How Your Pastor Can Get You Fired

chip-and-joanna
Chip and Joanna Gaines

Last week HGTV announced, “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.” This statement made me wonder if they have the same consistent record of including Christians?

HGTV issued its statement responding to the controversy surrounding the HGTV series Fixer Upper—specifically, its hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines and their affiliation with the Antioch Community Church, a non-denominational evangelical church in Waco, Texas. Their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, per an article by Kate Arthur of internet media company BuzzFeed, opposes homosexuality and gay marriage. Since the Gaines’ attend worship at this church, BuzzFeed speculates that Chip and Joanna also oppose same-sex marriage and would not feature a same-sex couple on their show. Perhaps adding to the controversy, the article notes that Pastor Seibert believes gay people can be converted.

Kate Arthur’s conclusion is obvious: HGTV should not have a program whose hosts are practicing Christians. Even though Chip and Joanna Gaines have not publicly commented on the BuzzFeed article, their association with their pastor, who calls Chip and Joanna dear friends, places their television career in jeopardy. I suppose some news outlets have a difficult time understanding that Christians believe that God defined marriage, masculine and feminine, male and female, and therefore man can’t alter those definitions — they’re scriptural.

So, if a pastor takes the Bible seriously and preaches the same, people who belong to that church or at least are in worship when the pastor preaches, are in jeopardy of losing their job.

Be warned people. I, for one, do take the scriptures seriously. I do not think that Christians are backwards and need to change their beliefs. Nor do I discriminate against anyone. In fact, I oppose discrimination. We all fall short of the mark God sets, we sin. We all need forgiveness.

So, I will continue to watch Chip and Joanna Gaines. I watch Fixer Upper anyway, but now I seem to have a desire to watch, if for no other reason, to support their pastor.

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Giving Tuesday

Black Friday Cyber Monday Giving Tuesday

Last year over 700,000 people raised $116,000,000 online in over 70 countries! Yet is a very simple idea. Following the recognized shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season. It is a global movement as people begin to focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. It’s all about helping others through the gift of your time, donations, goods or your voice.

At Immanuel, we pray you will remember us now. Gifts for our general fund have fallen off in recent months, and making the payroll is becoming difficult. Can you make a special one-time gift of $50, $100 or more today? Perhaps you have some stock you can donate to the church. We will arrange for the sale and provide you with appropriate documentation. I am not ashamed to speak plainly. Your church and school needs your tax-deductible gift.  Donations can be made online, mailed to the church/school office (200 N. Plum Grove Road, Palatine, IL 60067), or put in the offering plate during worship.

Giving Tuesday is also about giving your time, goods or voice. The opportunities to serve at Immanuel are numerous and we offer a variety of experiences from the one-time simple but necessary task, to longer commitments that require your dedication. Contact the office, or me, and let us know what may interest you.  Many of our volunteer opportunities are listed on Immanuel’s website.

More than a year ago, we determined to focus on reaching young people and others throughout our community that do know Christ. The work is exciting, challenging and rewarding. Be a part of “Stronger Together: Building the Community in Christ!” Help us make a real difference in people’s lives. Today is the day.

Thank you in advance,
Pastor Tom

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Thanksgiving Prayer

I humbly offer this prayer as I do every  year…

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

By verse and petition

I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. Psalm 34:1
Lord God, we praise You for every good gift in our daily life, but especially for Your love, grace, and mercy in the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

~~~

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30
Heavenly Father, increase songs of praise and thanksgiving from all Your people throughout the world, that we may make known Your glory to all.

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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
We give thanks to You dear God, especially for this good land and this nation dedicated to the liberty, peace, safety, and freedom of all its citizens.

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Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4
Move the hearts of all in government authority to lead in the ways of justice and mercy.

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I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1
For the fruits of Your creation, the just reward of labor, the help we give our neighbor and the world-wide task of sharing Your mercy, we give You thanks.

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Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:2
Increase our joy and gratitude for the blessings of family and friends that we may live to your glory in our world.

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“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 50: 15
Thank You, Lord, also for those things that challenge or even amaze us, opportunities to grow in faith and love toward others.

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Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
Bless, we pray, all who are in any need, especially among my family, friends and those on my heart now. For Your healing of all our conditions, we give You thanks.

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You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30:11-12
Above all, give us a generous supply of Your love that our love may never grow weary or weak, but move us to serve others in Your name. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

