Attitude Adjustment – 3 Loneliness

Attitude Adjustment: Loneliness Looms

Jeremiah 16:1-4, 8-9

5.3.2020

Series Intro <ILL: We can all need an attitude adjustment> 

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:5 It is hard to have the Christ’s attitude when we’re brooding. Today, we’re going to talk about loneliness. Loneliness can more than one component:

Physical <ILL: When no one else is around>

Emotional <ILL: Making big decisions> You can feel lonely if you’re not alone, but the inverse is also true. If you are alone for a long you may begin to feel lonely. We were made for relationships! <ILL: “It was NOT good for the man to be alone.”>

17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17 When do we need friends? “At all times.” When do we need close friends? “For a time of adversity.” This is a time of adversity! That is part of the reason why this isolation can be so tough–just when we need people MOST, we’re told that we need to stay away from others. This takes us to our text for today. We’re going to be looking at a section from Jeremiah who was told – not by governmental officials – but by God to stay away from others. And it was tough.

1 Then the word of the LORD came to me: “You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.” Jeremiah 16:1-2 Jeremiah is a prophet in southern Israel when everything is falling apart. The kings are wicked and weak. And Jeremiah is the only voice for righteousness to be found. In Jeremiah 16, God says to him: “You must remain alone. You cannot marry or have a family.” That sounds terrible.

There are some very famous people in the Bible who did not marry or have families.

  • Paul … (who suffered and died)
  • John the Baptist … (who suffered and died)
  • Jesus … (who suffered and died)

There is a pattern here? And the pattern turns out to be the same for Jeremiah.

For this is what the LORD says about the sons and daughters born in this land and about the women who are their mothers and the men who are their fathers: “They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like dung lying on the ground.” Jeremiah 16:3-4 I know this is a really hard section of Scripture, but look at the point! God is telling Jeremiah that a pandemic (far worse than COVID-19) is going to sweep across the land. So many people are going to die from this pandemic that they won’t even be buried. Horrible! Talk about hard! God is telling Jeremiah that he must remain alone … and lonely.

Do you have a hard and lonely life right now? How to Navigate Loneliness …

  1. You have to reach out. One of the things I love about Jeremiah is that he has a hard life of loneliness, but he doesn’t pretend to be pious. He tells God how he’s feeling.
  2. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.” Jeremiah 11:19
  3. 1 “You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before You. Yet I would speak with You about Your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” Jeremiah 12:1
  4. 18 Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” Jeremiah 15:18

Jeremiah has NO PROBLEM telling God how he really feels. I have talked to many people over the years who are lonely, but they don’t want to reach out:

  • To their friends if they’re single – “They are busy with their spouse and kids.”
  • To their kids if they’re widowed – “They have their own lives.”
  • To their church if they’re struggling <Domestic Violence as “intimate terrorism”: https://tinyurl.com/vqjlr8q > – “I’d be embarrassed for anyone to know.”

They think everyone is just too busy to be bothered with their loneliness. But we were made for relationships! It’s okay … it is essential … to reach out and ask for help! 

NB: Our pastoral counseling staff. The devil LOVES to isolate us and use loneliness to wear us down and defeat us! We cannot play his games.

If you know someone who is alone, don’t be afraid to reach out! <ILL: I love the stories of people helping each other.> Battling loneliness is everyone’s job! Let’s help each other!

  • Loneliness can bring blessings. This is hard, but like everything else, God can take something hard and turn it around into something incredibly helpful.

When Jeremiah is complaining to God about his situation, here’s how God responds:

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets?” Jeremiah 12:5 This sounds like tough talk from God to Jeremiah. “Stop whining! You’re weak!” But that’s not what’s going on. God is really using Jeremiah’s struggles and loneliness to make Jeremiah strong. Here’s why this is so important.

<ILL: When Ed fell into the icy water> Our experiences with loneliness may make us strong enough to help someone else who is lonely.

The apostle Paul says something really interesting about being single.

I wish that all of you were as I am.” 1 Corinthians 7:7 Now we might say, “No thank you, Paul! Your life is not the kind of life that I want. No way! But notice what he says in the second half of the verse.

“But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul has learned to look at his struggles as a path to helping others. And Paul did help others! He was single, but it gave him time to do incredible ministry and to bring the gospel to the whole known world.

