Thursday, September 17, 2020

From Broken to Hopeful

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

-Matthew 6:25-27

Today we have fires in the west, hurricanes in the south, and the corona virus is raging all around us… This year seems to be full of things to worry about, and I have spent a lot of time speaking with people whose lives have been flipped upside down.  There are people who are sick and isolated.  Others have recently lost their jobs and homes because of the recession.  Parents are struggling to balance their work with child care.  Finally far too many people are searching for meaning in what seems like an endless void.  Life is not easy, and the pressure can be immense!

This week at Community Lutheran, we are taking time to find ways to relieve the anxious pressure of the world.  Instead of losing ourselves in the endless cycle of fear, God has come to give us hope. 

As we look at our world today, it is easy to find reasons to despair.  However, I believe God always works in moments of vulnerability.  A colleague of mine once reminded me not to fear the rock bottom moments of life.  Instead, he told me to think of these times as a gift.  These moments of vulnerability can open us to new perspectives and opportunities.

Today I hope we can all open our hearts to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  I pray that God’s grace would bring meaning to our lives, and I pray that God’s love would lead us to a new path of hope.

Blessings!

 

Brian Ward

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Spiritual Fruit of Self-Control

 FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Self-Control | Life-Giving Water

 Earlier this week, I woke up in the middle of the night to hear my two year old son calling out.  He doesn’t have an extensive vocabulary, but I thought I could hear him saying, “Stuck! Stuck!” When I entered his room, I found him in a tangled up blanket with his head on his pillow, but his feet were falling off the bed. I put him in a more comfortable position, and he simply said, “Thank you Dada.” Then he immediately fell back to sleep.

 

This experience made me smile, because I was able to help in a real way.  My child was “stuck,” and I could make everything better.  I love the moments when I have the ability to change things or control my environment.  However, I realize there will be a day when it will not be as easy to fix my son’s problems.  As I look out at the world, I would love it if I could just fix the pain that I see.  However, it is not always that easy.

This week in worship we are looking at the spiritual gift of Self-Control.  There are so many problems that may seem overwhelming, but the Bible reminds us to start with our own hearts.  We do not always have the ability to control or help others, but we can control our own actions.  We are God’s children, and we can decide to let love into our hearts and share it with others. 

 

Blessings,

 

 

Pastor Brian

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Spiritual Gift of Goodness

God has called all of us good.  The church is supposed to be a light in the darkness, and we are called to share this light with the world.  However, some days it can be pretty hard to see the good in our lives. The news is filled with awful stories ranging from the corona virus to political divisions to acts of bigotry and hatred. Sometimes the Good News that brings hope to all people can seem rather hidden.  So where is God’s goodness?

God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
-Micah 6:8
 

Finding good in the world doesn’t have to be left up to those who believe in fairy tales. God is asking us to believe that the goodness of all creation is present all around us.  These words from Micah 6 were written after a foreign army stormed through Israel destroying much of the land. The nation was in an incredible state of turmoil, and there was every reason for the people to see hatred and division in the world around them.  However, the prophet was reminding people of the simple gifts they had to show love.

Living in the Goodness of God - May 6 - New Horizons

Today there are a number of reasons we can complain or dismiss the needs of others, but God is also leading us to a different path. This week, in spite of some of the bad news out there, I also got to see my two little boys playing and laughing together. The two year old loves to chase after his big brother. He runs wherever his brother runs and climbs whatever his brother climbs. Now, this never lasts too long. Either one boy gets annoyed or somebody gets hurt, but these two kids are also filled with love. They care for each other. We are all part of a family. None of us are perfect, but God is with us. There is good in the world, and I believe we all have a chance to see this every day.

In the Bible, God calls each of us good. Today I hope that you can all seek to discover the good in your lives. I hope you can all find a bit of love and a bit of hope wherever you are!

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Patience and God's Blessings

Do you have the Spiritual Gift of Patience? 

I have heard it said that a person should never pray for patience, because God will give you the opportunity to use it.  :)

The truth is, whether we pray for patience or not, we all need it in our lives. We spend a lot of time waiting, and this can either drive us crazy or it can open us to God’s work. I hate waiting, and I really don’t know anyone who likes just standing around. However, there is a Bible verse that I would like to share that comes from the book of James:

 

See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the early and late rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another…

-James 5:7-9

  

In this analogy, the farmer knows he or she can’t rush things… We have some amazing technology in agriculture today, but there is still a need for faith. The farmer can plant, tend, and harvest the crops, but there has always been a certain element they cannot control. A crop will not grow overnight, and we cannot force the weather to obey us.

Today we have a ton of technology and power at our disposal. However, we still cannot force a virus to obey us. We cannot make other people obey us. We still need to live by faith each and every day. I think we really have to ask ourselves if we want to spend our time worrying about all the things we cannot control.

