Storms of Life

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Ever feel like you are overwhelmed and there is no stopping the onslaught of the storms of life?  Whether it’s a financial, health, relationship or mental struggles we’ve all endured them.

In the desert we long for the Monsoon storms to bring us some needed moisture to the parched valley.  But with that comes some destruction: High winds causing damage; Hail that breaks windows, damages roofs and our personal property; water that comes so quickly that we have flooded roads, houses and properties.  It seems we’ll take the destruction for the much needed water but when it comes to our personal lives we whine.

When things don’t go our way we complain.  When God tries to draw us closer through some adversity we turn the other way and go away from God.  The challenges that should draw us closer to HIM push us away because we think we know better and have an easy fix for what is ailing us.  Vicar Bence really hit it home yesterday when he said, “let God be God”.  We aren’t all knowing and all powerful like God is but yet we want to tell God how we want things to be.  Just like God asked Job where he was when God created the world we too can be asked the same question.  He is God and we are not.

Dive into the book of Job and see how God provides!  Read these words from Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Survive the storms of life trusting in God’s promises.  Find that comfort he provides in all times of life.
Take a deep breath.  Go to God in prayer.  Trust he will hear you.
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Encouraged

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I spent the last week with 2000 WELS teens and chaperones at the WELS National Youth Rally at Bowling Green State University.  The theme of the rally was “Never Alone” and the teens were reminded that they are never alone throughout their life because God is there.  The keynote speakers, devotion leaders, breakout groups all contained and emphasized God’s word.  The most encouraging part of the rally for me is the evening discussions we had with our group.and

Let me set the stage for you.  The schedule is such that the kids wake up at 7:00 get breakfast and be at worship by 9 in the morning.  The morning is filled with God’s word through devotion, keynote speakers and then we break for lunch.  We are off to our individual breakout groups which again have God’s word at the center of the discussion.  Some free time then supper, then the evenings activities and finally at 10:45 pm we gather in our group.  It’s our closing devotion for the evening with just our group.

Our first two nights we just had the boys with me and the girls with the female chaperone and the discussions were awesome in both.  The final night we gathered together as our whole group.  We read some passages and discussed how they impact their lives as a teenager in 2018 and beyond.  I was so encouraged and impressed with the discussion with the teens!   Their comments cemented why I feel it’s important for teens-especially teens outside the Midwest from Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas to attend the rally.  The teens commented that it was amazing to worship with 2000 people, especially teens, that believe what they believe! Not just that Jesus is their Savior, but the other teens have been taught what our teens were taught.  They aren’t the only ones that believe that way.  Sure there are adults who believe and attend church with the teens but now it’s a great recognition that there are others who are “weird” like them, that actually believe Jesus lived a perfect life, died an innocent death and rose from the dead.  How cool is that?!

Well, my teenage friends it is so cool!  Thanks for the opportunity to once again take more away from the rally than I was expecting!  Blessings on the opportunity for growth in those teens!

God provides

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Our annual summer VBS kicked off today under the theme “Babylon: Daniels Courage in Captivity”.  The struggle with running a VBS during the day is finding volunteers willing to work with 30-50 kids for three hours.  The past few years we’ve hooked up with Wisconsin Lutheran High School and using some of their students to help us with VBS.  The students get to travel to Arizona in the middle of summer and serve or volunteer their time.  We house them and feed them along with providing some entertainment throughout the week.  We’ve also used WELS Kingdom Workers to provide some added help to the volunteer work force.

This year we left out of the choices for volunteers at Wisconsin Lutheran High School and didn’t apply for a Kingdom Worker team.  We even asked some local pastors if they had any extra teens that needed service hours, but no one was available.  That left me with recruiting and recruiting our own able bodies and teens.  Thankfully our people have stepped up to the challenge and volunteered their services!  The teens have been fantastic working with the kids and other adult volunteers.  God is definitely an amazing, loving, creator and provider.  We are definitely blessed by him and his love for us.

When you’re in charge of VBS you do a lot of praying about your volunteers showing up; kids being safe; plans working out and you have no major catastrophes.  This is a huge thank you to my Deer Valley family for volunteering their time, donating important items we need, financially supporting our VBS and praying that it goes well.  You can’t imagine the relief one feels “when a plan comes together” and it works.

Thank you God for providing a group of gifting volunteers to work and serve in glorying you!

Not alone

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This week I am at the AZ/CA District Convention in Scottsdale.  All of the Pastors, male teachers, male staff ministers and a delegate from every congregation are encouraged to attend the convention.  We gather together to be encouraged, edified and educated by great keynote speakers, papers, reports and worship.  Our wives and families are encouraged to come to enjoy the fellowship and worship aspect of all of gathered together.

Representatives of the different ministries we maintain are here to share what’s new and challenges facing us in the future.  Pastor Jim Huebner, the WELS 1st Vice President, was here sharing how things are in the WELS.  Our lay representative to the Synodical Council, Steve Hanson, is here reporting on the workings of the SC.  Pastor Uhlhorn has shared what the World Missions are up to.  And a host of other reporters will present in the next two days.

