to the LCMS.

Sincerely In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod

Gifts are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law