Summit II: Building on Summit I

What do Michael Hyatt, Patrick Lencioni, Chick-fil-A and Immanuel’s Dan Heuertz all have in common? Join us next Saturday morning to find out. Summit II will bring these three men and one corporation together as we build upon the success of our first Summit last June  — although only one of them will actually be there in person…I’m sure you can guess which one.

Be prepared to hear what lessons Immanuel can take from successful business practices. You may be surprised to hear just how vital “Organizational Health” is, not only for a business but also for a church.
Three key concepts will be explored:

  • Collaboration
  • Connections
  • Community

How do we work together at Immanuel to create something special in the kingdom of God? What connections do we have in this community and beyond as we come together and volunteer our time to make a difference in someone’s life? Immanuel is a community of Christian people held together by the common belief that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. We are also part of many other communities including our various towns, schools, work settings, and even our families. How can we help our communities reach out to others in need?

Join your friends and meet some new people next Saturday, September 24 at 9:00 a.m. in the gym. This is for members and friends of Immanuel. We will continue the conversation begun last June and move into some new areas. If you missed Summit I, don’t worry, we will help you catch up.

Hear what Immanuel is doing to reach out into the community.
If being a member of Immanuel has become only an obligation to attend worship when your schedule allows, then perhaps you need to consider joining us next Saturday morning. Be a part of the movement we call Stronger Together! This is the right time for you to make the time to make a difference. Regardless of age or circumstance in life, you are welcome.

Please contact Diana Broj at dbroj@ilcp.org or 847-359-1549 to R.S.V.P., if you have questions, or to make arrangements for childcare.

See you at the Summit,
Pastor Tom

Leaders Visit Immanuel’s Studio

dan-gilbert-video
Open up President Dan’s video and listen to his message for Immanuel. Hear how we work together, cooperating with his office and the other congregations, pooling our resources and reaching people who do not know Jesus.

Two weeks ago, Immanuel welcomed three guests from our Lutheran Church district office – the Northern Illinois District: Pastor Dan Gilbert, the district president, Pastor Keith Haney of the president’s staff and Pastor Kris Whitby, a member of the board of directors and pastor of Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Mount Prospect.  They visited our studio and recorded videos to encourage the 215 district congregations in community outreach. Our district’s efforts to reach others with the good news of Jesus Christ is called “New Starts, New Believers.”

Immanuel is one of those 215 congregations from Northern Illinois. Having the district president visit is always an honor considering his demanding schedule. He recorded two videos, one specifically for Immanuel and another for all 215 congregations. His words for Immanuel are linked to this blog.

As you open the video you will see the district president sitting behind a lavish desk in front of a world map and the logo for “New Starts, New Believers” prominently displayed. You may wonder, “where is he?” No, I did not have my office remodeled. He is actually in our studio (a room underneath my office) made possible through our Stronger Together initiative. Working with a tight budget, watching for sales, and negotiating with manufactures, we now have this amazing technology to produce videos for our ministry needs, especially outreach and as a hands-on laboratory for our school students. (Our middle school now offers an elective, AV Studio…students in that class even record school announcements a few times per week.)

NID President Dan Gilbert’s Message to Immanuel

Open up President Dan’s video and listen to his message for Immanuel. Hear how we work together, cooperating with his office and the other congregations, pooling our resources and reaching people who do not know Jesus. His plea to “just do one thing” for outreach gives me pause to consider. What one thing am I doing today with the help of the Holy Spirit to share Christ? How about you?

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

A Prayer for Labor Day

labor dayIt’s Labor Day here in the U.S. and I’d like to share my annual Labor Day prayer once again.   Labor Day offers a reason to reflect on scripture and prayer on the subject of work.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

Please join me in prayer…

Heavenly Father and maker of us all, you provide us with a mind that casts a vision a heart that resolves to accomplish tasks and the skillful hands to finish our work. We thank you for creating us with the ability to create products, complete tasks and contribute to the well-being of our community. We gratefully acknowledge and pray for those who labor in our factories, in our industries, in our restaurants, in agriculture, in construction, in mining, in transportation, in communications, in our nursing homes and hospitals, in law enforcement and emergency services, in childcare, and in our retail industry. We thank you for working through them to provide for the countless vital services to keep our country functioning.