One things that is abundantly clear:  WE ARE NOT ALONE.  We aren’t the only ones working to share the good news of Jesus.  We aren’t the only ones worshiping our heavenly father and relying on him for comfort and protection.  We aren’t the only ones struggling to reach the lost.   A great reminder was the opening service of the convention.  We were able to sing the refrain to “Lift High the Cross” in Apache.  In celebration of our Synod’s work on the Apache reservation in Peridot that began in 1893.  We were blessed to hear an African spiritual song by the choir and soloist.  In one of our devotions were able to sing in Japanese.  A huge reminder that we are not alone that we are not the only WELS Christians here in the US.

What a blessing it is that we are God’s children!  Rejoice with me that we are not alone!  Praise God for his almighty powerful mercy and grace.

Why do VBS?

In this fabulous world in which we live there are many different views of Vacation Bible School (VBS).  Some think of it as Vacation Babysitting Service where parents are looking for free places to dump their children.  Others raise the questions about even having it with the statement: “5 Reasons why you might want to kill VBS in your church”.  The debate rages on both sides of the topic.  The times are changing and the way we do things is changing as well.  The perception of “the church” is changing too and some see no value in religious entities.  Barna reports that bigger churches are more likely to run VBS because they have more resources and more volunteers.  While that is true you can make things work with less.  We are tasked with sharing the Gospel message and VBS is a great way to reach some children and families.

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(image from Barna Research)

According to Barna 2/3 of churches in America still do VBS but the numbers are declining.  The main point of whether to have or not have VBS is the motivation of why you want to have one.   For me personally, it’s an opportunity to share the Gospel with children for five straight days.  But it’s also about building relationships with those parents who don’t have a church home.  We have families that have been coming to our VBS for years and we’ve built that relationship through this pre–evangelism effort of VBS.  One family called this past year and needed someone to help with some family issues.  They remembered us at Deer Valley from VBS and asked if we’d help them out.  The goal isn’t to make more Deer Valley Lutheran church members but to grow the kingdom.  If we can share God’s word with someone and the Holy Spirit works in their heart it’s truly a blessing.

If you asked how many families have joined Deer Valley because of VBS I can honestly say I know of one family for sure.  That’s one that is here but how many found Christian churches elsewhere?  Only God knows but it’s worth the effort to share Christ’s love to these kids.

Our VBS at Deer Valley Lutheran Church is June 18-22nd  9am -noon.  Our theme is “Babylon: Daniels Courage in Captivity.”  It’s free and open to children ages 4-12.  You can register at deervalley.org or click the link and sign up.    VBS REGISTRATION

Reminders of what’s important

We celebrated Memorial Day this last weekend where we honored all the military personnel that gave their life for protecting our freedom.  Families gathered together to remember loved ones who served; cities held parades with flag waving spectators lining the streets; friends and neighbors enjoyed each other’s company.

We are blessed to have the freedoms we have in this country.  The Constitution spells them out for us.  One that is important to me is the Freedom of Religion: Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

We are able to worship our heavenly father and gather each week for worship without fear of imprisonment by the government.  Thank you for all of our veterans and current military personnel for protecting that right!

I received a Facebook Messenger message on Monday from a college friend of mine.  He informed me that his brother-in-law, my high school & college friend, had passed away in his sleep Sunday night.  As the initial shock wore off I was comforted in knowing that Dale is in heaven with his heavenly father.  He’s there because of what Christ Jesus did for us: Lived a perfect life; died and innocent death and rose from the dead.  We have victory in HIM.  I like to add Jesus to my remembrances of Memorial Day because he won the battle for us and gave his life for us.  He did defeat death and rose again but it’s a great reminder for me personally.  It gives me comfort knowing that I too will be in heaven with all those fellow Christians who have passed before me. Mom, Dad, Josie, Mel, other friends and relatives and now Dale.  God’s richest blessings and comfort to Dale’s family and friends.

What are you spewing?

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(Lava flows from fissures near Pahoa, Hawaii, on Saturday.

USGS/AP)

Lava from the Kilauea volcano is pouring into the Pacific Ocean off of Hawaii’s Big Island, generating a plume of “laze” – which Hawaii County officials describe as hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles — into the air. Officials say it’s one more reason to avoid the area.

We can be like this Kilauea volcano can’t we?  It isn’t something that we would be proud of, but we’re similar.  The volcano is spewing hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air and duh, officials say to avoid the area.  Those are some dangerous things to avoid.  If someone is being a jerk, cussing, bullying, being obnoxious and rude we want to avoid that person as well.  Sometimes we are that person.

The  idle volcano is a beautiful creation with its interesting cone shape and awesome rocks around it.  We don’t mind checking out the volcano and admiring its beauty while it’s dormant.  As Christians, we try to live our lives glorifying God in all we do.  When we fail to do that we like that volcano spewing horrible things into the atmosphere.  Eventually the volcano will stop spewing it’s mess and go back to being dormant.  The damage will have been done to anything in the path of its lava.  Our actions and words are like the lava too doing damage to people around us. We want to strive to keep the lava from flowing and seek repentance from the Lord.  We needed to grounded in God’s word continuously.  Draw from the words of encouragement in 2 Peter 3:17-18  CSB

 Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.