Midweek Stewardship Thought

God Changes Hearts
The account of Zacchaeus found in Luke 19 makes it obvious that he lived for himself and his money. He was wealthy and sought to become wealthier. All that changed with Zacchaeus’ first encounter with Jesus when he responded to Jesus’ call to follow Him. Because of his conversion, Zacchaeus’ perspective on his material possessions changed. His money and possessions were no longer the center of his attention. Now his thoughts centered on pleasing God instead of himself, and his new devotion and love for Jesus prompted him to give generously.

Prayer: Father, I confess that I don’t always love You with my whole heart and soul and mind. I rest in Your mercy shown to me by Your Son the cross. Lord, as You changed Zacchaeus’ heart change my heart. Please grant me a heart that wants to share freely and generously with those in need. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Life and Death

I now know what my life was like prior to the Internet as I have spent the last 7 days at Cape May NJ at a location that promised Internet access but that wasn’t really the case. Life goes on very well!

Anyway, we’re now in Philadelphia for a couple of days of sightseeing and our hotel allows me to get online once again. Maybe being shut down with my computer wasn’t such a bad thing.

During our stay at the Jersey shore, we took a trip on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to Delaware. One of the most striking sites to me in Lewes, DE was St. Peter Episcopal Church. It’s the first church established in Delaware (dating back to the 1600’s) and what caught my eye was the fact that the area surrounding the church also serves as the cemetery for the congregation. What an image of death surrounding life! We hear the Gospel in church but as you enter and leave our mortality is a constant reminder. Not a bad way to view our relationship with God–the life of Christ is our key to life here. Plus you have the whole host of saints offering encouragement as you enter and leave the house of God. That’s good news! May that message offer you some comfort as it does to me.

Samson and Marriage

Concordia Publishing House has done all of us a great favor by providing the Treasury of Daily Prayer. I would encourage you to purchase a copy for your personal devotions as well as devotions with your family.

In the readings for today, Samson’s Marriage is highlighted (you can read it here). One thing struck me–Samson was very head-strong and his parents were powerless to stop him from making a rash choice. Kind of sounds like what many families experience today.

My suggestion to parents is to begin praying for your children before they are even conceived that the Lord would allow you to be strong in your parenting and that your children would listen first to God and then to you. Too many times we make decisions based upon what we see, feel, or imagine for ourselves rather than upon the life experiences of those who have wisdom and upon our heavenly Father who promises to never lead us in wrong directions.

May your home go in the ways of the Lord always!

Anxiety

With the playing of Major League Baseball’s All Star tonight, I came across the following article by Doug Glanville which speaks to the issue of athletes and anxiety.

The notable thing missing, from my perspective, in the article is any mention of the help our heavenly Father provides us in dealing with anxious moments. Did He not tell us to “Cast all our cares upon him, because he cares for you”?

I pray you are able to turn to the Lord always, but especially when anxiety comes.

Christian Etiquette

The following is something I came across that I believe deserves a wide audience and discussion. What do you think?

Some Thoughts on Christian Etiquette, by Pr. Mark H. Hein

Church Etiquette? What is that all about? Aren’t there more important things our church and our pastor should be doing than promoting etiquette? Well, you decide for yourself how important and relevant is the information provided in this series. As you will see, what we are talking about is more than just etiquette far more!

Part 1 – The Importance of Etiquette

Church Etiquette? What is that all about? Aren’t there more important things we should be talking about, promoting, encouraging and urging other than etiquette? Well, you decide for yourself how important and relevant is the information provided in this series. As you will see, what we are talking about is more than just etiquette – far more!

In the dictionary, “Etiquette” is defined as,

“the rules and conventions governing correct or polite behavior in society in general or in a particular social or professional group or situation.”

If you look at a thesaurus, other words for etiquette are: good manners, protocol, custom, propriety and decorum. I think that we would agree that all of these things are important in our life – in our society, at home and yes, at church. When you think about it, etiquette separates us from the barbaric, the boisterous, the crude, the rude, and the uncivilized.

Sadly though, etiquette in all its forms is disappearing and, in some cases, is glaringly absent. What is the reason for its decline? Of no surprise, it is sin. That is the real culprit here. What is sin? It is unlawfulness. It is the act of transgressing. Sin is going against the will of God. It is going directly against He who is holy and righteous, He who would have us do all things with order and propriety, showing due reverence and respect.

If anyone doubts that the one true triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the God of order, all you have to do is look at all that He has created. Look at the orderliness of our universe, solar system and planet. Look at all life here on earth. Look at the crown of creation, namely mankind and the human body. Everything screams “order” and “orderliness.”

An even better way to see the orderliness of our God is to look to His Holy Word. In addition to the inherent orderliness of what He created, look at the orderly way in which God created all things. Furthermore, look at the orderly way He commanded His people to live and to worship – all for their benefit and blessing. This includes the orderliness of our relationship with Him and our relationship to one another. Look at the structure He has established for the home, for society and yes, for the church, – the leaders and authorities He has set over us – all for our good.

It is no surprise that with the demise of etiquette has also come the erosion of order in our homes, churches and land. With the demise of etiquette has also come the absence of respect and honor for those in authority over us, beginning in the home and moving to the church and out into society. This includes the lack of respect for parents, pastors, teachers, policemen, employers… and let’s face it… a lack of respect in some cases for anyone and everyone.