What is God doing with your struggle? Remember, even if you’re feeling lonely, you’re not actually alone. God is with you. And at a time like this, we all need God’s strength. Read this with me…

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:7, 8 You have the strength of the Lord with you. You are not alone!

Maybe you are saying, that’s all well and good, but I don’t see what God is trying to do or how He’ll redeem my loneliness.  Or you are saying, I don’t have anyone I can reach out to … NOBODY!  What about me? I want to share something with you that might not seem obvious, but I promise, it IS powerful!

  • Practice Gratitude when you feel Lonely (and when you don’t)! The Bible is filled with exhortations to and expressions of gratitude to God.  I have shard this verse with you many times before from 1 Thessalonians …

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. In these short verses, God calls us to be joyful, prayerful and thankful. But what is amazing is that He not only invites us, He tells us (through the Apostle Paul) that Rejoicing, Prayer and Gratitude is His will for our lives!

         What does that mean? 

  1. Rejoicing, Praying and Giving Thanks are a choice. A choice we make in the face of real life. They are not automatic responses to life. In other words, we must decide to be joyful, prayerful or grateful.
  2. Each of these activities shift our focus … from ourselves to God. And when that happens, everything changes. 

Now I want to focus on just one of the three: Giving Thanks. I am convinced that one of the most powerful things you and I can do in the midst of hard times is practice gratitude. When we do, we think new thoughts. We have different ideas. Our whole perspective changes and we begin to see our lives the way God sees our lives.

If you are struggling because you can’t think of a single person to reach out to, STOP … and start thanking God for everything and everyone you can think of. God may put the perfect person on your mind to reach out to!

And if you are struggling with loneliness and you can’t see any way that God is working for a blessing in your life, STOP … and start giving thanks for everything you can think of!

<ILL: Costa Rica Mission Trip> My whole attitude changed! God wants to be our focus and when He is, our attitudes change.

One more thing … perhaps the most famous verse in Jeremiah is Jeremiah 29:11. God is speaking to people who are going through a VERY hard time. They are afraid and upset and they don’t see an end in sight. And through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, …

11 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 This simple verse is a reminder that even in hard times, we can trust, even give thanks, that God has a wonderful plan for us. This struggle, our loneliness, will not last forever. God’s plan for us is filled with goodness and hope! 

eNewsletter for 4-17-2020

Beloved Concordia Family,

There is no better time to SHINE than when it is really dark! Now is our time to SHINE! So many of you have been asking how you can help. Here are some very specific ways to use your gifts, talents, and resources to bless our community! 

  1. The San Antonio Food Bank needs non-perishable food items. If you go to the “Ways to SHINE!” page, you will see specific items that are needed most. However, the SA Food Bank has assured us that they will take any non-perishable food items.

We will be collecting those items on Sunday afternoon (4/19) from 3-5 PM and Monday morning (4/20) from 7-9 AM in the Concordia parking lot under the Tower Cross. Look for a pickup truck and smiling faces.

  1. There is an urgent and ongoing need for masks. “Threads of Love” ministry has already made more than a thousand masks! But they could sure use your help. If you’d like to help in this way, go to the “Ways to SHINE!”page and find the instructions and more information.
  1. The SAMMC Burn, Intensive Care Unit, has reached out to us for help. They need assistance in making garments for their patients. They are simple to make, but so urgently needed for the ongoing treatment of these severely burned individuals. Again, you can find instructions and more information here! “Ways to SHINE!”
  1. There is an urgent need for financial resources during this time. 100% of the funds contributed to the SHINE (COVID-19) Relief Fund will benefit agencies on the front lines of this fight, like the San Antonio Food Bank, Church Under the Bridge, Threads of Love, and others. If you would like to donate to this fund, go to the “Ways to SHINE!” page on Concordia’s website.

SPECIAL NOTE: We are also developing a relief fund for families in desperate need. More information will be coming soon. If you want to contribute to this fund, please send a note to Jesse Martinez (JesseM@Concordia.cc) or make that notation with your contribution.

There are ways we can all help. I’ll be listing additional ways we can SHINE very shortly. In the meantime, if you have ideas, send them to Ideas@Concordia.cc. We will not be able to do all the things suggested, but your thought may be something that will make a difference for many. There is no limit to what God can do through us!

