Encouragement!

This video is of a young girl competing in a swim meet. This is a great girl and a great family who are members at Concordia! Congratulations, Tessa!

The problem is, Tessa has no competitors for this event. She has to swim the entire race by herself. She was very nervous to swim, by herself, in front of all those people.

Here’s what her mom had to say …

This video is something that all of us will always remember, especially Tessa!! Of all the swimmers at the South Texas Championship meet, there were only two 8 year olds that qualified to swim at the meet, one of them being Tessa. One of the Finals Tessa (in the aqua suit/blue swim cap) made was in the 200 meter Individual Medley. The way it happened to work for this event was that Tessa had to swim the B Final all by herself! She was nervous to swim an event all by herself in front of all the crowd up in the stands at the University of Texas pool. Coach Jen was so nice in giving Tessa a pep talk and sitting with Tessa behind the block before the race. When Tessa started her race, we were all so amazed at the super supportive crowd! All the Wave families there stood up for her and the whole crowd cheered for her–it was especially neat when you see on the video Tessa doing the Breaststroke portion, how the crowd is cheering her on/yelling “Go!” with each stroke. I wish the video was more zoomed out, so you could see that also on the swim deck Sophia, Harold, all the Wave caoches (thank you Coach Jen, Coach Shawn & Coach Courtney) and opposing team coaches including the Nitro swim coaches and Quad A coaches were cheering for her/waving their arms so Tessa would see them as she swam, along with the Meet Officials cheering for her!! Tessa dropped 9 seconds! After Tessa’s swim, a Meet Official gave Tessa a goodie bag! Yes, we will ALWAYS remember that swim!!

Watch what happens …

As I was watching this video, I found myself with a tear in my eyes.  The love and care for this young swimmer was palpable.  All of those people, even though they were mostly strangers to Tessa, were putting themselves in her place and were taking the time and making the effort to cheer her on.

Remember, they were there with other competitors in other races.  They could have sat quietly and let the little girl “do her thing.”  But they didn’t.  They cheered!

Have you noticed that there seems to be a LOT of judgment and criticism within the Christian Church?  I couldn’t help but think: If we, the Church, could figure out how to be more like those swim fans and cheer for one another (instead of criticizing and condemning and picking each other apart), how amazing would that be!

Something has to change!  

But what?  My suggestion is that it begins with me (and you) – each of us making the choice, moment by moment and day by day, to live out what we believe. Jesus said, “By this all men will know the you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 8:31) When Jesus lives in us, when we have been blessed by God with the gift of faith, our hearts and minds and lives are supposed to change!

That change is observable, perhaps more than in anything else, in the way we love one another. When you love someone, it changes the way you interact with them. You want to build them up instead of tearing them down.

Make that choice today. I’ll do the same.  Let’s encourage the people around us!   Let’s show the world know who we REALLY are!

The Holy Spirit … in OKC

This was originally posted by Julie Tucker, our team leader in OKC this week …

Timothy joined us for VBS after seeing us when he was out for a bike ride on Monday, with about 15 minutes left! He has joined us since then and has been the first one here every day!
Today, he leaned over to one of our awesome youth leaders and said, “I am going to stop cussing, I don’t think it’s right.”  
Thank you Jesus for the work You are doing in this community!
This is Tim leading prayers!

#thatissoJesus #megamission2016 #J2e3 #concordiasashiningbrightlyinOKC

MegaMission to OKC!

IMG_4897They’re off!

High School students, College students, and Adults… 103 of the most amazing people in the world are heading off to Moore, OK this morning to serve the people there and share the love of Jesus.  I’ll be keeping you updated here with pictures and stories all week long.

In the meantime, please lift them up in prayer for safe travel.  While you are at it, ask God to keep them safe all week long and allow this week to be life-changing in the most positive way possible.  Bless the servants and those served in just the way He has planned.

May God use each of them to be a blessing to the people they serve.  At the very same time, join me in praying that God will fill each member of the team with His blessings and love beyond anything they could ever imagine!

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

My Confession (and prayer request)

Confession
I was strongly convicted this morning regarding Philippians 2:12-18 …

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Particularly with regard to “complaining and arguing,” I am not looking forward to serving as a delegate. I expect the convention to be boring at times, contentious much of the time, and generally not “my-cup-of-tea.” I volunteered to serve because I thought it would be important to be there. As I prepare and consider some of the resolutions and read some of the divisive and ugly things appearing online, I am even more convinced that it is important to be there. Nonetheless, I have been grumbling and complaining and NOT looking forward to being there.

Then God pulled out His 2×4 and got my attention …

In view of the incredible, painful, frightening and burdensome sacrifices that Christians are making around the world to share Jesus and proclaim the Gospel, my minuscule sacrifice of serving as a convention delegate (no matter how boring, contentious, or unpleasant it may be) is no sacrifice at all! I am ashamed and repentant.

