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Spring Lake Park, Minnesota

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“Be ready, in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2)

Dear Members and Friends of Prince of Peace,

Going through my closet awhile back, I was a bit surprised, and then even embarrassed, about all of the clothing that I found there. There were t-shirts of course, and sweatshirts, but also long-sleeved t-shirts, light sweaters, medium-weight sweaters, shorts, light pants, medium-weight pants, heavy pants, button down shirts with short sleeves and no tails, but also button-down shirts both short and long-sleeved with tails, both thin and thick, a variety of suit-coats of different weight, and of course the same could be said of socks. Really! What was my problem? Why so many clothes? I certainly had not had so many growing up in Colorado! The embarrassment came when I thought of the Nigerians I knew who had, maybe two t-shirts to their name and a pair of pants. Obviously something was wrong and had to change!

Then I thought of the weather in Nigeria. They have a wet season and a dry season. That is it. Otherwise, being just north of the equator, their weather remains pretty much the same throughout the year. Here in Minnesota? We experience swings in temperature of over 120 degrees every year. We can be buried in snow, drowned with rain, blown about by wind, or burned by the sun!

Our closets reflect that reality. Annually we must deal with a vast variety of weather conditions from the very cold to the very hot, from the very wet to the very dry. We therefore prepare ourselves for the ever-changing conditions with a vast array of clothing!

We can learn from this reality of the physical challenges of life in Minnesota when we contemplate the reality of spiritual challenges which we daily face. We would like to think that such challenges do not change, that like the weather in Nigeria, our spiritual situation remains very much the same from day to day throughout the year.
But it doesn’t. What do I mean? Like our weather, our lives are ever changing! People are coming into and going out of our lives, we are aging, our children are growing and marrying and even having children of their own. We are constantly forgetting one thing and learning another. The news is ever changing. Challenges arise daily! And these physical challenges, can and do challenge us spiritually! Oh how easy was it to hear and affirm on our confirmation day “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). It seemed simple back then! How complex it seems now!

So the comfort we find constantly, in the Word of God. It is there where we find a “closet-full” of strength and encouragement and insight which the Holy Spirit uses to bring us through each day of our ever-changing life! The devil would have us believe that all that Scripture contains for us is a t-shirt or two of spiritual strength, and so we are left to fend him, and the world and our flesh off with our own wits!

But this simply is not true! So we are told in 2 Timothy (3:16-17) as well that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

In order to face all of the physical challenges in life, that can challenge us spiritually, we must be ready in season and out of season, and we are made ready, by remaining daily in the Holy Word of God!

Your Servant in Christ,

Pastor Strawn

Previous Columns

December: Savior of the Nations? Psalm 72:11


Dear Members and Friends of Prince of Peace,

Way back in the 4th century, the bishop of Milan, Italy by the name of Ambrose penned the hymn Savior of the Nations, Come. This well known Advent hymn raises a number of questions immediately, with its first line, and that is: How is Jesus Christ, my Savior, also a Savior of nations? Is not salvation really a matter between the individual human being and God? Does salvation really have some sort of expression beyond the heart and soul? How could it be, that Jesus is the Savior of nations?

Of course in the Gospel of Matthew (ch. 2), we read of the Magi, the wise men from the east, who came to worship the baby Jesus, sometime after His birth. Their question in Jerusalem upon arrival: “Where is He, born king of the Jews?” Christians sometime later would dub these wise men as kings, referring, perhaps to Psalm 72:11 “May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him,” but they need not have done so, for in Revelation Jesus is called, and rightly so, the “King of kings” (17:14), or in other words, the King over all the nations of the earth.

But that is an uncomfortable thought, isn’t it? For if Jesus is the King of kings, if Jesus is the ruler of all nations over all the earth, why are they the way they are? You would think that if Jesus were in fact, the King of kings, the Lord of the nations, that He would address the world’s ills in all its nations.

Well, Jesus does. Especially in the lives and works of those who have “listened to His voice” (John 18:37), have come to the knowledge of the truth, have believed the good news of the salvation He brings, and now living in faith, live each day in love. That love expresses itself in service to the Christian’s neighbor.

