Faith Building

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The New Year does bring with it thoughts and dreams of renewal, revitalization and resolution.  We seek to enhance the areas of our lives that are lagging and add to our lives those things that are lacking.  It’s this time of year that our hearts and minds turn to rebirth of body, mind and soul.

Some might feel that their physical health is right where they want it.  Some may be happy with their mental health.  There is no one who can say that their faith walk is perfect.  Sanctification is all about our continuous growth in our faith walk.

I don’t subscribe to a “one-size-fits-all” concept of growing in faith, but there are steps that can be helpful to each follower of Jesus.  These include:

  • Reading the Word

Each day spend time in the Word of God.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).  The Bible is God’s Word to us.  Isn’t it obvious that if we want to grow in faith in the Lord, the best way is by listening to Him speak to us?  Dr. Luther found the Psalms to be especially helpful.  Use a devotional, such as, “Portal of Prayers” or Lutheran Hour Ministries, “Daily Devotion” that can be received via email.

  • Daily Prayer

Reading the Scriptures and praying go hand-in-hand.  God speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him through our prayers.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:5-7).  When praying include these four elements in your daily prayers:

  • Praise of the Lord.  Praise Him for His creation.  Praise Him for the gift of Jesus.  Praise Him for His will, which is always for your best interest.
  • Repent of your sin.  No one is perfect, but God is forgiving.  Realize that you have not loved the Lord or your neighbors as you love yourself.  Pour out your heart to the Lord.  Give Him your brokenness and receive with joy His forgiveness and the new life it brings.
  • Give thanks.  Thanks the Lord for His many blessings.  Thank Him for the spiritual blessings of faith and forgiveness.  Thank Him for new life and the promise of eternal life.  Thank Him for His earthly blessings, such as family and friends, food and drink, work and play.
  • Make requests.  Ask the Lord for those things you need in life.  Include both spiritual and physical needs.  Ask for what you want, but be prepare to receive what the Lord knows you need.  When making requests for material things always pray for God’s will to be done.
  • Regular Worship

The Lord established His Church to be that place where His people gather around His Word and Sacraments, growing together in faith, hope and love.  You are a member of the Lord’s family!  Be active! And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).

  • Christian Friends

It’s true that “birds of a feather flock together.”  Being engaged with Christian friends not only be an encouragement for you, but a mutual development will occur.  “Iron sharpens iron,” says the proverb.  REACHGroups offer a natural way to connect with Christian friends for study of the Word, mutual care and fellowship.  St. Paul understood this when he wrote to the Christians in Rome, For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:11-12).

  • Embrace a Mission

There are so many faith-based missions designed to assist people in need.  Embrace one.  Use your time and talents to make a difference.  Some use their talents to make quilts for the underprivileged.  Some serve meals at the rescue mission.  Some visit shut-ins.  Some teach Sunday School.  Some take mission trips to foreign lands.  The church can help you find a mission to serve with your time and talents.  So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:5-8).

  • Give

God has entrusted to us resources to be used not just “on” us, but “through” us.  God uses us to distribute His gifts.  We are called to manage the Lord’s resources, not hoard them.  Supporting the Lord’s Church is a joy for His people.  The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” (II Corinthians 9:6-9).


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Christmas Is Not Your Birthday

It’s obvious that Christmas is not the celebration of our birthday, but it seems we often treat Christmas as if it is all about us.  We are so excited about giving and receiving gifts.  As children we compiled a list for Santa, filled with our wishes and hopes.  We may not compile a wish list as adults, but we do get caught up in the parties and festivities.  I’ll be the first to say that I, too, enjoy giving and receiving gifts, going to parties, gathering with family.  This is one of my favorite times of the year.

However, it is important that we never lose sight of the reason we celebrate Christmas.  We give our thanks and praise to Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, who took our flesh upon Himself to be our Savior by paying the debt of our sin on a cross and overcoming our death through His Easter resurrection.

I believe our celebration should include not only worship with God’s people in the Lord’s house, but worship through our desire to love others as we have been loved by our God.  Generous living is a form of worship.  St. Paul put it this way, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

As the family of Christ that we call First Immanuel / River of Life, we are answering the call to generous living.  I am inviting your family to join Diana and me as this year we will donated to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission the same amount of money that we spend on Christmas gifts.  We will collect our contributions during our weekend worship of December 21 & 22.

Please join in making a difference!


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LESSONS I LEARNED WHILE HIKING: LESSON 3

1985On June 17-18, I had the privilege of joining, my daughter, Elizabeth; her husband, Daniel; and Rich Erickson, hiking the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim, nearly 25 miles.  During the journey’s challenges and joys I learned many life lessons.  This is the third in a series of “Lessons I Learned While Hiking.”

