Dear Fellow Children of God,
This past week I attended a meeting of church leaders in Portland, OR. We talked about challenges and blessings faced today by Christian congregations and by workers. One of our speakers spoke on health for church workers and he began his presentation with an interesting question. He asked, “What is different in your congregation today than when you graduated from seminary?”
The pastors with whom I was sitting gave some interesting and somewhat expected answers to the question. Some talked about changing attitudes in the world around the church concerning Christian faith and the church. Others discussed church finances. Some of the pastors mentioned changes in commitment of church members and spoke of competing priorities. Other pastors talked about issues surrounding respect for workers and for fellow Christians.
The bottom line is that we live in a different world today than when I graduated from seminary over 36 years ago. We live in a world that is different than that in which Christian congregations ministered and served even ten or fifteen years ago. Two decades ago our culture was still said to have a “Judeo – Christian Ethic.” This meant that most people had a belief in God, or at least respected that belief in the lives of a majority of others. During past times in our culture people accepted shared social values like the Ten Commandments, believing the commandments carried authority for the society we lived in and gave direction for our individual lives.
Those attitudes in our society have changed. In fact, many in our culture not only don’t share the values which God gives to His people through Scripture, many in our world are offended if a Christian person even shares their God-given beliefs with others. So, what does God’s church do when the world around us changes?
In spite of the change mentioned, we continue to have personal needs that have not changed.
Everyone is healthier when they have a good relationship with their father. Likewise, everyone in this world is healthier when they have a good relationship with their Creator and our Heavenly Father. Perhaps Psalm 103 speaks to your heart as it does mine. “13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” What a blessing to know the love and compassion of our Heavenly Father who is also the Creator and Lord of the whole world, and who understands us better than we understand ourselves!
Everyone stumbles and fails at times. We don’t always accomplish what we work to do. We sometimes have acted in ways of which we are ashamed. Sometimes we even hurt those we love. And, try as we might, we often cannot undo the wrong or the harm we have done. Christians know this failure and stumbling to be sin. Everyone is healthier when we have someone to help us with our failures and our sin. The word of God found in John’s first letter to the church is, therefore, good news. “8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” What a blessing, then, to know the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ, who forgives our failure and our sin in His dying and rising.
Everyone can use encouragement as we go through life. Life is full of challenges and trials. We are often assaulted with hurt and loss. As we face the pain in life, a word of encouragement is such a blessing. No wonder God sends the Holy Spirit. “26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:26-27) When Jesus left this world He sent the Holy Spirit, the Counselor. The Greek word translated as “Counselor” also means “Comforter” or, listen to this, “Encourager.” We need encouragement and help, and God gives us just what we need in Himself, in the Holy Spirit.
The message of God through the Church to the world in which we live may not be as readily received as it once was. But, the truth is that we all still need God and the grace He gives. Christians need a healthy relationship with our Father, with our Savior, and with our Counselor and Encourager. The rest of the world has the same needs, even if they do not know these needs.
The speaker at our meeting asked “What is different today?” However, the other side of this coin is that some things remain the same. We all need God. We need His Love and Forgiveness, His help and salvation. In a world that has changed, Christians still need to grow in the blessings and help of our loving God and Savior. We can also bless others when we gently and respectfully share with them the love of God they also need.
A Child of God, Seeking God’s help to live a healthy life as His child,
P.S. I will be moose hunting this coming week from September 17-25. Pastor George Rakos will lead worship on Sunday, September 20. Pastor Rakos knew the first pastor at St. John, Pastor Rudoph Frehling, who served beginning in 1935. Pastor Rakos was also confirmed by Pastor Ed Imme who served St. John in the 1950’s. (St. John’s September congregational newsletter had a letter of remembrance from Pastor Imme.) Please welcome Pastor Rakos, and his wife Carolyn, warmly.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.