Is there more? Well, yes. When Christ returns on the Last Day, He will return as the King of kings. In other words, the kingdom of Christ, which is now that of hearts and minds and souls, a kingdom of love and service, which is not always seen by the world, will indeed become a visible reality, something which all will see and acknowledge. Those who are granted entrance into that kingdom, the kingdom of a new heaven and a new earth, will enjoy an eternal life of peace, and justice and righteousness (Is. 9:7). This will be an actual, visible kingdom. A nation which replaces all of the present nations of the world with all of their troubles, and trials, and travails.

So Jesus is the Savior of the nations. And on the Last Day, He will bring to completion His saving action by bringing to an end what is earthly, and making a reality what is heavenly.

During the season of Advent, we hope, we pray and we yearn for this to occur. We cry out to our Savior Jesus Christ, not only to come to us in our hearts, but also to come again visibly, in power and in great glory as the Savior of the nations.

Your Servant in Christ,

Pastor Strawn

November: “Stand therefore…” Eph. 6:14


Dear Members and Friends of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church,

As I was on vacation this past Sunday in Aurora, Colorado, I was able to listen to a sermon by the Rev. Brian Wolfmueller, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church (who can also, coincidentally, be heard weekly on the internet at Table Talk Radio). In that sermon, Pr. Wolfmueller emphasized the fact that the latter half of Ephesians 6 is all about standing. It is not about advancing nor about retreating. And that is curious isn’t it? For is not that famous second half of the chapter all about being outfitted as a soldier? Here is the pertinent section: “13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (ESV).

 

Now you would think that being so outfitted, we would be set to go, to advance, to venture forth, to explore, even conquer. But what do verses 13 and 14 tell us? We are so equipped simply so we are able to stand, to stand firm, to withstand all that comes against us, from day to day. What is that? Well, verse 11 has the answer: The schemes of the devil. How overwhelming is that!?! Just in order not to fall to the devil’s schemes as we live in these end times we must, as Christians, be outfitted with the full armor of God: The belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness; the shoes of the gospel of peace; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit. Without these things, we fall. Without these things, we fail.

 

Those schemes? Financial hardship. Loss of employment. Loss of friendship. Disease. Death. In short, the schemes of the devil are anything that would cause us to stop trusting in our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, death and the power of the devil! When we pray the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” what are we doing but praying that we would be guarded and kept so that we would not be lead by the devil into false belief, or even despair, which Luther called a “great shame” and even a“vice”!

 

But is it enough simply to be able to stand? Those of you who have been bound to a hospital bed for days or even weeks or months would certainly say “Yes!” For being able to stand, what are you able to do, but to move? To work? To serve? But of course the Apostle Paul is talking in Ephesians about a spiritual standing, a standing in which we can exist within this world, in spite of the devil, and through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, love those around us with our service to them. And that is enough.

 

Your Servant in Christ,

 

Pastor Strawn

October: You've Won the Lottery!

Dear Members and Friends of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church,

 

As I write this column, the news of yet one more lottery winner has been announced around the nation. This time it involves $448 million dollars and a ticket issued in Lexington, Kentucky. Who will the winner be?

 

I suppose that we would need to look long and hard to find someone who has never thought, even for a moment, of what they would do, if suddenly, such a large sum of money dropped in their lap. Why? Well, it would seem not only to be the moment when all of our earthly problems would come to an end, but also, a world of possibilities would open before us. Bills would be paid, work would cease, and all sorts of adventures would begin.

 

Of course the reality for lottery winners is a bit more complex than that. Yes, many problems are solved, only to be replaced by others. Possibilities do indeed present themselves but they are frequently accompanied by challenges as well. The internet is full of stories of lives ruined by lottery winnings.

 

But the thought is intriguing, isn’t it? What would life be like if we received great riches?
Well, we have indeed received great riches! In Ephesians we read that the “riches of [God’s] grace” (1:8) have been “lavished upon us”! What are those riches that have been lavished upon us by our Father in heaven? The “wisdom and insight [of the] mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (1:9-10).

 

What kind of riches are these? They are riches not unlike those of lottery winners. How so? Well, the lottery winners great win is freedom, isn’t it? With a bag full of money, he or she now determines what is to be done, and when it is to be done. No longer are bosses and banks and responsibilities controlling daily life. The one who has the riches is. At least until confronted by death.

 

So it is with the Christian. Being lavished with the riches of God grace, in particular the peace that passes all understanding which keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, be there bosses or banks or responsibilities, there remains the freedom brought to by the wisdom and insight in Christ that this world is transitory, will come to an end, so our hearts need not be chained to it.