As was just mentioned, it all begins in the home. What begins in the home? Really everything and that is the way God planned it. The way He designed, ordered and arranged it. It is where worship of the Lord begins. It is where teaching about the Lord and His ways begin. It is where learning about the world begins. And yes, it is where TRAINING and DISCIPLINE begin – namely, IN THE HOME. These things begin in the home and should continue in the home.

Put quite bluntly, the reason there is little etiquette being exhibited in the home, in our church and out in the world today is because, by and large, IT IS NOT BEING TAUGHT AT HOME!!!!! Yes, thanks be to God, there are many wonderful parents – fathers and mothers – who are taking the time to properly teach their children, to “train them up” in the way of the Lord and in that which is good and right. This includes teaching them proper manners… proper etiquette. But sadly, there are many, many more so-called “fathers” and “mothers” who are not teaching, who are not training. They are not doing it at all… or…. they are not doing it consistently or properly. They are referred to as “so-called fathers and mothers” because, by and large, they are a father or a mother in name only. Conceiving a child is the easy part. That makes you a biological father or mother – nothing more. Raising a child, taking the time, energy and effort to consistently TRAIN a child, DISCIPLINE a child is the hard part. And this is what separates real parents from play parents, plastic parents.

In the past, there use to be a wonderful “handing down” of our Christian faith, our Lutheran heritage and traditions, of proper ways, rules and orderliness from one generation to another. You taught your children as you were taught by your parents as they were taught by their parents and so on and so forth. Sadly, this process has been interrupted and we now have multiple generations who do not know what is right, what is good and proper. Can the situation be reversed? Of course it can. People of all ages and in every stage of life can be reminded or taught for the first time what is proper Christian etiquette. Teaching is not the hard part. It is a person’s desire to learn and their willingness to change certain behavioral patterns. If the desire and willingness are there, the information provided in this series will go a long way toward assisting men and women, teenagers and children in making positive improvements in their own lives, in their own home, church and society.

We pray – O Lord, we give you thanks that Your Son our Savior, Christ Jesus, is our Good Shepherd. We rejoice that in His precious blood poured out for us on the cross at Calvary there is forgiveness for all the times we have gone astray, each to our own way. Indeed, hear our confession and forgive us for transgressing Your holy will. Forgive us for all that we have done, said and thought that is not loving, proper or in good order. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to change our ways that we may ever, always, faithfully follow our Good Shepherd in the paths of righteousness. May all that we do and say be pleasing in Your sight and to Your glory. This we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

In Christ,
The Rev. Mark H. Hein
Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
Lockport, Illinois

Generation Debt

Now this ought to grab your attention especially if you have kids or grandkids in the “Generation X or Y” categories.

The following comes from the Summer 2009 edition of Thrivent Magazine:

Credit Cards

Generation Debt

Members of Generations X (born 1968 to 1979) and Y (1980 to 1988) feel more knowledgeable about working an iPod (40%) than filing taxes (26%), finds a recent survey from the American Savings Education Council and AARP. While 96% described themselves as hardworking, only 57% were financially independent and just 7% felt very financially secure. More than 60% of 19- to 39-year-olds had credit card debt. A growing stack of research reveals that this debt pushes young adults into risky financial territory, often before they turn 21.

A Statistical Portrait of Generation Debt

  • 1 in 3 – Number of young adults owing more than $10,000 on credit cards.
  • Less than half – Young adults who pay more than the minimum on their monthly bills.
  • 20 – Percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who are in debt hardship (debt payments eat up at least 40% of income).
  • 25- to 34-year-olds – Age group with the second-highest bankruptcy rate in the U.S., just behind 35- to 44-year-olds.
  • 1 in 4 – Number of young people who have paid at least one late fee.
  • 81 – Percentage of all adults who feel uncomfortable discussing credit card debt.

Are you talking with your children or grandchildren about being good stewards of God’s gifts?

Looking for Life Without God’s Help

I am trying to cautious here with what I say–too many times we speak about changing things within the church or reaching out to our communities or … well, you can add your own thought here … but when we do so, we neglect to speak about this in terms of God’s work or His doing. Maybe most authors are thinking about this but they don’t mention that whatever we accomplish in God’s church here on earth is done by the Spirit of God. It sounds to me too often that what is done is because of our efforts, our work.

Here is an example of what I mean: http://www.alban.org/conversation.aspx?id=8160

The authors have very good intentions but nowhere do they mention that we simply are called to “sow the seed” and God will bring home the harvest.

That’s something that frustrates me about the formerly titled “Revitalization Process” (now called “Transforming Churches Network”) of the LC-MS. I believe this work is important and necessary as it raises stagnant congregations from lethargy to begin seeing themselves as mission outposts in their communities. But much of what I have been given to study neglects the awe-inspiring work of the Lord through His Holy Spirit. Again, maybe it is just assumed that this is God’s work, but from what I am reading there seems to be an emphasis upon the work of man as being the reason for change within the church.

A church can be truly innovative, on the so-called “cutting edge”, fully committed to the task the Lord has given them, but it still remains God’s work to bring in the harvest. We are to proclaim the message but there are times when our best efforts will not bring forth the desired results and we’re at a lost to explain since “we’ve done everything we’re supposed to”. The Lord has His ways and His will. We need to trust in Him for any answers and have confidence that He will use us well.

I feel much better knowing God is using me to further His kingdom rather than me doing it all by myself.