Congregational Check-In (4/16-4/20) Please take a moment to follow this link to a short survey. The survey will help our pastoral staff assess how our congregation is doing overall. Please click here. At the end of the survey, you will be directed to our “Ways to SHINE” page on the Concordia Website.

Concordia Prayer Line If you would like to pray (in person) with one of our Prayer Partners, please call this number: 210-462-1129. If no one is available at the time you call, please leave a message, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Isolation Bible Study is a 30-minute Bible Study on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Noon. You can find it streaming online at Concordia.cc or on our Concordia Facebook page.

I love you, and I am praying for you!

We Remember, Jesus.

Maundy Thursday

Luke 22:14-20

4.9.2020

I want to begin with a verse… Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. Psalm 41:9 Has someone ever turned against you? 

<ILL: When Shadow feels betrayed!> That’s a silly example. Sometimes betrayals are a lot more serious and a LOT more painful!

  • Betrayal at work
  • Betrayal in relationships
  • Betrayal by your own body <ILL: Eric’s struggle>

In Psalm 41, the Psalmist speaks of a friend who has betrayed him. This had to be a close friend … so close that they “shared bread.” And this is important to notice.

NB: Table Fellowship in the Ancient World: Eating with someone wasn’t just a social activity, it was a sign of deep relational connection. To eat with someone meant they were your close/dear friend.

In fact, the Pharisees in Jesus’ day came up with 341 different rulings on theological questions and issues. Out of those, 229 – so 67% – had to do with whom you could and should not eat. To have someone who you trusted enough to dine with betray you was a HUGE deal! It would have been extremely painful on an emotional level.

That brings us to this night and setting for Jesus Last Supper.

14 When the hour came, Jesus and His apostles reclined at the table. 15 And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14-16 Jesus sits down with His disciples for a meal. But it’s not just any meal. It’s the Passover, which commemorates how God rescued the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Some of you may remember the story. God has been sending plagues against Egypt to try to get the leader of Egypt – Pharaoh – to release the Israelites from their slavery. But he won’t. And so, God prepares to send a final plague where the firstborn of everything and everyone in Egypt will die. But God wants to save His people from this plague. So He gives Moses these instructions for His people …

“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” Exodus 12:3, 6-8, 13 In the Passover, God provides salvation – from wickedness in Egypt and from God’s judgment. Now, fast-forward to the first Maundy Thursday … here is a man who’s name means “The Lord Saves” – Jesus – sitting with His disciples for a meal that is all about salvation. What He does with this meal is incredible.

19 Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19 Jesus takes the bread of the Passover … the unleavened bread from Exodus 12. In Deuteronomy 16, that bread is given a specific name.

3 …the bread of affliction… Deuteronomy 16:3 In Egypt, the Israelites were experiencing a lot of affliction/pain and suffering! But now Jesus says that this bread His body! Why? Look at Luke 22.

15 “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15 What was once bread connected to Israel’s suffering, Jesus says is now bread connected to His suffering. But He’s not finished …

20 In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20  Just in case the disciples missed what He was saying about the bread, He reinforces it when He takes the cup and says that His blood is “poured out.” There is a BIG difference between a person’s blood that is drawn and when their blood is poured out! <explain>

But Jesus still isn’t finished …

21 “But the hand of him who is going to betray Me is with Mine on the table.” Luke 22:21 Remember that verse from Psalm 41?

Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. Psalm 41:9 Jesus is saying, “That’s what’s happening to Me! One of you will betray Me! I’m going to suffer physically on a cross, but I’m also going to suffer emotionally because of you.”

<ILL: I sounds like a complaint, but it isn’t> Jesus is NOT complaining. He’s showing his disciples (and us) what salvation really looks like. That’s what this meal is all about!

So let’s focus, in preparation to take Communion together, on what our salvation is …

Salvation is physical. Christianity is different from so many other faiths because our God isn’t just “out there” somewhere. He comes to us in Jesus. And when Jesus wins our salvation, He does it physically! He dies physicallyHe rises bodily! This meal points us to that amazing reality. Jesus takes physical elements of bread and wine and He uses those to say, “I am with you, physically. I am saving you, physically!” That is what we call …

NB: The Real Presence We believe that in Holy Communion we are receiving the very body and blood of Jesus.  Martin Luther puts it this way …

“The Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and drink.” (Martin Luther, SC VI)

Jesus is really there with us EVERY time we take Communion!

