On a cold night, in the well lit confines of Amazing Grace Bookstore, your Bay Area Lutheran Ministry representatives met on the 25th of January 2015. Without fanfare or speeches officers were re-elected, and this year's coming events were discussed. Highlights of the planning included the following -
Pastor Starr reported that over 100 men are signed up for the Men Alive Conference on February 21. These men come from 24 different congregations. There still is room!
Emmaus Walk will go from Bethel to Trinity on April 19 at 2:00 pm.
Joint Ascension Service will be at St. Bartholomew on May 14 at 7:00 pm. Joint adult and children's choirs from our churches will participate.
Festival of Friendship at individual churches will occur on June 28.
Other possibilities for the year include an area campout, youth rally in Philadelphia, another Reformation Diet with the topic of Bible translation and the Wartburg Project. St. Bartholomew will be hosting the Living Christmas Card this year. Feel free to talk with your pastor or come to the next meeting tentatively scheduled to be at Bethel on April 12 if you have any ideas you would like to share.
For more information about BALM, please contact one of the officers:
Chairman: Pastor Paul Schaewe, St. John's Lutheran (684-6791)
Secretary: Pastor Mark Luetzow, Bethel Lutheran (892-4252)
Treasurer: Mr. Rusty Garwick, Trinity Lutheran (892-5435)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (posted 5/20/12) This past January, pastors and lay representatives from some of the Bay area congregations - Bethel, St. Bartholomew, St. John's, and Trinity - got together to see if there are areas of ministry that we can better do together than we can as separate congregations. The result of that meeting was a resounding "yes". In February we officially organized and took the name "Bay Area Lutheran Ministries" (BALM) adopting the following as a mission statement, "Bay Area Lutheran Ministry exists to join together in ministry on a larger scale than possible as individual congregations." On April 23 we had our first business meeting, in which we discussed things we are already doing together (i.e. women's retreat, youth lock-ins, and the "Emmaus Walk", etc.) and also planned how we can further worship together, join in fellowship activities, do joint outreach work, have joint youth activities, and promoting training for Christian living and service.
What's the reason for having another organization with more meetings? Please understand that the intention is not to form one big WELS mega-church in Bay City. We still recognize the value and strengths of having our individual congregations. Our goal is similar to the reason why we are part of a synod, to jointly work together in areas where we might not do so well as individual congregations. It's like individual body parts working together for the benefit of the whole body. And all of this is to the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who lived and died to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil so that we might be members of his body, and who rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father to rule over all things for the benefit of his body, the Church.
One of the recommendations that will be before the synod in convention that came from the Task Force on Lutheran Schools was to encourage every congregation that is operating a Lutheran Elementary School to enter the process of school accreditation. In keeping with that recommendation our Board for Education is bringing Dr. Ledell Plath to our school on October 5th to make the initial presentation on the synod program of Accreditation. This process will scrutinize every aspect of our school’s ministry and goals and lead us to have a very focused approach of sharing the Gospel as we educate the children that God places before our teachers. This is a lengthy process. This is an opportunity for us as a congregation to improve our ministry and to make a public statement concerning how seriously we are committed to educating our children in a Christ centered environment.
The Church Is In Trouble
Things have changed - both in our church and in our lives. There are difficulties and the only answer is God's Word. Read the article "The Church Is In Trouble" to see how Pastor Westendorf addresses this issue.
Death is Going to Die
I remember it vividly. I was listening to the radio. The song that was on was not a familiar one, but suddenly one line from the song did something I did not expect. The singer sang how he wished it were once again 1985, where all the ones he loved were still alive. With that one line I abruptly found myself back in 1985, sitting at the large table in my parents’ kitchen. Surrounding me were those members of my family who have long since died. They were happy, healthy, laughing and smiling as they had always been. And oh, how I missed them.
That’s the hard thing about death. One by one it takes away the people you love. The longer you live, the worse it gets. And when it comes to the death of someone extremely close to you, you never completely get over it. Such a death is going to leave a mark, a scar. That’s just the way it is. That’s what it means for sinful people to live in a sinful world. Everything dies. And everyone.
But then along comes Jesus. Along comes his empty tomb. Along comes his resurrection from the dead to declare that death no longer has the final word. In fact, because our Savior has paid the ransom for our sin, even the deaths we endure in this world will soon cease to be. When Jesus returns, death itself will die. Death will be destroyed. A time is coming when the heavy hurt of death will not even be a memory. Instead, there will only be joy, laughter, victory, celebration. And these will last forever. Jesus says so.
Maybe you’re hurting now because of a recent death. Or maybe you’re hurting from a death of long ago. It’s okay to feel the hurt. Just remember. Jesus lives. Those who die in the Lord will live forever. And death is going to die.
Living Lord, when death touches my life, remind me that death does not have the last word. You do. Amen.