~~~

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

See you in church and in the community!
Pastor Tom

How’s it going?

hows-it-going“How’s it going?” is a common question and one I’d like you to ask me. Why?  Because I have a fun answer. It’s going great. There’s the Stronger Together Anniversary Celebration coming up this weekend of course –  a single worship service at 10:00 a.m. at which our friend Pastor Karl Galik will preach and enhanced Bible Study at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.  And a bonus?  Volunteers are busy planning a wonderful reception afterwards.

But the really neat part of “How’s it going?” is that my week has been filled with kids!

literacy-night

On Tuesday, ILS Principal Delaine Schiestel, Library Learning Center Director Ruth Crimmins, Early Childhood Director Marlene Tres, and the Immanuel teaching staff held a wonderful event for families –  Literacy Night. I really loved seeing how much the kids enjoyed themselves.  Our staff proved yet again that learning can be a lot of fun.

occboxesaOn Wednesday, the pastoral staff took a little break from a regularly scheduled meeting to watch 4th and 5th graders load up Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, under the able direction of Children’s Ministries Coordinator Trephina Bedell and Volunteer Becky Thomsen. Each student was instructed to carry only two boxes at a time so as not to damage them.  The pastors had to follow those rules too.

occpastorloading

Now as a pastor, I’ve stood and greeted people coming and going thousands of times, yet it’s always worth it. This week, I was on early morning “door duty” a couple of times, getting to greet ILS students as they came into our school. Some were chatty, others focused, and some were just plain sleepy.  We were blessed with good weather too!

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I had the privilege of simply sitting in the pews yesterday for chapel. Mrs. Schroeder and the second grade class led the service.  They did a wonderful job and the other students, teachers and I were blessed.

See what I mean about my week?

See you in church, and at the door!
Pastor Tom

Stronger Together: More than a Slogan

Stronger TogetherBuilding the Community in Christ

Now that Hilary Clinton’s campaign is over, there is no longer any confusion over the Strong Together slogan! No longer will people wonder if we are referring to Hilary or Immanuel when we say “Stronger Together.” Of course, Hilary never used the second half of the slogan, “Building the Community in Christ.”  It makes one wonder that if she had used the second half, would the election have ended differently?

more_than_a_sloganOf course, the second half of the slogan is more difficult than the first half. It is one thing to realize that we all benefit if we come together, break through any barriers that may exist and simply cooperate, collaborate, and coordinate. It should be obvious that we will accomplish much more, because we are “Stronger Together.”

But putting this into actual practice, that is truly changing lives for the better, requires our full attention — not apathy — and looking outward — not inward. Take, for example, the Community Meal we served last month. Preparing and serving a free meal for anyone who walks in the door requires a whole lot of planning and preparation. Before the first plate of pasta is served, scores of volunteers have cleaned, cooked, set-up and prepped to feed 100+ people. People freely gave up their time, their money and their skills to make a difference.

So, Immanuel, let’s continue to work as a team. That includes youth, elderly, members, non-members, new Christians and old Lutherans, all! For building a community in Christ requires everyone to use whatever God has given them. It requires changing old practices and habits. It is the old comfortable way of doing things that has led to the necessity to build up the community in Christ. Think about it!

Check out this passage! It’s from The Message, which often gives us a different insight into scripture:

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 The Message

See you in church and the community,
Pastor Tom

 

A Veterans Day Prayer

A Veterans Day PrayerIn years past, I have been surprised at the number of people who found this blog by using a search engine and some variation of the term “Veterans Day Prayer.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the importance of honoring our veterans and praying for them and their families! So this year, I’d like to share that prayer with you again.