This is so comforting during this crazy time! The crisis we are all facing is a physical one … a virus that attacks our bodies. The salvation Jesus won for us is NOT just spiritual, it is physical.  That reminds me, I want to take a moment to say, “Thank you.”

NB: Thanks to doctors, first responders, grocery store checkers, child care workers, and all those who are risking their health to help us and, sometimes, even save our lives! They’re helping us with our physical needs.  You are the hands and feet of Jesus and we are grateful!

Jesus understands the problems and struggles that come along with physical bodies. Think of this wonderful promise in Psalm 34 … 

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8 Our God sends His physical Son to be with us in our physical lives and we can now literally taste and see His love in this physical meal.

Salvation is relational. When Jesus says that one of His disciples will betray Him breaks my heart. When Jesus is about to carry the heaviest burden in the universe … the sin of the whole world, He needs his friends the most. It also breaks my heart for Judas … because he really has no idea what he’s doing. It also breaks my heart for all of us.  We all tend to do our own thing. All too often, “our own thing’ only leads us away from God.

The Bible is clear that, by nature, we’re enemies of God. We have broken our relationship with God and betrayed Him. And yet, God invites us to His table tonight. Why? Because God wants to restore our broken relationship with Him! Romans 5 says …

10 While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son. Romans 5:10

<ILL: Kids who rebel and parents who take them back> We always long to have the relationship restored. That’s what God longs for! He wants us back so badly He gave His son, Jesus to bring us back!

Salvation is eternal. We all know that when you eat, it won’t be long before you are hungry again. The salvation that Jesus gives us in this meal lasts forever!

16 “I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:16 Jesus doesn’t eat again. All He gets is some wine vinegar while He’s dying on the cross. This really is His last supper. But, Jesus says He will eat again. Where?

The Apostle John has a vision of heaven. And an angel says to him…

“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” Revelation 19:9 There is an eternal feast to come.

<ILL: Liturgical Song> Grace our table with Your presence, and give us a foretaste of the feast to come.  I always love to remember that when we share this meal that we are uniting with the whole Christian Church. But more than that, we are celebrating with the Church triumphant … those who have gone before us in faith. And we celebrate with the angels and the whole company of Heaven. 

            I love that in this meal we celebrate the salvation Jesus won for us with those who are separated from us, but united with us in faith through the Holy Spirit!  We are separated, but together.

            During a time like this, when we are separated from one another like never before, I love the fact that we are united by the same Holy Spirit. And so we are separated, but together!

Dear Friends, I invite you to join me as we prepare for this Holy Meal.

Palm Sunday 2020

Mark 11:1-10

3.5.2020

Today begins “Holy Week,” with a day we call, “Palm Sunday.” This marks the time when we begin our walk through the last week of Jesus’ life.

Have you ever had a week that didn’t turn out quite the way you expected it to?

<PICS: https://apple.news/A2fHhIKTsSXex7F-9rtj9WA> There are a lot of parents who understand this all to well. It feels like your plan/schedule is just going downhill. Holy Week, when it starts out, looks like the BEST week of Jesus’ life!

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” Mark 11:1-3 Mark 11 begins with Jesus planning a party … for Himself! One important part of the planning is the transportation! He asks His disciples to go get a colt.

<PICS: ConcordiaFest Pony Rides> But there’s something looming the background of this party. This isn’t just for fun. This party is to make a profound statement! There is a really powerful prophecy in the Book of Zechariah from around 520 BC…

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 It predicts that someone who is “victorious” will come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. But victorious over what?

Tyre has built herself a rampart and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold like the mud of the streets. But behold, the LORD will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire. Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid; Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish; Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded. The king shall perish from Gaza; Ashkelon shall be uninhabited; a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of PhilistiaThen I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them, for now I see with my own eyes. Zechariah 9:3-6, 8 After defeating all these enemies of God’s people, this king comes riding into Jerusalem in Zechariah 9:9. Understand: all the enemies of God’s people, Israel, are going to be destroyed. Their possessions will be plundered. Fire will devour cities. They will be wiped out. And … Jesus has called Uber and ordered a donkey.

The disciples went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, He sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11:4-10 Now everyone is ready for this This is a HUGE moment, but what amazes me is that EVERYONE is ready!  All the people are waiting! 