Another lesson I learned while hiking is that fellowship is a gift from God.  God did not create us to live in isolation.  We are not designed to be hermits.  We are wired to live in community with others.  We are created for fellowship.

As I mentioned in my first installment of this blog series, walking through the vast and beautiful Grand Canyon provided a beautiful appreciation of God’s creating hand.  The hike provided a certain fellowship with the Lord.  But the trek was made more enjoyable by hiking with others.  Walking alongside my friend, my daughter and my son-in-law provided a number of important advantages.  First, hiking together provided safety.  If one of us became ill or injured, we had the support and care of three others.  Second, we encouraged one another.  Heat, elevations and the length of the journey can be challenging.  Encouragement sure did help.  Third, a shared experience lasts a lifetime.  The four of us still talk about our experience and share elements of it.  Reliving the journey continues the joy.

So it is with life’s journey.  Fellowship is vital.  God created us to dwell in communities.  The Lord designed, organized and instituted His Church to be a place of fellowship.  In the Church we provide safety for one another as we help those who fall into sin with God gracious gift of forgiveness.  We encourage one another through a world that is filled with temptations.  We share lasting joys of living in the grave and knowledge of Jesus.

As our journey through the Grand Canyon was growing steeper and the temperature was climbing higher our group talked about the finish where we knew a nice cool drink would be waiting for us.  As we journey through this life, we remind one another of the spring of living water that await us in the joys of heaven all because of Jesus’ journey to a cross and through a tomb.


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LESSONS I LEARNED WHILE HIKING (Lesson 2)

On June 17-18, I had the privilege of joining, my daughter, Elizabeth; her husband, Daniel; and Rich Erickson, hiking the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim, nearly 25 miles.  During the journey’s challenges and joys I learned many life lessons.  This is the second in a series of “Lessons I Learned While Hiking.”

 

It was vital for us to properly prepare for our Grand Canyon rim to rim hike, especially since the four of us are not avid hikers.  As we hiked the 25 miles, and especially after the journey, I was so appreciative of the people who assisted in my preparation.

A lesson I learned while hiking is that family and friends are vital for proper preparation.  Those important for me and my hike were:

  • Family = Although my wife wasn’t making the journey with me, she encouraged me and prayed for a safe hike.  Knowing that she and my parents were praying gave me peace and stamina.
  • Trainers = Josh, Eric and Scott, the trainers at my fitness center, gave me specific exercises to prepare my legs for the rugged trek.
  • Physician = I saw my doctor, who, following a physical exam, gave me the OK for the hike and reminded me of the importance of proper hydration and protection from the sun.
  • Mentor = As I am not a hiker I needed someone with experience to clue me in on what I had to know before I set off.  Karl Roeske, our Missions Director, is a hiker and he spent time sharing the wisdom that comes from experience.
  • Equippers =  Karl also let me borrow his backpack and hydration pack.  My daughter, Sarah, works for a company whose niche is specialty socks.  The “Kent Wool” socks saved my feet.

Our daily activities are also encouraged, enabled and empowered by others.  God created us to be interactive.  He designed us to live in community, interdependent with those around us.  Take a moment today and think about those who impact your day.  Consider you family and friends who encourage you, mentor you, equip you, train you and pray for you.  Give thanks for these people, who are gifts to you from God.


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LESSONS I LEARNED WHILE HIKING

Blog picOn June 17-18, I had the privilege of joining, my daughter, Elizabeth; her husband, Daniel; and Rich Erickson, hiking the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim, nearly 25 miles.  During the journey’s challenges and joys I learned many life’s lessons.  This is the first in a series of “Lessons I Learned While Hiking.”

The first lesson I learned while hiking is that faith is the foundation of life.  As we began our journey into the canyon, the vista before us was breathtaking.  The colors of the canyon, the winding caverns and the beautiful birds, caused my daughter to say, “I can’t believe there are those who think this just happened by chance.”  I, too, was captured by the beauty of the creation, which demonstrates that ours is a God of creativity and power.

If God took such care in creating this world, isn’t it logical to believe that the Lord personally and intentionally created each one of us.  He did create us, body and soul, and gifted us with talents and abilities to enjoy His creation and to be a part of the fabric of our society.

Faith is the foundation of life.  When one truly believes in the Lord who has created all things, including our lives, we understand that life has meaning and purpose.  As the four of us began our journey into the canyon during the cool of the morning, I knew that the journey would get harder and hotter.  But I also knew that the Lord would be with us each step of the trek.  So it is with our life walk.  The Lord is with us when our journey is challenging and rocky, just as He is when our path is easy and enjoyable.  Faith is our foundation.


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