We remember especially all who are unemployed or under-employed and pray that they will soon receive fulfilling opportunities that make use of their skills and abilities. In the meantime, help us to provide for their needs even as they seek patience, understanding and wisdom from you.

Keep all who labor healthy, strong and safe. May their hands provide the means for them to care for themselves as well as their families. May all workers be respected and valued even as they enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Open our eyes that we may treat others as we would want to be treated.

Finally then we pray that “. . . everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:13 ESV)

In the name of Jesus Christ, the carpenter from Nazareth, Amen.

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Prayer for All Affected By Tropical Storm Hermine

hermineIt may be a sunny Friday morning in Northern Illinois, but Hurricane Hermine is wreaking havoc as it hits Florida.  Please join me in prayer for those affected by this storm…

Dear Jesus,

Today we pray for our brothers and sisters, friends, and all people suffering under the relentless power of a merciless storm called Hermine. We remember another storm that threatened your disciples as waves swamped their boat. You reminded them to have strong faith in the face of trouble. You stood and rebuked the winds and sea and there was complete calm.

Remind us now to be strong in our faith. Calm these winds and waves that bring floods of destruction and threaten lives. Watch over the first responders that they may bring rescue, shelter, and order to scenes of chaos. On this Labor Day Weekend may the Nation be united in prayer for all displaced by any storm in life as we humbly turn to you. For you are God, and with you, all things are possible. Amen

Jesus Calms a Storm

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:23-27

See you in church!
Pastor Tom

Values

Stronger Together
If we work at living out our personal values, it has an incredible impact on those around us.

On Saturday, Immanuel held a special Stronger Together meeting to discuss values.  The meeting was ably facilitated by Dan Heuertz and attended by a rich assortment of Immanuel people, representing many ministries and boards.  The purpose of this meeting was for the group “to develop a list of the specific values that will continue to guide us all – leaders, team members, and the whole congregation – along the path to “Build the Community in Christ.”  The discussion was fascinating – and it’s not over.  We will be convening to finish the work we started –a date and time will be shared soon and I hope you can attend.

I had the privilege of opening Saturday’s meeting with a devotion.  I’d like to share the gist of it with you now, with a note of caution.  The “core values” discussion is a large one and our “core values” have not been finalized.  In a values discussion, sometimes the “values,” or faith practices like prayer, we hold dear will not be listed out as a “core value” but instead treated as a basic necessity for a church.  See Paul Alexander’s excellent blog post: 6 Things Your Church Should Know About Core Values for more on that.  Believe me, there was discussion on the “permission to play” concept as well.

The point of the devotion at the meeting — and what I share with you now — is to focus our eyes, and hearts, on God’s mission.

Let’s start with this concept: “Every believer has been sent by Jesus with the gospel in community to the culture for the sake of the King and His kingdom.”

The challenge, therefore, is for every follower of Jesus around the world to embody the mission and message of Jesus everywhere they go!

Simply understood, this means planting the gospel in the culture and through Christ displaying and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is Lord! But HOW does this happen?

Rather than looking for new ways to “be missional,” it may be helpful to identify patterns of missional behaviors that can be “practiced” each week. Let’s identify behaviors that demonstrate our Core Values. These behaviors then become Core Practices (habits) that everyone in the church family begins to exhibit.

For example, if our core value is “authenticity” – then the question to ask is: “how do we as a community demonstrate authenticity”? The answer is expressed in behavioral terms.

  • We confess our sins to each other.
  • We do not pretend to be “spiritual.”
  • We speak the truth in love.

Another Core Value might be “Compassion” which could be demonstrated by:

  • We bless someone three times each week.
  • We serve others three times each week (or every day).
  • We write an encouraging note to someone three times each week.
  • We pray with anyone right away whenever a concern is expressed.

Another Core Value might be “Community” which could be demonstrated by:

  • We share a meal with other believers once each week.
  • We meet to remember Jesus once each week.
  • We give “grace” to one another daily.

Another Core Value might be “Intimacy with God” which could be demonstrated by:

  • We daily read and reflect on Scripture.
  • We set time aside each week to listen to God (1 hour or more).

After identifying these behaviors, we begin to “practice” them each week. Imagine a group of Christians that are reading and reflecting on Scripture, listening to God, confessing sins, not pretending to be spiritual, and speaking the truth in love, who are serving others, blessing people, writing encouraging notes, praying together, sharing meals, remembering Jesus and being gracious. If we work at living out our personal values, it has an incredible impact on those around us.