Personally, I also love how these verses from the book of James tell us not to grumble against one another. Waiting can easily turn into grumbling, frustration, and resentment toward others.

Today I hope we can take a little time to be present in the moment that we are in. Sure, there are lots of wonderful things to look forward to. I am excited to gather with others in person. I can’t wait for my kids to reach their next milestones as they grow up. (I really look forward to the day when I won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night!) However, the Bible tells us that each day is a blessing. Let’s not wish this day and the blessings we have right now away. Let’s live each day by faith trusting that God walks alongside us in our journey.


Blessings!

 

Pastor Brian

25 Bible Verses about Patience - DailyVerses.net


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Let Joy into your Heart


What does joy mean to you?

A few weeks ago my family had an opportunity to drive up to Mount Charleston.  It was a hot day in the valley, and it was so refreshing to take the kids somewhere that wasn’t 110 degrees! 
 
We had a super fun trip playing in a little stream and wandering through the forest. One of the most memorable moments came soon after we arrived.  We got out of the car, and our one year old son just started saying, “Wow!” He doesn’t know very many words, but at that moment he just wanted to express the wonder and awe he felt in his heart!

As we grow older, I know there are times we push our feelings down.  Nothing surprises us.  We can find ourselves living through another hot day wishing we were somewhere else.  We complain. We get frustrated, and we do it all again tomorrow.  However, this week we are talking about joy.  Joy can break into our lives at any moment.  We don’t need to wait for Christmas, Easter, or whenever this pandemic ends.  Joy is present all around us if we open our hearts to God’s Grace. 

Today I hope you can feel the wonder and awe of the moment.  Sure, it is easy to find things to complain about.  That list is never ending… However, God promises that Joy is present.  Have you taken time to say thank you?  Perhaps you can step back and just say, “Wow!”

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Where is love leading you?


Love is an amazing thing…

Love can give us hope in the darkest moments.  Love gives us joy that surpasses all understanding.  Love is also present in our tears.  When we lose someone we care about, love is there.  When our preschooler heads off to kindergarten, love is there… (Now if school is canceled because of Covid-19, I might become a little less sentimental about getting my preschooler out of the house. However, love does have incredible power! :)

Love allows us to experience empathy, and this is an incredible thing.  Empathy allows us to love our neighbor in real ways, but this is not always easy.  The same compassion that gives us joy also leads us into the hurts and sorrows of others. 

In the Gospel of John 11:35-36, the Bible says Jesus grieved with his followers when someone he loved died:

Jesus wept.
Then the people said, “See how he loved him!”

I have always felt that this was a powerful verse…  It shows how deeply Jesus loved his followers, and it shows how deeply He loves us. Christ’s love is not just some academic or theoretical thing.  Jesus loves us in a meaningful way.  There is no failure, fear, or disappointment that can separate us from God.

Today I hope you can all take a bit of time to trust the love God has given you.  May you recognize that you are loved just as you are.  May you also take time to let love break into your hearts.  Let’s stop the judgment and open our hearts to something much bigger!

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Do not fear


Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.
-Jesus in Matthew 14:27

When was the last time you were afraid? Do you believe that Christ walks with you in the darkest valleys?

There have been times I have let fear get the best of me. In high school, I could worry about some pretty mild things:  Did I have enough friends? Could I run fast enough? Was I getting the best grades? These can be interesting questions, but some of these little things can consume us if we allow them to. If we aren’t careful some of these mild fears can destroy us. Rational fear is one thing. This kind of fear can push us into action. Irrational fear can leave us feeling sick, and it can pull us away from the people we need to move toward.  

In the Bible, we are told over and over again not to be afraid.  Jesus repeatedly warned his followers not to let fear rule their hearts, but over and over again the disciples succumbed to the powers of fear, anxiety, and desperation…

Over the last five years, my wife and I have noticed that it has become much easier to build friendships in our neighborhood.  Now this is not because we are trying harder.  In fact when we first arrived we would do everything we could to meet our neighbors, but everyone seemed so busy. In general, there seems to be a fear of people we don’t know.  However, since we had our two kids, we’ve somehow managed to meet everyone. The kids love meeting other children and adults, and the neighbors seem to love meeting us – even as crazy as we are… As far as time goes, we have actually been much busier, but we have found more time for what really matters. It certainly doesn’t make sense to fear each other.  I am so grateful for the other people in my neighborhood. I am thankful that my kids love getting to know the people around them.

Today I hope you can all think about the fear in your life.  I hope you can take the time to understand your fear.  Perhaps you need to use it rationally, but I hope you can also let go of the irrational and move forward into this beautiful world God has created!

Blessings!


Pastor Brian