  • The people who have the colt are ready to go. All the disciples need to say is, “The Lord needs it,” and they’re ready to see Zechariah 9:9 fulfilled.
  • When the people in the streets see Jesus riding on the colt, they’re ready to go, too. They do two things…
    • Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Mark 9:8 This looks like a time when a guy named Judas Maccabeus overcame the Greeks.  <PIC: Jewish Coin with Palm Branches> Ancient Jewish coins had palm branches on them to commemorate this moment. They expect Jesus to be another Judas Maccabeus.
    • Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Mark 11:9 “Hosanna” – “Save us, now!” They were totally ready.

I am guessing, by Friday of this amazing week, there we many Jews who looked back and thought, “Wow! I never thought it would turn out this way!”

Even if the crowds didn’t see it coming, Jesus knew exactly what this party was leading up to. This party was to reveal to everyone who He really is! And just like the Jews on that first Palm Sunday, we need to know! Especially in the world we’re living in right now, we need to be saved! We need to be saved from…

  • Economic disaster
  • A deadly pandemic
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Others enemies and struggles NB: Sometimes hard times bring out the best in people, other times they bring out the worst. <ILL: Hoarding, burglary, familiarity>

Who Jesus Really Is … Let’s spend these last minutes and focus on who Jesus really is.

Jesus is majestic. Jesus is a king! He talks a lot His kingdom. Even as He begins his public ministry, Jesus says …

15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 Notice how we are supposed to respond to this king Jesus …

  • Repent: We don’t just do our own thing! That can be hard. <ILL: Shelter-in-Place orders are not obeyed!> We like it when God comforts us and points out problems in other people’s lives. But, when He points out problems in our lives … <ILL: Confession: Time of Silence…How long could that silence last for you?>
  • Believe: Believe not only that He has come to save us, but that He knows and always wants what’s best for us. <PIC: meme – Purity laws in Leviticus> Jesus is a King who cares deeply for His people.

Jesus is meek. What is Jesus riding in on? A donkey. This was always the plan! This great conqueror was never going to come riding in on a stallion. He was always going to ride a beast of burden. Because the great victory that King Jesus wins is tender victory.

When Matthew records this same story, he paraphrases the passage from Zechariah 9:9

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” Matthew 21:4-5 There are two words I want you to notice …

“Gentle” – praus This is the word that Jesus uses in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 …

Blessed are the meek (praus), for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

“Daughter” of Zion <ILL: Dads and daughters> That’s the way He will treat Israel and all of His people … with tenderness and gentleness!

But the people had a problem: they were more focused on who Jesus was going to conquer and how He would treat those people, they forgot about how Jesus had treated them.

  • He healed them
  • He fed them
  • He taught them
  • He loved them They lost track of all that. In Luke’s version of this same story, right after Jesus is done with His donkey ride… (Jesus wept over the people.)

41 As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42 They’re so busy trying to make war on others they miss the peace they desperately need for themselves. We must avoid getting so caught up in what we want God to do to other people that we forget all that He has done for us! We can rejoice that God is gentle with us rather than hoping He will be harsh with others.

Jesus is Messiah. Zechariah 9:9 is a Messianic prophecy. <explain> Jesus is coming to save His people. But not in the way they expect. This Hebrew prophecy is fascinating when you look carefully at the words.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

“Victorious” – means “Salvation” And the word is passive! This king will be righteous and will be “saved.” Why would He need to be saved? After all, isn’t He the Savior!

But fast forward from the “victory party” on Palm Sunday to Golgotha on Good Friday. All of a sudden, the “savior” needs to be saved from a horrible death on a cross. But no one is there to save Him. They only condemn Him. But because He was NOT saved, we can be! His week begins with a donkey and a party. It ends with a cross and a funeral.

This is the paradox of our faith: our salvation comes from someone who was condemned and wasn’t saved.  During this pandemic and all the things that go along with it, it can feel like are condemned.  But salvation is found in the places where it seems like there’s no salvation … like in the middle of a pandemic! Rejoice dear people, beloved daughters and sons of Zion, your King Jesus has come to save you! Rejoice!

Concordia and COVID-19

Dear Friends,

At Concordia, we take the health of our guests, members, students, faculty, and staff very seriously. We want this to be a safe and healthy place to worship and grow in faith. With the spread of COVID-19, popularly known as the coronavirus, dominating the headlines, I want to let you know what steps we are taking to keep everyone who comes onto our campus as safe as possible.

