The Curse and The Victory

Many Christian churches around the world will be recognizing Ash Wednesday tomorrow (Feb 18). This is the beginning of the 40 day season of Lent (40 days not including Sundays) culminating in the vigil of Easter and then Easter itself the next day celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

The season of Lent is one when we remember our mortality and to focus on our sinfulness. Reminders are placed on foreheads as people are marked with ashes; signifying the curse of sin which was pronounced to Adam and Eve (and all humanity) in Genesis 3,from dust you came and to dust you shall return”. Through our willful disobedience to God we have incurred the penalty of death. Our bodies are subject to decay and thus will perish someday.

But this is not the end…

The mark of the curse is made in the form of the cross signifying our redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Earlier in Genesis 3, when God was cursing the serpent for his actions; ones that drew Adam and Eve into temptation; God announced his plan of redemption:

[15] I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring (Jesus); he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The offspring of the woman is Jesus.
The heel bruising is Jesus being crucified.
But the head bruising is Jesus defeating death through his resurrection.

The serpent, Satan, will be destroyed for his part in corrupting God’s beautiful and perfect creation. In the mean time, we will be subject to death and the rule of Satan, but through faith in Jesus, we will taste victory.

So Lent begins with a curse but ends with victory; but in order to know this victory we need to accept our fallen sinfulness and Lent is a time to focus on that. So remember who you are AND know who Jesus his. The curse of death is not forever. The victory has been won and has been given to you.

Praise be to God and Amen!

The Pastor -|—

New Year’s Eve 2009

Well…2009 is coming to a close and part of me feels this slight, little tug to write something profound to wrap up 2009; a kind of year-in-review with some final words of wisdom before the onslaught on 2010…

[“Profound”…what in the world is this part of me thinking…”profound”?]

In any case…here is my last post of 2009 (profound or not):

As I write this I am sitting in my most favorite chair in the world (a chair my wife despises…but that story is for another time).  During this time of the year I am on vacation…recovering from a busy Christmas season.  My wife is still working so we generally do not go anywhere, but that is fine…sleeping in and doing absolutely nothing is still good for my soul as I refuel for the drive towards Lent and Easter…after which I will take another vacation (this time getting out of town with my wife).

So as I sit here (refueling in my favorite chair drinking coffee) I find myself reflecting on the past year (funny how that happens when a year or anything comes to an end).  So listed below are my top ten highlights from the past year (in no particular order):

(10)Washington vacation – After Easter my wife and I enjoy heading out to the state of Washington (where I did my internship) and hanging out with friends and seeing the sights.  This year we did a lot of hiking and exploring new things.

(9) Losing 65 pounds – This took place from March through October in an effort to get into better running shape for 2010.  I have maintained my weight since then and am enjoying my new, healthier lifestyle.

(8) “The vote” – This is of course referring to the ELCA Churchwide assembly vote about homosexuality in August.  This is not a “highlight” but it sure is memorable.  It created a lot of discussion and soul-searching to say the least.

(7) Three weddings – Two of these were people from Salem and one couple is a friend of mine and Connie’s.  They were a lot of fun to do and be a part of.

(6) Release Time and confirmation classes – I have some really fun students this year.  They are active and willing to learn.  A highlight within this one is one of my Release Time students reading scripture at the Christmas Eve worship service.  It has been fun watching her grow up over the last few years.

(5) Christmas snow storm (“Winter Storm Eric”) – This was a little annoying but once again memorable.  I think this snow storm will be talked about for a long time.  The highlight here is that this snow storm caused us to slow down and therefore we got a chance to spend more quality time with family; celebrating.

(4) New patio and new bathroom – This was a long time in coming but we barely got these done before the church’s big 125th anniversary celebration (more on that coming later).

(3) Running – This is directly related to my weight lose.  I am training for 2 marathons in 2010, but the highlight here is breaking a 20 minute 5K and breaking 42 minutes for 6 miles…both very exciting for me.

(2) Salem’s 125th anniversary celebration – This was a fun weekend.  A lot of planning went into this and lots of people came out.  Many memories were shared.

(1) Five year anniversary – 2009 was the 5 year anniversary of my ordination and wedding.  The congregation planned a special recognition for me during worship (which I knew was happening but did not know details).  It was a very special time of affirmation for Connie and me.  After worship there was a reception and then after that Connie and I hosted a party for our wedding anniversary with our family; having a renewal of vows for all the couples.  A very fun and memorable day.

2009 was indeed an eventful year.  I made healthy changes in my life; had my call here affirmed; celebrated ministry milestones; and continued to enjoy people growing in their faith.  Many other items could have been added to this list…Praise be to God!

So as we close out 2009…blessings to you as you finish off the year and dive into a brand new year.  God has been and always will be faithful.  Hold on to that and enjoy the promises we have from God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let’s see what God will do in 2010…

Happy New Year!


God is good!!!

If there was ever a time when I needed to be reminded that God will never give us more than we can handle…it is now.

Here’s the situation in brief:

–As I have mentioned before this weekend is Salem’s 125th anniversary and there is an open house at the parsonage tomorrow (Saturday).

–The bathroom is being remodeled.  We ordered flooring but as of Thursday is just arrived but no one was available to put it in = messy house for open house = stressed wife = stressed husband (me).  Help!