Another way to identify behaviors might be simply to ask: “What would it look like to be Jesus to those around me?”

Identifying missional behaviors cannot be a program, it must be a lifestyle. Changing the way you behave isn’t easy. As the Holy Spirit helps you to identify ways to “be Jesus” to those around you, adopt the thinking and behavior that demonstrates the gospel.

Missional behaviors are redemptive, reconciling, merciful, gracious, and other-oriented. If we “just” worked hard at “being Jesus to everyone everywhere” – we’d probably be headed in the right direction.

Keep asking – “How do we display the gospel to those far from Christ?” Certainly this will lead us to spend time with those far from Christ. A few more ways to get started might be:

  • We share a meal in our home with non-believers every week.
  • We pray at 10:02 for laborers for the harvest (Luke 10:2) He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
  • We frequent the same “third place” each week at the same time to develop relationships with non-Christians.
  • We join our “Neighborhood Watch” group (or start one) on our street.
  •  We adopt the closest school to our home and start volunteering each week.

Don’t give up.

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

A Prayer for College Students

Last week, I got the privilege of greeting Immanuel students as they arrived for the first day of school. I wish I could do the same with our college students!
Last week, I had the privilege of greeting Immanuel students as they arrived for the first day of school. I wish I could do the same with our college students!

Many of Immanuel’s college students left to go to their colleges and universities last week so they could start classes today.  I’d like to share a prayer with all of our college students.  But it’s a prayer that we can all pray as well…just switch out the pronouns – “college students” for “I” and “them” for “me.”  Please join me in prayer…

Dear Heavenly Father ~

Your Son, Jesus Christ, promised to be with us always. He constantly looked out for the confused, the anxious and worried. Without hesitation, he provided for everyone’s needs, always with love and understanding.

As I begin this year of study, please remain with me, not only when my heart is near yours, but even when I put much distance between us. Give me the faith that remains true to you even at the sound of voices that encourage me otherwise. When I am strong, please keep me humble and when I’m weak, please hold me up tall and sturdy.

As I discover new lessons in life, may I be discerning between healthy choices and those that will displease you. When I befriend others may I hold respect, truth, and honest concern as cherished virtues to be shared. In all that I experience may I always remember that you are the creator of all life, that I hold all of creation in the highest regard without discrimination or prejudice.

As relationships change during this time of transition in my life, may I remain the person my parents can be proud of and speak well of to others. May I always appreciate their years of nurture, support and love, even as I thank you for providing me with the blessings of family and childhood companions.

Finally, I ask that your Spirit never be far from me. May my faith always grow when challenged and my example be pleasing to you. May this entire experience prepare me for a life of service to others, a willingness to reach out to the hurting and a sincere desire to be comforting to the troubled.

For you are God. You have known me before I was conceived and remained with me always. You sent your Son to provide for my salvation and your Spirit to keep me in faith. To you all glory, honor praise and thanksgiving, AMEN

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Immanuel's "Keep in Touch" ministry sends care packages to college students and military members. The next mailing is September 18. For more information, see http://www.immanuelpalatine.org/kit-september-2016/

Immanuel’s “Keep in Touch” ministry sends care packages to college students and military members. The next mailing is September 18. More information… 

A Prayer for High School Students

Fremd High School in Palatine is holding their "Freshman Kick Off" today.
Fremd High School in Palatine is just one of the many area high schools that Immanuel alumni and members attend.

Area high schoolers begin school today.  I’d like to share a prayer for them again this year…

High School is beginning. Millions of young people, along with faculty and staff, are gathering across the country. Freshmen are beginning a new chapter in their lives. Seniors begin to make decisions for their lives after high school. Filled with new discoveries and relationships, as well as memories that often last a lifetime for students and parents, it is a remarkable time for everyone.

Whether you are a high school student or a parent of a high schooler — in fact everyone who has ever attended high school — let’s ask God to bless our young people and all who teach. I especially remember Immanuel’s students who graduated and are now attending Palatine, Fremd, Schaumburg, Barrington, Hoffman Estates, St. Viator, Faith Lutheran, and Dundee-Crown High Schools, among others.