The best weapon against the spread of COVID-19 is prevention. We do our best to keep our campus clean and sanitized. Our janitorial staff wipes down highly trafficked surfaces in our church, school, and childcare on a regular basis. We also contract with a company that cleans surfaces quarterly across our campus with a specialized, long-lasting sterilization spray.

For individuals, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the following actions to guard against spreading this, or any, virus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Of course, if you become sick, or if someone in your family becomes sick, please stay home, get the rest you or they need to recover, and consult your physician if you have any questions or concerns about the illness.

Texas Health and Human Services emphasizes that the immediate risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low. We are thankful that we have had no reported incidents of anyone infected by the virus on our campus. However, should the risk of contracting this virus rise, please know that we are already working on contingency plans so we can continue offering the ministries you have come to expect from Concordia, even if access to our campus becomes limited. 

Sunday services will continue to be streamed and you will be able to access them from wherever you are. Beginning this weekend, as we have when health concerns have arisen in the past, please fist bump or elbow tap folks as you greet them in worship. In the unlikely event that we are not able to physically gather on our campus for worship, you will still be able to join a service via our livestream. You will also be able to give online at Concordia.cc just by clicking on the “Give” tab at the top of our homepage. Our school administration is developing plans to offer online lessons and assignments should a large portion – or, perhaps, even all – of our student population need to stay home. You will receive detailed information on how to access and make use of such resources if the need arises.

As we plan, I want to remind you to pray. Because of COVID-19, families have lost loved ones, financial markets have reacted, and a fair amount of fear is in the air. But we trust in a Savior who is able to heal “every disease and sickness” (Matthew 4:23). Please join me in praying that the spread of COVID-19 will be stemmed and that people who have been affected will be healed and receive all the help they need. 

Thank you for being a part of this great family of faith!

God bless you,

Bill Tucker, Senior Pastor

What is God’s Will for My Life?

Happy New Year!  I hope that your 2019 will be great.  Of course, there will be some struggle points, but overall, I hope you will be healthy, happy and well.  Above all, I hope that you will grow in your relationship with Jesus.  To that end, and toward a happier and healthier 2019, I want to share a significant section of Scripture.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thes. 5:16-18 (NLT)

These three things are critical to our life and well-being … and our faith!

“Be joyful!”  We don’t always feel like being joyful, but we always have that choice.  Choose joy instead of wallowing in the saddest things and dwelling on the frightening things.  But how can we do that?  I think these verses point us toward two key issues:

“Never stop praying.”  Take all the painful, frightening, difficult, joy-stealing thinks in your world and lift them to God in prayer.  Through prayer, give them to the only One who has the power to solve the BIG problems in life.  Also, …

“Be thankful in all circumstances”because gratitude is powerful.  So powerful, that once we have turned the hard stuff over to God, gratitude makes us feel good about our life and circumstances because we remember the things for which we are grateful! It changes our whole perspective!

However, what amazes me most about these three, short verses is the part that I underlined above. “…this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  Many of us spend a lot of time and emotional effort trying to figure out what God’s will is for our lives.  What if it isn’t that hard?  What if all the decisions about relationships, schools, jobs, where we live, and all the rest of life are not God’s priority for us.  After all, He can bless us in all those choices.

God’s priority IS us.  He sent Jesus to re-connect us to Himself.  He wants a relationship with us.  The real issue is our attitude and awareness. A relationship where there is trust (prayer) and appreciation (gratitude) is a healthy one. That is EXACTLY what God wants to have with us.  So, the way I think about it is, if I am praying and grateful, I will see God’s blessings in my life, and that will result in praise.  And when we are praising God, we are in the center of His will for us.

Bethel, Alaska – Friday, 6-22

Thursday, June 21, 2018

img_1656.jpegSummer Solstice!  The longest day of the year is here.  And when you are in Bethel, AK, that means sunrise is 5:13 AM and sunset is at 12:23 AM (tomorrow) and it simply will NOT get dark … ever!  It really is interesting (and disorienting).  Talking to the local folks, they get very tired of the constant light.  They work hard to “black out” their homes to get a break. And they bask in the more normal sunlight when they are “down states.”