 

And what is more? There is a life to come, a heavenly existence, which will continue forever. It is there that we will be freed ultimately from the problems of this life. But even now, even though we are confronted by the challenges of life that we believe a lottery win could eliminate, the Holy Spirit can already confront them. How? By causing our hearts no longer to dwell on them, but on Christ.

 

Your Servant in Christ,

 

Pastor Strawn

September:“Put off the old self.” Eph. 4:22

Dear Members and Friends of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church,

 

Can we change? That is a simple question isn’t it? And the short answer, the instantaneous gut reaction may be a lightning-fast “No. I am what I am. I am what God made me to be. What I do I do and I don’t see that that can be any different than it now is. I am stuck in my ways.”

 

But if we were honest with ourselves, we would need to admit that we do in fact change, and change frequently. Take, for example, this month of September. September is a month of change isn’t it? It is the month when our summer schedule must come to a screeching halt, and the fall schedule followed. If we have children, this involves all sorts of changes: Getting up at a different time, preparing meals at a different time, monitoring homework, keeping track of activities, etc. If we have a yard and garden, there are all of the cleaning and straightening activities that must be done: Mowing at a different height, raking, weeding, composting, transplanting, trimming, etc. If we have heavier equipment, there are preparations to be made: Mowers and trimmers and blowers need to be winterized and the snow blower tuned up and made ready to go. In fact, September brings so many changes to our families, if we were honest with ourselves we would need to admit, that September is a month of momentous change!

 

So why do we do it? Why do we suddenly shift gears in September, and, well, change? Well our September changes are driven by carrots and sticks aren’t they? The carrots are things like a better education for our children, greater harmony at home as people come and go more frequently; lots of good vegetables and fruits to eat; a nicer looking lawn in the spring; a snow blower that actually runs the first time we use it. The sticks? Uneducated children; no produce from our gardens; the death of our lawn; and machinery that becomes a pile of junk.

 

Of course there are many other ways we change, as we age, as we grow, as life around us shifts and alters. If anything our problem is not that we cannot change, but that we are constantly changing and we wish simply, to have a few moments, days or months when everything stays the same!

 

Not surprisingly, our life in Christ is one of constant change. How so? Daily in Christ we identify those things which we should not do, or should do, and try to stop doing those things we should not, and do those things we should! This is called “putting off the old self” and “putting on the new self!” This is a process driven by the Holy Spirit which would have us ever become less and less like the way we were born, and more and more like we were reborn through our baptisms into Christ!

 

How can you change in Christ? As September is a month of change, perhaps simply a commitment to attend worship more often, step into a Bible study, start having daily devotions at home or set about reading the Bible.

 

You can change! The Holy Spirit has been given to you to make that change! Don’t try to stay the same, but put off that old self, and put on the new! Embrace through the arms of faith your rebirth, your new life in Christ!

 

Your Servant in Christ,

 

Pastor Strawn


Daily Devotion from the Lutheran Hour


Sunday School and Bible Studies

Picture of Sunday School PosterSunday School for all ages is held every Sunday from Labor Day to Memorial Day. For the children, an opening is held in the chapel at 10:30 followed by instruction in their classrooms. High School students meet in our youth room, while adults gather in the Fireside room. (For those adults who would prefer, a Bible study on a different topic is held before the Sunday morning service at 8:30 a.m. also in the Fireside room.) Other Bible study opportunities are also available.


Confirmation Instruction

Luther's Small CatechismConfirmation instruction for children in the 7th and 8th grades is held on Wednesday evenings during the school year using materials based upon Luther’s Small Catechism. Call the church office (763-786-1706) for more information.


Links

issuesetc.org www.lutheranpress.com theclef.org

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The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod gets its name from Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant reformation in the 16th century, and from the state of Missouri where our Synod began in 1839. The word “synod” comes from Greek and Latin words meaning “walking together” and refers to the unity we have in our church and Biblical teachings. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod consists of 2.5 million members in 6150 congregations involved in a world-wide ministry. Being “Lutheran,” our congregations accept and teach Bible-based teachings of Martin Luther that inspired the reformation of the Christian church in the 16th century. The teaching of Luther and the reformers can be summarized in three short phrases: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone.

Click here for more information about our belief and practice.

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7700 Monroe Street NE
Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, 55432

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