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True Wisdom

"True Wisdom" - The Pastor's Windshield for Sunday, October 2, 2022

On the wall of my office hangs a wooden plaque which was made by an extended family member in the 1970s. On it is inscribed this Bible verse: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). While I never knew the particular family member who made this plaque, I’m grateful that he made it and that it has been passed down in my family. What an important message it conveys to younger generations!
We recently began a new Wednesday morning Bible study. You’re welcome to join us on upcoming Wednesdays at 10AM as we study the book or Proverbs. The theme verse of Proverbs is very similar to the one cited above: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). While in 31 chapters the book of Proverbs covers many topics and situations, the practical wisdom it offers is secondary to its primary message: God calls upon His people to fear Him.
What does this mean? Fearing the Lord isn’t cowering at the thought of Him – although we should certainly take our Almighty God seriously. Instead, positively, it’s approaching Him with awe and respect. God deserves no less, considering that He is the Creator of all things! We fear the Lord because He is our Lord and Judge and we will give an account of our lives to Him.
But there are other layers of meaning to fearing the Lord. We hear in Proverbs 14:26-27, “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.” More than a fear of God’s power and judgment, this is a faithful fear of God in view of His love and mercy. This point is made even stronger in Psalm 130:4, a verse which is sometimes included in our order of confession and absolution: “With You is forgiveness; therefore You are feared.” Because God chooses to grant us forgiveness through His Son, we have all the more reason to regard Him with reverent fear and wonder. 
Proverbs 28:13-14 tells us, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord.” Faithfully fearing the Lord isn’t something that drives us away from Him, concealing our sins and afraid to approach Him. Instead, because we fear Him, we’ll admit our sins and seek His forgiveness and trust His mercy.
You may remember how Martin Luther explained the meaning of the 10 Commandments, especially the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods.” Luther said this means that “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” In our sinful condition, we daily fail to do this. We’d prefer to be our own gods. Thanks be to God, though, that He sent His Son Jesus to deliver us from our idolatry, sin, and death! 
As redeemed Christians, we still seek to follow God’s good will for our lives by fearing, loving, and trusting Him not only as we relate to Him but also as we relate to our neighbors. I’ve sometimes used a bicycle wheel as an illustration of the Commandments. The First Commandment is like the hub – the center. The other Commandments are like the spokes, connected to and flowing out of our relationship with the Lord. 
The same applies to wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the hub. Living in reverent faith toward the Lord is true wisdom. Flowing from that are all the other facets and details of wisdom. The book of Proverbs shares words of wisdom about family, finances, work, speech, and more. As we seek to grow and learn in these practical areas of wisdom, we bear in mind the theme of Proverbs: nothing is more important than fearing, loving, and trusting the Lord. In Him and in relationship to Him we live in the God-given wisdom of faith.
Peace in Christ,
                  Pastor Kory Janneke

