As Christians, we are part of something larger than ourselves. We are a part of the worldwide Church, which includes every follower of Jesus, and we are also a part of more local communities to follow Jesus. Community is part of the Grand Canyon Synod, a collection of Lutheran churches across Arizona, Southern Nevada, and Southern Utah.
From May 30th to June 1st, Community had the privilege to host the Grand Canyon Synod's Annual Assembly. The annual assembly allows leaders from all the congregations gather together to worship and study together, as well as to conduct synod business (such as, elect a bishop every six years).
Volunteers from Community, as well as the diligent work of music and tech staff, provided a wonderful assembly experience for the delegates.
One of our members, Pastor Gene Nilsen was honored for his 65 years of service to the church. Below is the video of that presentation:
God does amazing things! Even five years ago, I had no idea the plan that God had in store for me. I had no idea that I would be blessed and privileged to be in Las Vegas, doing what I love at a church that was truly full of grace. What then, I wonder and pray, is in store for the next five years?!
In the midst of the difficult economic situation in our city, I have seen Jesus be faithful to us as a congregation. I have seen the wise stewardship of church leadership. I have seen the difficult decisions that have to be made. The weight of our debt on our ministry budget is significant, but I believe in the freedom that is in our future.
God has given Community an amazing vision for its next season of ministry in Las Vegas. Through the Freeing Our Future five year capital campaign, we can be free of debt and be free to move into an unfettered future. The excitement and momentum that is building around the Freeing Our Future campaign is palpable. This is not just the campaign of the leadership or of the steering committee, but it is the campaign of everyone in the congregation who desires to follow God into the future.
A few weeks ago, Jacqueline and I received our own personal visit regarding the campaign. Our visit was casual and informative; the objectives for Freeing Our Future were clearly explained. We loved the simplicity and singular focus of Freeing Our Future: to free the church of its mortgage debt. My wife and I then took the next week in prayer and in planning (with no pressure or coercion) to see how the Spirit was moving us to be involved. We pledged our commitment to the future of Community – knowing and trusting our ever-faithful God.
These next five years will change the course of Community’s story. Let’s not stand on the sidelines! Let’s not just point at what God is doing! Let’s be a part of what God is doing! Say “Yes” to the visit!
Hank is ready for Christmas to finally arrive. I'm ready for Christmas to finally arrive.
Christmas seems to be a holiday that is caught in a tension between quiet contemplation and joyous celebration. Our house has been rather quiet the past few days as my wife has been visiting family in Knoxville, TN. She returns this afternoon, and then Christmas for our family truly begins. Today, we will raise the Christmas tree and decorate it with ornaments and lights. We will put our stockings over the (never used in Las Vegas) fireplace. Quiet will turn to joyous celebration.
Even here at the church, today is a very quiet day. The office is closed. The sanctuary is fully decorated and seems poised for a celebration like no other. And, yet, it is very quiet today. Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, that will all change in an instant. The quiet halls will bustle with movement. The sanctuary will resound with singing praise to the newborn Savior. And then, as if the pendulum has swung again unbeknownst to us, we will sing "Silent Night" in hushed tones by candlelight.
I pray that you will join us this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. God's grace is displayed so beautifully, so humbly, and so compellingly in the baby born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.
It’s a hard question to answer, because if you knew what you were taking for granted then you probably wouldn’t take it for granted. To see, acknowledge, or give thanks for something demonstrates your appreciation. It is what we don’t see, acknowledge, or give thanks for that we take for granted.
This seems an especially appropriate topic with Memorial Day coming up. Now, when we talk about Memorial Day, what first comes to mind? Three-day weekend? Shopping sales? BBQ? Finally wearing white?
I remember some time ago that there was a lot of discussion around making September 11th a national holiday. Some argued that if we did not do it, then September 11th would eventually fade as a day of remembrance (much like most people overlook December 7th as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which was created by an act of Congress in 1994, but is not a federal holiday). Others argued that if it were made a federal holiday it would eventually become commercialized (similar to Memorial Day).
The truth is that from big things to little things we, as human beings, are prone to forget. When we forget it, we take it for granted.