IMG_9174.JPGIt reminds me of the struggle that many of us face when we have cloudy days stretched together and we long to have the sunlight return.  And, of course, there is Seasonal Affect Disorder which afflicts folks when there isn’t enough sunlight (which I am sure is a big deal here in Alaska when they have constant darkness.) and can cause deep depression.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Wow!  There is blue sky showing!  It is the first we’ve seen since we arrived in Bethel.  Thank you, Lord!

IMG_1639-1We accomplished a HUGE amount of work yesterday.  In fact, the director of the seminary (and the man who assigns and coordinates the work) stopped by our devotions a few minutes ago and admitted that he is struggling to figure out what to have us do for the rest of the time AND what he’ll have for the teams that follow us do during the rest of the summer.  However, I am confident that he will find more to do. The needs are everywhere.

IMG_3108.jpegIt was also interesting to be here for the longest day of the year.  In fact, several of us took pictures at midnight last night.  The outdoors we as light as the middle afternoon. There were people outside flying a kite and a boy was riding his bike!  This picture is through a solar screen.  I’ll get better pictures tonight.

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Well, it is off to work. Thank you for your prayers.  If you don’t mind, please join us in praying for the chance to have more interactions with the community in the days ahead.

IMG_1639-1.jpegHappy Friday … afternoon!

 

 

Bethel, Alaska – Wednesday 6-20

Wednesday, 6-20-2018

IMG_1568.jpegWe began on Monday with our travel to Anchorage, Alaska.  We started early and it was a LONG day!  However, we made it to Anchorage by 5 PM local time and we had hours and hours of daylight left!  In fact, since it really doesn’t get dark here during the summer, we had endless hours of daylight.  Unfortunately, our energy level didn’t measure up to the daylight hours.  We were all exhausted and in bed by 8:30 PM.

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On Tuesday morning, before we made the flight to Bethel where we would work for the week, we had a “fun day.”  The day began with a trip to a wildlife preserve.  It was truly amazing!  We saw Moose, Cariboo, Wolves, Muskox, Fox, a Brown Bear and a Black Bear, and a Baldheaded Eagle, among other things.  This was a wonderful way to start our time in Alaska.  But it was only the beginning.

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After we left the wildlife preserve, we made a short trip to Wittier, Alaska where we took a boat tour called “Glacier Quest.”  It, too, was phenomenal.  We saw incredible wildlife in Prince William Sound, but the most amazing parts were the blue glaciers.  They were absolutely beautiful and we had the privilege of watching one of the glaciers “calve” several times.

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This morning (Wednesday, 6-20) we, again, started VERY early and made the 1.25-hour flight to Bethel Alaska. Everything went smoothly and we began our work here in earnest.  We are staying on the campus of Alaska Bible Seminary.  It is a seminary of the Moravian Church that trains indigenous people for ministry.  There is so much work to be done, and we will do our best to complete as much as possible.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  Everyone is healthy and well.  This is a GREAT team of people and I’ll look forward to reporting to you again tomorrow about our progress.

God bless you!

Confirmation Day 2018

2018Confirmation.jpgWhat an amazing group of young people!  They truly disciples and followers of Jesus.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for them in the day, months, years and decades ahead.  Each and every one is God’s masterpiece, created and re-created with a beautiful plan and future in mind!  They are going to change their world and make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8–10

 Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Eph 2:8–10.

Server: Jesus

This past weekend, during the message we were talking about the importance of serving. It is Jesus purpose in life, and it is ours, as well. One of the points we talked about was the fact that when we serve, we not only care for the person involved, but we are also serving Jesus. In Matthew 25, Jesus puts it this way, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40IMG_1157

Later in the afternoon, one of our members sent me a message. He and his family had gone to church after the service. When they got the check for their meal, they realized just how real Jesus’ words are.

The simple acts of service we do every day reach all the way up to heaven just like heaven reached down to us through the ministry of God’s Son. When we love and serve people, it reaches all the way to Jesus. Remembering this can help us stay focused on our words, actions, and attitude when we might, otherwise, be tempted to be less-than-kind. Whenever we are called to serve someone, and we find it difficult, just remind yourself, “I’m serving Jesus!” If you see Jesus behind the person, you will look differently at that person. You will look at them with more respect and more love.

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men … Colossians 3:23a