A Prayer for Veterans Day

Heavenly Father, you are our refuge and fortress.

Trusting you we pray for those who have served our nation
to protect and defend our freedom,
May they be honored all their days.

We pray for those who have fought
whose spirits and bodies have been scarred by war,
heal them and grant them a restful soul.

We pray for those who serve our country now
shield them from danger and in time bring them safely home
send your angels to protect them and their loved ones day and night.

Knowing that when we call to you, you answer us
In times of trouble, you rescue and honor us
We ask you to grant long life, peace and salvation to all.

Lord Jesus Christ, hear our prayer!
Amen.

Besides my humble prayer, I also offer up a verse in scripture. People have turned to Psalm 91 for thousands of years whenever danger loomed. It’s a wealth of strength and encouragement for veterans, their families, and all who support and honor them for their service to our country.

Abiding Under the Shadow of the Almighty
Psalm 91

My Refuge and My Fortress

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

3For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

9Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

14“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Please join me in praying for our veterans and their families, not just today for Veterans Day, but all year-long. And, if you have the opportunity, thank a vet today.

BTW – This year, Immanuel is participating in the 11-11-11 Program’s “Move-In Essentials” Drive for Veterans Exiting Homeless Shelters.  More information…

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Words to Reflect On, the Day After

Brothers and sisters: clothe yourselves
with heartfelt compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Bear with one another;
forgive whatever grievances you have
against one another.
Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.
Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts…
-Colossians 3

2016 electionsI humbly offer this prayer for our nation…

God of Power and Might,

Millions of people across this great land are anxious today. There are winners and losers, cheers and tears, victors and failures.

As our nation embarks on the process of political change may all be reminded that you were our God yesterday, you are God today and you will be God tomorrow. Your love never leaves; your power does not fade and your call to be one in the Spirit remains.

Where there is disunity may there be agreement
Where there is division may there be union.
Where there is hurtful pride may there be righteous humility.
Guide President Obama to use his office and authority to provide for a leadership transition that reflects the principles envisioned by our nation’s founders.

Guide President-Elect Trump with a rich measure of your wisdom that he will serve all people of this country with truth, and fairness as he protects even the least among us.

Today may we all be patient with each other, with neither jealousy or arrogance. Send your Spirit of peace to reign in our hearts and help us work together, Lord, to serve the needs of all…

AMEN

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Some Scripture on the Eve of an Election

2016 electionsI am convinced that it is the duty and responsibility of every Christian to vote. But whom should we vote for? Consider these scriptures.

First, we are told to pray for our leaders:

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 2:1-4

But sometimes God is not pleased with the leaders we select.

They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but I knew it not.
With their silver and gold, they made idols
for their own destruction. Hosea 8:4

Celebrate when good wins, but hide when evil rules?

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves. Proverbs 28:12

Scripture gives Christians instructions to obey legitimate authority unless it contradicts the Lord’s commands. Consider Peter’s actions…

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:27-29.  See also Romans 13:1-7

We are encouraged to make God-pleasing choices…

Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34

Pray, study God’s word and then vote. God will help you determine the realities of the choices on the ballot.

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

All Saints Day…How Do We Observe It?

all saintsWe’ll be celebrating All Saints Day in all of our worship services this weekend, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some background with you this morning. It’s something I have posted before, but it still holds true now. Maybe more so.  I hope you will find this information helpful…

All Saints Day has been celebrated in many Christian Churches since the ninth century. Initially the Church commemorated martyrs of the faith on various days throughout the year, but over time those celebrations came to be held on one day, November 1st. In medieval England, the festival was known as All Hallows, which gave us the name Halloween, for the preceding evening (All Hallows Eve). During the time of the Reformation, Lutherans emphasized the New Testament teaching that “saints” includes all believers.

Today many churches, including Immanuel, commemorate “the faithful departed” on “All Saints,” or the first weekend in November. We especially remember all those from the church who died in the last year.