We can forget about sacrifices made by former generations so that we could enjoy liberty and freedom (which certainly does not mean that we gloss over the rougher parts of our history; in fact, we have been given precisely the freedom to disagree and criticize or support and affirm the policies and actions of the government). We can also forget about the seemingly small yet incredibly impactful actions of those around us: the encouraging word and the behind-the-scenes support.
God knows of our broken tendency to forget. Throughout the Bible, we are called again and again to REMEMBER (God calls us to remember in over 50 verses of the Bible, with the word “remember” occurring in about 232 verses; bottom line: it comes up a lot!) God gave the Israelites holidays, feasts, meals, sacrifices, and a temple to help them remember in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, God gives us baptism and communion as tangible ways to remember his Son, Jesus, and how Jesus died for sin so that we could be forgiven and made new from the inside out.
God helps us remember even today as well. As I was cleaning out my desk, my mind was everywhere but focused on God. I opened up my top desk drawer to find a stack of old prayer request cards. Thumbing through them, I realized they were written in February after I preached a sermon on how BIG, BOLD, and POWERFUL our God is and how we can then pray BIG, BOLD, and POWERFUL prayers. I felt like the Holy Spirit was whispering, “Don’t forget God. Don’t take God for granted. Don’t take the fact that he hears and answers prayers lightly.” Wow. How easy it is for us to get distracted, forget, and then take for granted, even those things that we would stake our lives on.
In Genesis 35:9-15, God speaks a beautiful promise to Jacob, and in response Jacob sets up a pillar of stones so that he can REMEMBER. How do you help yourself remember what is most important? What are ways, things, and traditions, that you have started or will start in your personal life or family life in order to remember? Have you set aside time to read Scripture and remember others in prayer? Pray that God would continue to open our eyes to all of his grace and his gifts in this world and in our lives.
Well, I have found that blogging is like most other things in life…if you don’t make time to do it, it won’t magically happen on its own. So, I’m committing to at least one post a week. If you don’t see a post once a week, you have my permission to send emails, tweets, text messages, threatening letters, calls, etc. my way. In my posts, I hope to cover a wide range of areas from the Bible to random life experiences to culture and theology. So let’s begin…
Last October, I found myself lost in an adrenaline-pumping, toe-to-toe bidding war over a 1978 Honda CB400A motorcycle. Before the auction started, I had no intention whatsoever of bidding on the motorcycle. I won (much to my wife’s surprise), and it has unfortunately sat untouched in my garage for the last few months.
In early March, I purchased the necessary gear (helmet, jacket, boots, gloves) really just intending to walk around looking cool. In later March, I enrolled in a motorcycle class through The Cycle School (www.cycleschool.com). With a mixture of classroom instruction and hands-on driving experience, the two and a half day course was excellent but very humbling. Upon passing a written knowledge test and a short driving skills test, you receive a card that you take to the DMV and receive your motorcycle endorsement. This kind of unnerved me as I remember the long hours and months of learning to drive with my permit and then the excruciatingly nerve-wracking driving test administered by less-than-enthusiastic DMV workers. Now, two days of riding a motorcycle, and I’m qualified to drive with other people on the road? In Las Vegas? Really?
In two days, am I an expert at motorcycles? Nope. Will I be an expert after a year? Probably still not.
When do we become “experts?” Is that after a certain amount of time, a certain type of experience, or a certain degree is earned? Is being an expert a destination at which we arrive?
Maybe we don’t really become experts but rather are constantly becoming experts.
Paul writes to the Philippians speaking about his faith journey, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:12-14). Even Paul – the most amazing missionary, a prolific preacher, an author of inspired Scripture – knows that he never became an expert, but is continually striving in becoming an expert.
The “experts” I go to for advice are men and women who are constantly learning, reading, studying, and gaining life experience. They have committed themselves to becoming experts. The moment we think we have become an expert, we cease to be one, because we have stopped becoming an expert; this is especially true in our modern day when new information in every field imaginable is coming at us at an almost unimaginable pace.
In what areas of your life (either at home, at school, at work) do you want to become an expert…knowing that you are committing yourself to always becoming an expert? In terms of your relationship with Jesus, have you considered yourself an “expert” and stopped pursuing him in prayer and Scripture? Will you strive forward, like Paul, trusting that Jesus has already made us his own?
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