I will engage as joyfully and faithfully as possible. I will also seek to allow Christ-in-me to SHINE! Please pray for me and all the delegates, those leading, the convention (in general), and the outcome. May God use this convention to move the LCMS away from contention and fighting to faithfulness and focus on reaching the lost!

Click here for a reminder and blessing.

The WORD for Today is Romans 13

girl tree climbing

girl tree climbing

The WORD for Today is Romans 13.

Reading through Romans 13, you might be tempted to think that Paul “getting it wrong” when we come to verse 11. “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” Romans 13:11b.  Surely Paul didn’t really think that the world was coming to an end in his lifetime.

However, I think we might be missing his point. This world and our lives are passing away. Our time is short. We are certainly closer to the end of our days today than we were yesterday. For some, today IS the day of our salvation!

No matter what else we understand, if we don’t realize that this world (and our lives) are temporary, we will “get it wrong.”I remember a song by a Christian artist named Rich Mullins called, “Live Right.”

Live like you’ll die tomorrow
Die knowing you’ll live forever,
Love like you’ll leave tomorrow
Believing love lasts forever.

Those words have stuck with me. They seem to echo the encouragement of Paul in Romans 13 (and a LOT of other places in Scripture). Live right! When we understand the true nature of our world and and time and our place in both, we can begin to awaken from the slumber that leads to conformity with the world.  You and I, through faith in Jesus Christ, are different and we ought to live that way!

Realize this: The things you do and say … even your attitude … matters! You and I have a chance to live in such a way that other come to know the “LOVE that lasts forever.” Let’s not waste time on the old ways. Let’s “put on the armor of light” and clothe ourselves in the grace, forgiveness, and love of Christ.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit bearing fruit in us, let’s live right!

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans‬ ‭13:11-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/rom.13.11-14.niv

Song: Live Right by Rich Mullins.

The WORD for Today is Romans 12

Perfect

The WORD for Today is Romans 12.

Romans 12 is another wonderful chapter of Scripture with all kinds of practical guidance for our lives. But every bit of that wisdom for living finds its fulcrum in these first two verses.  Our reason, the result, even a perspective from the long view is all stated in verses 1 and 2.

The chapter begins with “Therefore” and points us back to chapter 11 and Paul’s global perspective on God’s plan to show mercy on us all. Chapter 11 concludes with a doxology that praises the wisdom and knowledge of God who has established a plan of grace and mercy that is beyond our understanding. “Therefore,” the only appropriate response from those of us who are the recipients of God’s lavish mercy, is something utterly amazing.

Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, calls us to offer ourselves as sacrifices. Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of “a sacrifice” offered to a deity, I think of being killed and placed on an altar. (And in fact, we do share (through faith) in the sacrifice and death of Jesus on the cross.) But this is different.  Paul is not calling for a sacrifice in death.  He is pointing us toward a “living sacrifices.” We are called, in response to God’s mercy and in view of His majesty, to offer the actual, daily living of our lives to God in service to and worship of Him.

What a contrast!  The call of this world (and our sinful flesh) is to offer our lives in worship of ourselves (or whatever vice controls us). It is a waste of who we are and a sacrifice totally unworthy of our potential and calling. That is the “pattern of this world” and Paul invites us to break that pattern and forge a new way.  A new way that is guided by the Holy Spirit and pleasing to God.

Notice the last line of verse 2. Then we will know, test, and approve the will of God as good and pleasing, even perfect. From that point on chapter 12 outlines what a “living sacrifice” life looks like. Read on the the rest of chapter 12 and apply it to your thoughts, attitudes and actions … in view of God’s mercy. 🙂

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/rom.12.1-2.niv

The WORD for Today is Romans 10

shame

The WORD for Today is Romans 10.

SHAME …

It fills our lives. What we are. What we are not. What we have done. What we have not done.  What we have thought. Where we have been. The list could go on, but the point is that there are many focal points for our SHAME in our lives. We are covered in it.

That is a direct consequence of the “fall.” When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and their eyes were opened to recognize “good” and “evil” the first emotion they experienced SHAME. It is a consequence and a curse … just like sin and sickness and death.  It plagues us and tortures us and holds us in it’s steely grasp.  It makes us feel bad (and worse).

That’s the beauty of Romans 10.  SHAME has had its way with us for long enough.  The message of Romans 10 is that SHAME’s reign in our lives is OVER! “Anyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 That means that no matter what we may think, hear or feel about ourselves, through faith in Jesus, we will NEVER be put to shame!  Shame, like sin and sickness and death, have been utterly defeated by Jesus.

GRACE

That is the power that covers every part of our lives today. And FORGIVENESS … and HOPE … and RECONCILIATION … and PEACE … all fill our lives and our future because we are covered in GRACE! And because our lives are covered in GRACE (and because there is no end to the GRACE available to us from God) we have the ability to to share GRACE with others … and show GRACE to others … and speak with GRACE to each other. And when we do …

You’ll probably begin to notice that people think you have beautiful feet (you’ll probably have to read Romans 10 to understand)!

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans‬ ‭10:9-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/rom.10.9-13.niv