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Reaching Out with LASSIE

The Pastor's Windshield for Sunday, January 15, 2023

You may remember the fictional dog, Lassie, from the shows, movies, or books that featured her. Lassie was portrayed as a beautiful Collie, a dog breed that’s known for friendliness and affection.

Those positive characteristics of Collies makes “LASSIE” an appropriate acronym for some basic points about Christian outreach. In your witness of Christ in your daily life, the six elements of “LASSIE” would be helpful for you to remember and to practice. “LASSIE” stands for Listen, Ask, Seek, Share, Invite, and Encourage. These elements of relational evangelism are not necessarily sequential but are all positive things to keep in mind as you reach out to loved ones and neighbors with the Gospel. Here are some more thoughts:

Listen – The book of Proverbs emphasizes listening. Proverbs 17:27 says, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” You might think that the first step in witnessing would be opening your mouth to talk about Jesus. Hopefully you get to that point, but first, be a listener. Get to know the unique person in front of you.

Ask – Jesus loved to ask questions. For example, He asked His disciples questions like, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-14) You don’t have to start with Jesus’ very direct questions, but as part of your listening, try asking open-ended questions that will help you learn more about the other person and encourage further discussion.

Seek – When Paul was in the city of Athens, he sought a point of connection between the local people and their beliefs and the Christian Gospel. He began his message by referring to an altar in Athens which was inscribed “To the unknown god” (Acts 17:23). As you seek a point of connection for beginning to share the Gospel, perhaps it will be something the person has said in your conversations, something they experienced previously in life, a struggle they’re having, some change in their life, etc.

Share – Peter tells us to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Sharing your Christian faith means telling someone why you have hope. Perhaps you might say, “I have hope because of God’s promises” or “What gives me hope is that Jesus died and rose again for me.” You might also share a specific verse from God’s Word which is a source of hope to you. After all, only our Lord’s Word can truly be called “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Invite – As Jesus was beginning to gather His disciples, Philip appealed to a skeptical Nathaniel with a simple invitation: “Come and see” (John 1:46). We can invite others to “come and see” as well. Perhaps you invite someone to share a meal with you and you witness by offering a meal prayer beforehand. Perhaps you invite someone to attend a church function such as a meal or Bible study. If you think they’re ready to do so, you can invite them to come meet your pastor or to attend a worship service with you.

Encourage – Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). You might encourage this person to continue thinking about something you’ve said or written to them. You’ll be an encouragement by doing such things as following up with them, checking in, sending them a card, emailing them a devotion, letting them know you’re praying for them, or by personally praying with them.

Each of us has room to grow in reaching out to our loved ones and neighbors with the love of Jesus, but keeping in mind these simple ideas gives us a good place to start!

I’d also like to invite and encourage you to attend the “Each One Reach One” Workshop at St. Matthew on Sat, Feb. 11, 2023 from 10:00am – 2:00pm. Rev. Bill Zwick will be with us to lead us in Bible study and discussion while sharing more practical ideas about sharing your faith. Please RSVP to the church office and mark your calendars for this helpful event.

Peace in Christ,

                  Pastor Kory Janneke

What Christmas is All About

The Pastor's Windshield for Sun, Dec 4, 2022

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is one of the classic TV shows that we watch at our house each Christmas season. Charlie Brown wasn’t having the best Christmas. With all the hubbub and commercialism, he wondered, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” 

What is it all about? The festivities? The parties, concerts, decorations, shopping, baking, ugly sweaters, etc.? Such things may make the season more enjoyable, but there can also be too much activity, too much on the credit card, and too little time to stop and reflect.

What about family? That’s one of the most typical answers: “Christmastime is about family and togetherness.” That’s true, to some extent. It can be a great blessing to gather with loved ones, but for some families, that’s not the case. Either family members aren’t getting along, or it’s simply not possible for everyone to get together. 

Christmas means more than celebrating in a certain place with certain people. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in who we’re celebrating with rather than the One we’re celebrating …

What about neighborliness? “Christmas is about giving” we hear each year. Christmas is a great time for generosity, friendliness, and hospitality, but we’re called to love our neighbors the other 11 months of the year as well. It’s not that we shouldn’t do these caring things for others at Christmas. It’s just that we don’t need to think that this is the whole point of Christmas! 

Christmas really isn’t about what we do!  It’s actually bigger and better than our traditions and celebrations and gift giving.

Leave it to Linus to tell Charlie Brown – and tell us – what Christmas is all about. Linus simply shares the Christmas Gospel,from Luke chapter 2. The angels’ Christmas message is short and sweet, and easy to miss amid our stress and activities but it’s the heart of Christmas:

“‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among those with whom He is pleased.’” (Luke 2:10-14)

The angels have the answer: Christmas is all about Jesus! It isn’t about us or what we do. It’s about a Person, a baby, the Son of Mary, yet also the Almighty Lord – the Son of God!                 