Here is a prayer I wrote for you. Please make it yours!

Dearest Jesus,

At 12 years old, you set the standard of learning for us when you went to the temple, sat among the teachers and asked them questions. Many high school students are returning to school where they will also “sit among the teachers.” We thank and praise you for the opportunities you give us to learn and grow in all ways.

For those anxious about school, calm and reassure them.

For those who lack friends, bring healthy relationships in to their lives.

For those who are challenged to learn, surround them with people who care and provide guidance.

For those who excel, may they recognize the gifts you provide and use them to the well-being of others.

For all, students, teachers, staff and parents assure them that you are the Lord of All, the Prince of Peace, and our Savior, in whose name we pray.  Amen

Wise men and women are always learning,
always listening for fresh insights. Proverbs 18:15 (MSG)

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

 Immanuel’s Faculty Returns!

teacher_installation_2016There are at least two annual occasions when the Immanuel School Faculty gather together in front of the church altar during a worship service — before and after a school year.  Yesterday was one of these occasions and it was in preparation for the new school year, which begins on Wednesday, August 17, though Immanuel’s teachers started back this morning. After school ends in May, the teachers will gather once again to thank God for his blessing on the just-completed school year.

IMG_2281Yesterday’s gathering included scripture, prayers, and the formal installation of two outstanding new teachers at Immanuel, Meredith Evans (4th Grade) and Michelle Johns, (Science and Language Arts, Middle School). Miss Evans and Mrs. Johns come to Immanuel with years of experience in the classroom, and are as pleased to be coming to Immanuel as we are to have them on our staff. I spoke briefly with all the teachers and the congregation, encouraging everyone to support our school. I recognize that a teacher’s work is filled with rewards, but it also has its share of challenges.

If a school like Immanuel is to thrive in the future, it must offer more than the other local schools so parents will recognize the need to enroll their children. Gathering the faculty at the altar twice a year, along with daily morning devotions, weekly chapel and religious instruction every day are all advantages we offer. All this, academics, expanded sports opportunities, a music program, and a host of extra-curricular activities not only keep Immanuel on pace with the local schools, but often give it an edge.

Young people who graduate from Immanuel are well-prepared, not only for high school, but even for college and beyond. Many parents have indicated the cost of tuition was simply an investment in their child’s future. Scholarships and grants come easier to the well-performing high school students, putting them on a path for success. With a solid relationship with Jesus Christ and the ability to consistently make God-pleasing life choices, Immanuel’s alumni are serving world-wide in a host of occupations.

Are you interested in learning more about Immanuel? We always have room for more students, covet your prayers, and welcome your financial support. Give me a call or send an email – Pastortom@ilcp.org. Better yet, contact Linda our Admissions Director at lstammer@ilcp.org or 847-359-1549.

See you in church — and school!
Pastor Tom

Immanuel’s Shining Stars

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The MLB All Star Break may be over, but I think Immanuel’s “All Star Break” break occurred during the last two weeks in June, though it wasn’t a break at all…it was a chance for us to perform like All Stars, by the grace of God of course.

Pastor Warren, Pastor Donald and a dedicated team of volunteers hit a home run with the “Shining Stars Baseball/Softball Camp” last week. Over 50 children attended!

I had the opportunity to stop by.  The excitement among the children was contagious. Everyone was ready to “play ball” and they were so well-behaved and totally respectful of their coaches. A few Parks and Recreation workers even stopped by to see the young ball players. I know the program made a difference among many youth and their parents. Read more about Shining Stars on Immanuel’s website.

Shining Stars is not all the end of June brought:

  • Immanuel held the first ever Stronger Together Summit.
  • Trephina Bedell and Carolyn Rappoport headed up a dedicated volunteer team that produced a very successful Adventure Bible Camp (ABC).
  • Immanuel’s teachers, though on summer break, were busy.  Some volunteered their talents for ABC, some attended conferences, others attended the Summit, and many were spotted at Immanuel attending to things that better our students’ experiences.
  • Discovery Camp staff took great care of students in a fun way, as they’ll do all summer.
  • Pastor Donald and some of the youth volunteered at a soup kitchen.
  • Jenny Laabs held Band Camp, providing students with an important fine arts opportunity this summer.  (I’m going to hold off on “beat the band” puns.)
  • And so very much more…

Plus, much happened in July too! Stay tuned for more this summer…

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Part 2 – NYG 2016 NOLA: In Christ Alone We Stand or “How I Spent My Summer”

Pastor Donald and the Immanuel NYG group. If you want to see more pictures, just ask Pastor Donald. He has hundreds!
Pastor Donald and the Immanuel NYG group. If you want to see more pictures, just ask Pastor Donald. He has hundreds!