–[Here’s God intervening] One of my trustees has a son who installs flooring (why I didn’t remember is beyond me).  She heard about our setback and called her son and he said he could come on Friday to install the flooring.  PRAISE BE TO GOD!  He just left (Friday morning) to get is tools so he can start.  The  bathroom will now be done by the open house = less stress for my wife = less stress for the husband (me). PRAISE BE TO GOD!!!

–[Here’s God intervening again] Project #2…the patio.  One parishioner is working on this (former landscaper) all by himself = lots of work.  Yesterday and this morning people have been calling me left and right saying they are coming over to help Joel and get this done (Joel is happier).  PRAISE BE TO GOD!!!  And now I am feeling overwhelmed by God’s greatness and faithfulness.

–[The priesthood of all believers] People from the anniversary committee, the congregation president, various other council members, parishioners, and friends from the community (a friend of mine who happens to be the council president at the other Lutheran church in town) have stepped up to make this weekend happen.  Thank you and PRAISE BE TO GOD!!!

In response to this all I can say is “God is good…all the time.  All the time…God is good!!!”



Swinging on Monday, Aug. 17

O.K…it is time to get back into the swing of things once again.

Today is Monday, Aug. 17 and the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is convening in Minneapolis for its Church wide assembly.  And this year promises to be one of heated (and hopefully) civil debate over the issue of homosexuality.  Tops on the agenda is the social statement on Human Sexuality.  Closely behind that is the ministry recommendations that would allow ordaining gay/lesbian pastors who are in life-long, committed relationships and for the blessing of same sex unions.  No matter where one stands; no matter what happens, there will be some polarization in the ELCA.  I hate to say it, but its going to happen.  My prayer is that the mission of Christ still continues marching forward and that we don’t let issues derail us.  Satan would love nothing more than for the Church to lose its focus.

Today is Monday, Aug. 17 and I am deep into getting ready for confirmation.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I am revamping my confirmation program here.  It is not a complete overhaul, but rather some important (and intriguing) additions to the schedule and requirements.  One of the key things I am doing is putting a greater emphasis on parental involvement.  I will talk more later on what I am doing with this.  I have a couple more piece I am finalizing yet, but I am really looking forward to this year.  It’s going to be a fun one.

Today is Monday, Aug. 17 and I am starting to feel a little anxiety.  In less than a month, Salem Lutheran Church will be celebrating its 125th anniversary and I don’t feel ready to go yet.  The big weekend is Sept. 12 and 13 and it keeps creeping closer and closer every day (duh…i guess).  It’s just that there is so much to do here at church and in the parsonage…and I just want everything to go smoothly.  But on the other hand I am looking forward to the celebration.  We have former pastors coming back and other special guests returning for the weekend.  You can go to our church website for a complete schedule of events at

Today is Monday, Aug. 17 and I feel like I am back into the swing of things…again.  But with everything that is coming up I am hoping and praying that I do not “strike out”.

God bless your day!


Monday morning check-in — Ramp project among other things

We are off to a great start on a beautiful and cool Monday morning.  Now I am praying for some rain because my lawn continues to turn the dreaded brownish color (and our crops could definitely use a drink as well).  But according to the “weather experts” (I always use that title loosely) we should get some rain this week.  Maybe I should be a weather dude; then I could say “there is a 50% chance for rain this week” and have a 50% chance of being right.  Not bad odds.

Ramp project
I know it has been a while since I have given an update on our ramp project.  So here’s an update…it’s done:

We still have some landscaping to do on the north and south sides.  On Sunday, September 14 we will be having a short dedication service right before worship.  The idea right now is to ask people to gather outside before worship.  I will then have a short litany and then “J” will cut the ribbon (her and her husband, “G” gave the money for this project but “G” died shortly after they gave us the money, but did express his wish for a new ramp .  “G” would be so happy to see this done…I wish he could be here).  I am not sure how the litany will go right now.  Does any have any suggestions of what you have used or seen used for something like this?

What’s next?
Next year Salem Lutheran Church will be celebrating it’s 125th anniversary of ministry.  So with that in mind we will be continuing to fix up some things around the church.  Our next big projects will be to repaint the sancuary and the Fellowship Hall.  We have a professional coming in to paint the sanctuary because of the high ceiling but we as a church will handle the Fellowship Hall painting.  After those projects we have some other minor ones to do to get ready for next year. 

But right now my frustration is that we are having a hard time getting people to volunteer to serve on a planning committee for this anniversary celebration.  I know people are busy, but this is a big deal for the church.  I wrote a newsletter article for September so that combined with my persistent president asking people hopefully will produce a committee.

[If you’re a Salem member reading this, please, please volunteer and share your gifts].

Training update
6 weeks and counting until the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  Training is going well, but my wife is still a little nervous.  There are days when I wonder what the heck I am doing and then there are days when I feel super confident.  But either way, I know this is going to be a difficult race, but I am still looking forward to tackling this goal and accomplishing it.  God has been with me through all the ups and downs and I am confident God will give me the strength to finish the race.

Coming up…
(1) I am working on part 3 of my Ministry model vs. Business model series; a series talking about a new structure for my church council.

(2) Last week I failed to post a Coffee Shop Ponderings post, but I will be back with one this Thursday.

(3) This weekend I am heading to the LifeLight Christian Music Festival in Sioux Falls, SD with a bunch of friends.  It is a free festival with many big name Christian artists like: Micheal W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp and many more.  I will post more about this weekend and might even have some pictures.

With that I pray you have a very happy and blessed day.  Take joy in the Lord for He is good. 

Take care!