I have never found preaching at a funeral service to be an easy task, in spite of the fact that I have conducted more than 400 funerals in my career. Speaking at a funeral has never become routine, or something that I can do without any preparation. Funerals bring a significant challenge to me, as they have not become easier over the years.  I don’t expect that to change.

There are times when the deceased has lived an obvious life of faith. When this is the case, such as the funeral I mentioned above, I am so grateful that I can stand in front of the family and friends and assure them that their loved one is with Christ in heaven. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that heaven exists, and those who believe in Jesus Christ are in heaven when they die. Sharing that truth in the funeral message is truly a joy.

Perhaps the challenge for me occurs when I stand before those who mourn.  I remind them that if you believe in Jesus Christ you will be saved. Without making any judgments, I look at the people who gather for funeral and silently wonder how many truly believe in Jesus Christ? As a pastor, I feel an obligation to share the message of salvation with those who are still alive. After all funerals are for the living! Therefore I choose Scripture, and my words, carefully at funerals so that the living will hear God’s truth.

As we “commemorate the faithful departed” on All Saints Day again this year at Immanuel, I will remember standing before many families as they said goodbye to their loved ones. I will remember the moments, and I will feel the emotions from those days. Many of those families will join us in worship, and they will hear their loved one’s name read in worship once again. We will pray for the living as we remember the departed.

A final note…There is one passage of Scripture that I have shared countless times with people in the midst of sorrow during the time of the death. I’ve often been asked, sometimes in words and sometimes through unmistakable inquisitive expressions, has my mom, dad, brother, sister, son or daughter gone to heaven? With absolute certainty I remind them that faith alone saves. I share the words of Jesus, words he spoke from the cross to one of criminals dying alongside him. To the one who asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

See you in Church!
Pastor Tom

 

Serving the Community

community-meal-teamImmanuel Lutheran Church and School opened its doors to the community last Thursday and the community responded. Hosting our first “Community Meal” event proved to be very exciting and rewarding for the scores of volunteers who prepared the food, served, organized the room, and even directed traffic. More than 200 meals were served as people enjoyed spaghetti, meatballs, salad, rolls and a rich assortment of homemade desserts.

The Community Meal was founded in Barrington by Mary Sandners. Mary’s vision of providing for friends, families and others in need in Barrington has now expanded to Palatine. Immanuel’s new Director of Youth Ministries, Pastor Donald, worked previously with Mary…they reconnected and planning began for the meal last summer. With the success of the first Community Meal in Palatine, another Palatine meal is planned for January 12, 2017 5-7 p.m. at Immanuel.

For the last year Immanuel, has intentionally reached out to the greater Palatine community through a variety of events under the theme “Stronger Together.” Last summer we hosted a free baseball/softball clinic for children coached by volunteers, including Bill Campbell a former Cubs pitcher, and another former pitcher, Immanuel’s own Pastor Warren. We’ve also hosted Social Media Awareness meetings, an annual Bobcat 5K, and this weekend was the fourth annual “Trunk or Treat” which drew an estimated 600 plus people.

Next month, Michelle Williams (former singer with Destiny’s Child, songwriter, actress, producer, WNBA team owner, and creator of the Believe home products line) will speak with Immanuel’s students, alumni and other young women of the community.

Other community outreach efforts include American Heritage Girls, Trail Life for Boys, Centershot ministries which shares the Gospel of Jesus using the life-skill of archery (beginning early 2017), as well as painting and other repairs for homes of people unable to take on those tasks. Our youth program has expanded through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school and our middle school. Next spring, we are planning to make another trip to Cambodia to help a small rural community. Earlier this year we brought over many pairs of used glasses and matched people with poor eyesight with the proper lenses.

Immanuel’s intentional outreach to the community will continue as we are given new opportunities to serve people. The temptation is always to remain in one’s own comfort zone, in a setting that is very familiar and to simply let someone else help. However that isn’t what Christ had in mind when he said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . . (Matthew 25:35).”

See you in church, and in the community,
Pastor Tom