In our circuit meeting in March, the pastors of our circuit were discussing the sin of people living together outside of the bonds of marriage. As we discussed it, one of the recurring themes that we heard is that most people look at two people living together before marriage as normal and they wonder why we as pastors make such a big deal of it. Some of the pastors talked about people leaving the church because the pastor refused to marry a couple that had been living together and refused to admit their sin and had also refused to take steps to correct their behavior as the pastor had suggested. One pastor recounted that when he began his ministry he used to have mothers come knocking at the door of the pastor’s study because their son or daughter was living with someone and the mother wanted the pastor to intervene; at that time the mother came asking the pastor to get involved by pointing out the sin that the two were living in. In those days people were offended when people would live together outside of marriage; then it was a disgraceful thing for the family. Today he said when he encounters a live-in situation he now has mothers knocking on his door telling him that what the kids are doing is none of his business. It also seems today that the only people offended enough to do anything about such a sin is a pastor. Our society has worn down our awareness to such sins.
As we study the marriage and the blessings that go along with marriage as God designed it, we see clearly that the blessings of marriage were intended to be enjoyed only by those who had been joined together as husband and wife. Those who live together outside of marriage are attempting to enjoy the blessings of marriage without making the commitment of marriage. God rigidly protects the blessing of marriage in Scripture as we see in passages like Hebrews 13:4 when God states, “Marriage should by honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure for God will judge the adulterer and all of the sexually immoral.” God has reserved the blessings of mutual companionship, children, and sexual chastity for marriage, period.
God is so adamant in his protection of marriage because of what marriage is to be an illustration of in our lives. In Ephesians 5:21-33 God shows us that he uses marriage as the illustration of our relationship with God. We as members of his church are his bride and the Lord himself is the groom. God uses this illustration to help us understand how intimate of a relationship God desires with each of us. God expands upon this illustration throughout Scripture and speaks of the fact that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is living inside of us. God warns us that just as certain behaviors would destroy a marriage, so also our sins destroy the intimate relationship we have with God. God has given us his Word for us to study so that we learn what his will is for our lives. The world we live in seeks to lead us away from the will of God by appealing to our needs and desires in sinful ways; the world then tells us that such behavior is normal, acceptable and even proper in modern times. Those who fall into this trap need to be reminded of what the Lord says about sin in the Bible. God warns us about supporting the ways of the sinful world in Ephesians 5:17 as he states: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
As we read through the law of God in the Bible, we see many references and warnings in regard to the use of God’s gift of sex. The sixth commandment was written for all people, not just those who are married. God wants us to keep our bodies pure from such immorality because these sins diminish the respect we have for God, ourselves and for each other. Many think that such a view is old fashioned and they think that we need to become more accommodating in our ministries today. God’s Word is not Old Fashioned. It is timeless and changeless. We are not given the freedom by God to pick and choose which parts of his Word we will obey and which ones we will disregard. In fact God says just the opposite as he says that we are not to alter or change even the smallest part of his Word and for those that do he prescribes terrible punishment in Revelation 22:18-19.
As congregations, we have called our pastors to proclaim faithfully all of God’s Word and on the day that those pastors were installed the members of the congregation promised to listen and obey the pastors in matters of the word of God as long as what they teach and preach is truthful to the Word of God. When it comes to living together outside of marriage, a pastor is bound by the oath he has taken before God and his congregation to uphold all of God’s Word and therefore the pastor is bound to point out the sin in these situations with the intention of leading the couple to repent of the sin and seek God’s forgiveness.
Some have asked where the pastor gets the right to refuse to do a wedding in such circumstances. The pastor is first of all bound to use the law of God to point out sin; to ignore such sin and to treat this sin as if it were no big deal would be damaging to the faith of all involved and would make the pastor guilty of teaching false doctrine. Once the pastor has pointed out from the Word of God the sin that has entangled those he is serving, what happens next is determined by how the parties involved respond. If the parties involved repent of the sin, the pastor assures them of forgiveness and is able to work toward a God-pleasing solution which may include the wedding in the church. If the couple refuses to repent of the sin and change their behavior, the pastor cannot in good faith allow a wedding to take place in the church because the couple is choosing sin over the will of God. The wedding in the church is a worship service in which two people are joined in marriage and ask God’s blessings upon their marriage. For a couple that has chosen sin over God’s will, to have such a wedding before God’s altar would be sinful and deceptive to all the family and friends in attendance.
Is living together outside of marriage a big deal? Yes it is to God. God forbids and condemns it and therefore as his children who are called to lived according to his wil,l we should also. This means when we become aware of the fact that someone is contemplating this sin or has fallen victim to it, we have a right and an obligation according to God to point out that sin out of love for the souls involved. The goal is not to humiliate, but in love to point out the sin and lead those who are guilty to repent so that we can assure them once again of God’s forgiveness. (posted 5/18/12)