Recently I shared with you that my wife Carol and I were heading to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans to serve on the Critical Incident Team (CIT). I am happy to report that we have returned safely from an experience that may be described as hectic, challenging, exhausting, memorable, and most definitely filled with satisfaction. Pastor Donald and our youth also returned safely – though they had to do it via Newark, New Jersey! New Orleans weather was typical for mid-July: hot and humid with daily downpours that brought little, if any, relief from the humidity. I described the weather as “3-shirts-a-day.”

Following a day of training, becoming acquainted with our radios, learning new software for reporting incidents, and reviewing various protocols, the ten members of CIT felt prepared…prepared despite the fact that we were team of only 10 for 25,000 people! We met with other safety teams, including security, and received the latest updates about possible demonstrations in the city with the potential to interfere with the gathering. The team went “live” and began to walk through the convention center, waiting for any incidents that required our assistance.

It did not take long. All 25,000 participants met in the Superdome each evening. It was a 30-minute walk from the convention center where all the interest centers, experiential learning center, and Bible studies were held throughout the day. The heat and humidity, combined with less than healthy meal choices and a significant lack of water, was a recipe for many young people to become quite ill as the evening events began. I am sure that the 25-hour bus trip many people took to New Orleans didn’t include a lot of rest for anyone. Often the youth simply needed time to recover with sips of water and relaxing in a medical station under the watchful, trained eyes of medical personal. Occasionally a trip to the hospital was necessary. A CIT team was assigned to monitor the situation and accompany the youth to the hospital if necessary.

It wasn’t only the lack of water and long travel days combined with poor diet choices that brought a person down. Adults kept us busy, especially when they experienced chest pain, or were attacked by a colony of fire ants as they helped clean up a park, or developed a serious infection that required immediate hospitalization. I once came across a middle-age woman in a wheelchair who was being escorted by EMS to a taxi stand so she could return to her hotel. After I introduced myself and asked if she needed assistance from the team, she responded unmistakably in the affirmative. She was near the end of her endurance, on the edge of an emotional collapse, and not sure what to do next. One of the team members spent a few hours in conversation with her later that day, which seemed to be a good solution.

We began each day with an 8:00 a.m. meeting to review the previous day’s incidents and scan the day’s agenda for any situations that may necessitate the team’s assistance. Some of the interest centers discussed sensitive topics so we had a team nearby to assist if the need arose. Traditionally the gathering pays tribute to the youth and adults who intended to attend but unexpectedly passed away before the gathering. While the Gospel message with the promise of the resurrection is emphasized, it is a very emotional experience for many participants. We provided comfort as best as we could.

For Carol and I, what was perhaps the most memorable experience occurred without us realizing it immediately. One morning during a Bible study with 6,000 participants, a young woman suffered what appeared to be a seizure. Her friends quickly called 911 when they realized she needed immediate help. Two teams, four people total, responded initially. As the young woman was placed on the gurney and taken to the ambulance, we gathered a large group of those present, including her close friends.

Not knowing their friend’s medical condition was extremely frightening. Eventually her close friends gathered around Carol and I, and we simply listened, prayed and helped these young people during their time of crisis. We sat with them on the convention floor for more than an hour. As the day unfolded, we continued to hear from gathering leaders thanking us for simply doing what came quite naturally to us. We thanked God for giving us the opportunity to serve others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Carol and I loved our NYG experience and we aren’t alone.  Pastor Donald, Immanuel’s adult chaperones, and our teens also returned home enriched.  In fact, Pastor Donald and the youth shared their experience this weekend in worship. Of course, the NYG media team has a lot to share on their website, including this “by the numbers” graphic. The website is lcmsgathering.com – be sure to check it out.

Infographic credit: Emmi Moll, 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering Media Team
Infographic credit: Emmi Moll, 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering Media Team

See you in church this weekend!
Pastor Tom