What Does it Mean to Be Free?

What does it mean to be free? For some, freedom is the ability to do whatever one wants whenever and wherever one wants to do it. Ironically, this kind of freedom leads to the enslavement of a person to their passion as well as the abuse of one’s body/mind/soul/spirit in ways that reduce life. For example, I may have the ability to eat an entire family-sized bag of Doritos every day for the next 30 days, but at what cost to my weight, cholesterol levels, heart health, and waistline. To exercise this kind of freedom actually has the potential to reduce the quality of my life as I place myself at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

So what does it mean to be free? Real freedom is recognizing that without some discipline our lives will never be what God intends them to be. Real freedom is taking our ability to live life on our terms and surrendering it to Jesus asking him to show us how to live life on God’s terms. Real freedom is recognizing that our God only wants the best for us so we choose to follow Jesus with every decision we make and discover that in “giving up” our freedom we have gained true life.

Celebrate your freedom this month. We live in the greatest nation on earth. But also celebrate your God-given freedom this month. We have the greatest God in Jesus Christ. He’s the one that truly sets us free.

Live kingdom,

Pastor Bill

what does it mean to be free

A Reflection on 273 Years

273 Years…
This Homecoming service June 3, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. we will be celebrating 273 years of ministry as the oldest Lutheran church in our area. Think of all the changes we have embraced in that time. We built the first church building in the area and shared it with folks of other denominations so they could worship. We moved from a log cabin to a brick church. We supported the Revolutionaries who fought against England. Yet we had Loyalists in our congregation at the same time. We began speaking English instead of German in our worship services to better speak to a younger generation. We started a school because education is the path best leading out of poverty. We ended that school because there was no longer need. We gave birth, not always in happy ways, to Peace and Sharon Lutheran Churches, and have had a hand in the development of Brick Church and St. Mark’s in Burlington. We moved the church across the street to build a bigger sanctuary to accommodate our growing numbers. When that sanctuary burned, we rebuilt it in less than 6 months so we could get back to worship quickly. We added an education wing and offices to have space for our youth to grow in the Lord and so the congregation could have an informal gathering space. We built a community building that has hosted many different ministries from square dancing to 4-H Club. We added a chime system so that we could ring out our love for Jesus in our community. We bought octaves of bells to enhance music and give people the opportunity to use their musical gifts to God’s glory. We have sent over 1000 prayer shawls to folks in need reminding them of God’s healing, comforting presence. We do angel trees which provide the gifts of Christmas to two or three families in need. We have supplied DVDs of the worship service to those who could not attend worship Sunday mornings. Now we’ve built an online presence through a website, social media, and streaming. We have a free food pantry that is the talk of the area. We have encountered much change in our 273-year history.
Reporters say we are living in an era where the rate of change is happening faster than experienced by any generation. While that may be true, the truth is that we are more used to change than we think. The key to accepting and growing with change is to answer the question “why?” When we know the “why” behind the change, we adapt better. As I look over the above partial list of changes, it would be easy to say we changed motivated by need. I see something more. We have embraced many changes because we are sincere in our desire to join Jesus in his mission. We embraced these changes because we want to show and share the kingdom of God with others and have them encounter for themselves God’s love.
Homecoming Sunday is June 3 at 10:30 a.m. with a potluck following. My prayer is that we thank God celebrating
273 years and ask God how we need to grow and change for the next 273.
God’s peace move you,
Pastor Bill

keep growing

A Christian Response to Violence

Some thoughts on dealing with the violence that plagues our society.

Matthew writes Jesus saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. ”

Paul writes in Romans, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ Now, ‘if you enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good.”

I bring these two passages to your mind as I write this the day after the high school shooting in Parkland, FL where 17 people have lost their lives. A 19 year old former student pulled a fire alarm and began shooting people as they exited the building. Another senseless tragedy potentially evoking from us the same kind of rage that drove this person to pull the trigger multiple times to the tragic end of many.

A person on Facebook asked, “What can we do?” Her question echoed the forlorning in my spirit and frustration in my mind.

What can we do? What do Christ-followers do in the face of that which cannot be fully understood? We begin by turning to the One who fully understands. We go to God to express our outrage, our concern, our frustration, our helplessness, our pain, and our vulnerability. God listens to us. God shares our outraged, concern, frustration, helplessness, pain, and vulnerability. When we have cried our eyes out and our shuddering of our sobbing bodies has ceased, God begins to whisper in the quiet.

God tells us He with us. God reminds us He was with those the gunmen shot down. God reminds us he loves us, the victims, and even the victimizer. God says to you and me, “I love you. I love those who lost their lives. I even love the young man that was twisted into the shape that made for this violence. I love…and I will redeem.”

I will redeem. This is a part of my faith that I often forget. We trust God for a lot in our lives, but do we trust that ultimately God will redeem—that God will make things right? Often I want to take justice into my own hands and deliver it in a fashion that “matches the crime”—whatever that means. But God asks us to drop our “rights” for revenge and trust Him to set things straight.

But God, ever looking to move us forward and growing in faith asks us to go one step farther. The above passages do not call us to pacifism. They call us to creative resistance. When Jesus says, “Do not resist an evildoer,” he is saying do not resist an evil doer with violence. He is saying, as his examples show, exercise creative resistance. As Paul says, this creative resistance overcomes evil with good.

What good can we do in light of evil? What light can we bear into this darkness? How is God moving you to respond in a way that brings healing, peace, life, and hope for everyone involved? Who do you need to reach out and touch with the love of God in Christ Jesus?

God bless you as you move into deeper discipleship and a closer walk with our Lord,

Pastor Bill