Christmas is about Jesus coming to save you from your sins. That may not seem like much of a Christmas-y message. But Matthew tells us that the Christmas Child will be named “Jesus” because He will save His people from their sins. Unto you is born a Savior, because the world isn’t right, and because you and I aren’t right. We’re not living as God made us to live. Worse yet, we can’t! You and I need a Savior! Without a Savior, we’re stuck in our sin, sin that cuts us off from God and eternity. The Good News is that Christmas is all about Jesus coming for the cross, where He took away our sins!

Christmas is also about Jesus relieving your fears. “Fear not!” doesn’t sound like a very Christmas-y message, but it’s one of the most oft-repeated phrases in Scripture because fear is one of our greatest struggles, both in Bible times and for us today. Fear surroundsthe first Christmas: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds are all afraid when mighty angels suddenly show up.

But in the midst of all this fear, God comes!  And He comes in such a way at Bethlehem that we would not be terrified but comforted by Him. He comes gently and humbly. Jesus comes to us fearful people as one of us – a baby in Bethlehem – and yet as more than one of us – as our Savior from sin and its consequences, including our fears and anxieties.

Whether you have a “Charlie Brown Christmas” or the time of your life, the words of the carol, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”, speak to us this Advent and Christmas:

And you, beneath your heavy load,  By care and guilt bent low,
Who toil along a dreary way,  With painful steps and slow:
Look up, for golden is the hour,  Come swiftly on the wing,
The Prince was born to bring you peace;  Of Him, the angels sing.

Let’s look up this Christmas season to our Prince of Peace, Jesus, and let’s share what Christmas is all about: Unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”  

Peace in Christ,

                  Pastor Kory Janneke

A Reformation Abbreviation

"A Reformation Abbreviation" - The Pastor's Windshield for Sunday, October 30, 2022

Churches abound with abbreviations for their ministries. For example, our church body, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, is usually referred to by its abbreviation: LCMS. I wonder if you’ve heard of this abbreviation: VDMA. Any guesses about this one? VDMA is tricky because it’s an abbreviation of a Latin phrase: Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum, which means, “The Word of the Lord Endures Forever.” 
“VDMA” is a motto that dates back around 500 years to the Lutheran Reformation, but it originally comes from the Lord’s Word in Isaiah 40:8. It is referenced again in 1 Peter 1:23-25: “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” 
Can you see why Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum became such a rallying cry for the Reformers? “VDMA” was printed in the preface to the original Book of Concord, the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. Here is a little more background from the most recent edition of the Book of Concord: “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum is the motto of the Lutheran Reformation, a confident expression of the enduring power and authority of God’s Word … It first appeared in the court of Frederick the Wise in 1522. He had it sewn onto the right sleeve of the court’s official clothing, which was worn by prince and servant alike. It was used by Frederick’s successors … It became the official motto of the Smalcaldic League and was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as a symbol of the unity of the Lutheran laity who struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families, and lives against those who were intent on destroying them.” (Concordia p. 2)
Lutheran laypeople in the 16th and 17th centuries literally had to fight to protect their families and communities from the armies of the Holy Roman Empire which violently opposed the Reformation. Their motto reminded them that they were ultimately not bound to the human words of the Pope or Emperor but to the Lord’s Word, which Luther and other reformers had begun to restore to its proper place in the life of the church. 
“The Word of the Lord Endures Forever” is just as fitting of a motto for Christian laypeople and pastors today as it was centuries ago. Though much has changed in 500 years, and certainly in the past several thousand years since the Lord’s Word was recorded for us, God’s scriptural promises have not changed. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Your Lord Jesus is just as faithful to you today as He was to His people in ages past and you can count on Him and His Word, even when everything else fails you!
The enduring Word from the Lord is especially the Gospel – His Good News for you. We hear this in the passage from 1 Peter referenced earlier: “You have been born again … through the living and abiding word of God … and this word is the good news that was preached to you.” 
God’s Good News of forgiveness and life overcomes even sin and death. God’s Word declares that you are His baptized child, born again and born “from above” by Christ’s saving work on your behalf. God’s Gospel Word has also powerfully worked in your heart to create and sustain saving faith in Christ within you. The Lord and His Gospel Word rightly deserve all the credit and glory for doing everything for us and our salvation!
In our ever-changing world, we stand together on God’s unchanging foundation, a message handed down from biblical times, to the time of the Reformation, to our time today: The Word of the Lord Endures Forever!
Peace in Christ,
                  Pastor Kory Janneke

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