Diet and Exercise

"Diet & Exercise" - The Pastor's Windshield for Sunday, August 14, 2022

I’m neither a dietician nor a personal trainer. I know that it’s good to avoid eating too much sugar and that it’s important to stay physically active each day. I know that a poor diet and an inactive lifestyle makes us more likely to get sick and be diagnosed with chronic illness. Beyond that, I’ll leave the specifics to those who are smarter than me. 
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical exercise are part of how we care for the physical bodies the Lord has given us. However, “diet and exercise” are also how we tend our souls, our life of faith. 
When He was tempted by the devil to turn stones in the desert into filling loaves of bread, Jesus responded by quoting God’s Word from Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). At a time when Jesus was physically starving, He still drew strength from God’s soul-sustaining words in the Old Testament.
Life is more than something maintained by physical nourishment. Spiritual life and eternal life are given and sustained by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
In your physical diet, you take in everything from little snacks to regular meals to memorable feasts. In your spiritual diet, you also feed on God’s Word in both big and small ways. A daily devotional practice feeds you a few bites of Scripture as you begin your day or pause during the day to hear from the Lord. (If you would like any recommendations from me of devotional resources, please let me know!)
The Sunday service feeds you a balanced meal of God’s Word, both His Law and His Gospel, through the liturgy, Scripture readings, hymns, and sermon. The service culminates in literally eating and drinking Christ’s own body and blood in His Sacrament of Communion.
Occasionally there are worship services that are more like a memorable feast: Christmas Eve, Easter sunrise, a church anniversary celebration, and other seasonal services may leave you with lasting memories and refrains that get stuck in your head!
However, you won’t remember every single devotion you read or worship service or Bible study you participate in, just as you don’t remember every meal or bite of food. Some will resonate more than others. More importantly, the steady diet of God’s Word that you take in will feed your faith and help you grow as a child of God. Each time you receive God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper, you get to “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)
But exercise also has its place! St. Paul writes, “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” (1 Timothy 4:7-9) In his book Grace Upon Grace, Theologian John Kleinig comments on this passage, “The secret for the regular exercise of spirituality, as with physical fitness, is to establish simple habits and practices that are embedded in our normal routines.” (p. 54)
In addition to exercising your faith by making devotional reading of Scripture, Bible study, and Sunday worship part of your regular routine, you also exercise your faith through your prayer habits. For example, when you pause to pray at meals, you remember that both your daily bread and all that you have comes from the Lord. He hears your simple prayers and blesses you with His presence.
Morning and evening are also fitting times for us to exercise our faith through prayer. Says Kleinig again, “It is wise for us to be briefed by Him each morning and debrief with Him at the end of the day … In the morning we ask God for His direction and provision for us in our work; in the evening we thank Him for His provision and seek His pardon for our wrongdoings. In this way we receive each day as a gift from God and hand it back as our daily offering to Him.” (p. 56) (Please see below for prayers you can incorporate into your devotional routine.)
May the Holy Spirit fill your spiritual diet with God’s Word and lead you in exercising your faith through prayer and godly living!
Peace in Christ,
                  Pastor Kory Janneke

Morning Prayers:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day. Defend us in the same with Your mighty power and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evening Prayers:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Be present, merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of life may find our rest in You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in Your mercy grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Meal Prayers:

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever. Amen.
“The eyes of all look to You, o Lord, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16)
Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(Returning Thanks) We thank You, Lord God, heavenly Father, for all Your benefits, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen. 

Prayers for Hearing God’s Word:

Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Lord, we thank You that You have taught us what You would have us believe and do. Help us, by Your Holy Spirit, for the sake of Jesus Christ, to hold fast Your Word, in hearts which You have cleansed, that thereby we may be made strong in faith, and perfect in holiness, and be comforted in life, and in death. Amen.

Prayer for Courage:

Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

Walking Together

The Pastor's Windshield for Sunday, July 24, 2022

[The following article is adapted from my sermon in a combined midweek service at Peace Lutheran on Weds, July 20, 2022.] 
In one of the Bible’s shortest books, John writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
If you set out on an exercise program, you’re more likely to commit to it if you’re not doing it alone. You’ll be more likely to train if you have a training partner. You’ll get out of bed and go for that walk if someone is waiting to go walking with you …
In the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ are like our “walking buddies.” Your faith, participation and service spurs them on, and vice versa.  This has been God’s intention all along. Ever since he declared that it was “not good” for Adam to be alone, God has always been in the business of creating community among His people. The Scriptures, too, aren’t written for isolated believers.  They’re written for communities and churches of the faithful.
As a “grandfatherly” figure of the church in his time, John tells his recipients what brings him joy: he had no greater joy than to hear that God’s children were walking together in the Truth.
But that wasn’t just true of John. It’s true of our Lord Jesus Himself!  When we walk together in Him who is the Way and the Truth and the Life, as Jesus called Himself, then Jesus and all the company of heaven are filled with joy over us!  And as we walk together by faith in Jesus, we’re also heading toward the joy of Jesus’ everlasting presence that awaits all who believe and are baptized into Him. 
As Lutheran Christians began coming to these shores back in pioneer times, they settled in small groups in places like Michigan and Indiana and Missouri. But after arriving in the community with one another.
By 1847, 175 years ago this year, a gathering of Lutherans from eight different states convened in Chicago and officially formed a “Synod,” originally composed of fourteen churches. The pastors and representatives of these congregations traveled hundreds of miles by horseback or by boat. Being together was so important to them that they would undertake these long and dangerous trips.
Our church body is still called a “Synod.”  “Synod” is an ancient Greek word which simply means “walking together along the same road.” Walking together is not just the example of our LCMS founders, it’s what the Scriptures have been praising for thousands of years. A millennium before Christ, King David wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Sadly, it can seem like there’s so little of that unity in this world …
When Jesus began His ministry, He gathered His inner circle, the twelve disciples. Then, three years later, on the night before His death on the cross, Jesus prayed for His disciples that God the Father would grant them to be one in faith, just as Jesus is One with His Father. But Jesus was not just praying for the original disciples, but for all the generations of Christians who would follow, including us.
He said, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their Word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:20-21) Jesus wants all who believe in Him to be one in faith, not just because it’s pleasant to be on the same page, but because of the witness of His Church.
When the people of God walk together in Faith and Hope and Love in Christ, it’s a powerful witness to the Truth of the Gospel!
Some of the places where the Lord has led me in my life have been places with a lot of Lutheran heritage. Not that long ago, the county I grew up in in Southern Illinois was 50% Lutheran! That’s very different from here in Arkansas. We Lutherans are sometimes few and far between in this part of the country. I’m sure you’ve run into people who have no idea what a Lutheran is!
But I think this means that we have an important responsibility:  God has called us to faith and placed us here “for such a time as this,” to walk together in His truth, and to be one in this Christian faith and to support one another in living Christ-like lives. 
As Missouri Synod Lutherans, we have something very important to offer our neighbors: we have God’s clear Word of Gospel! We believe, teach, and confess the Good News that God in Christ has saved us by grace, through faith in Christ, as revealed for us in Holy Scripture. As Lutheran Christians, we baptize both young and old (not just as a symbol) but for the forgiveness of their sins, just as the Scriptures promise. We gather at our Lord’s table to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion. We believe and teach that this, too, is more than just a reminder of Jesus, but it is a Means of Grace provided for us by Jesus Himself, by which we truly receive Him and the forgiveness and spiritual strength that only He can provide. 
One of the reasons I’m grateful to be an LCMS Lutheran is that we are clear in our stance on the Bible. We believe that the Bible is not a human concoction but that it is the true Word of God, just as Paul says to Timothy in the New Testament, that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching,” correcting, and equipping us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
As Lutherans, we stand firm on God’s Word, both when it comes to the Good News of our life in Christ, but also when it comes to God’s teaching on right and wrong, basic morality, the sanctity of human life, what it means to be a man or a woman made in the image of God, and many things that God’s Word makes clear for us.
I am grateful that the Lord has brought us together in Christ, and as fellow Missouri Synod Christians here in Conway and in a county now approaching 130,000 residents! From a missional perspective, God has brought His mission field right here to our doorstep!  We have a big responsibility as some of the only Lutheran congregations in the region. God has called us here for a reason: because our neighbors need us, and they need to hear that Good News of Jesus, just as we all do.
In this world, the church will face troubles. Jesus promised as much. Sometimes those challenges come from outside forces, and sometimes from within the church. It’s all because Satan will stop at nothing to attack Christ’s people and the ministry of the Gospel.
I think one thing most churches have in common is that they’ve had their struggles (things they wish to put behind them), and they’ve also had their “glory days,” perhaps times with fuller church pews and more ministry happening.
A friend of mine shared a metaphor with me about the past and the future. He compared the past to your rear-view mirror. You look back at it from time-to-time to gain perspective, but you don’t stay stuck there.  If you look at your rearview mirror all the time, you’ll end up in the ditch!  
Looking to the future is like looking through the windshield. It’s many times the size of your mirror and it’s much more important. As we “look through the windshield” into the future, we can’t see everything that’s ahead of us – only the Lord can – but we know that we want to avoid repeating some of the troubles of days past. More importantly, we know what the Lord wants for us as we go forward in faith: that is that we seek ways to walk together in His truth. 
At a minimum, this means that as fellow congregations of the same Synod, we are more than cross-town rivals. We’re partners in the ministry. We’re on the same team – the Lord’s!
We strengthen that partnership by gathering around the Word of God in our shared confession of faith, raising our voices together in prayer and praise to the Lord, sharing conversation and encouragement, and celebrating the Savior who unites us.
Because being members of a Synod means that we are walking together on the same road. Ultimately, it’s the road to the eternal life that awaits us, a road paved by our Savior Jesus Christ, who was born, died, rose, lives and reigns, and will return for us!
And it is His Church of which we are part. We are in this together to carry out His mission, to walk in His truth, and to proclaim His great salvation! So let’s pray for, speak well of, and support both of our respective congregations, just as we do for our wider Synod. 
Like “walking buddies,” let’s walk together in Him who is the Way and the Truth and the Life, Christ Jesus our Lord!
Peace in Christ,
                  Pastor Kory Janneke