Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Some Nuns were in the movie theater today watching "The Nativity". I thought this would be an appropriate picture for the day.
Things get a little crazy in the neighborhood this time of year. Christmas brings out the best and the worst.
For example today...I was taking a stroll past the "Projects" picking up some kids to go to the movies. (Some people donated monies to see "The Nativity".) So as I was strolling an older teen wearing an oversized camo jacket and scars on his face comes up to me smoking a cheap stogie and says, "do you have any money." I say, "No." I keep walking. A little faster now. He says, "Empty all your pockets." I keep walking looking back at him over my right shoulder. At this point I am getting close to a public building. I say, "No."
He says, "Ah, No. I ain't playin' fool. Empty your damn pockets." At this point I turn around and face him. I am in front of the ghetto library. I say something like, "I'm not giving you any money." (By the way these are not the things you are to do or say.) As I am memorizing what he looks like, he starts pacing back and forth. His friend is with him at this point wearing a black oversized coat and sporting a white headband. The guy with the scars says to the other brother, "This guy thinks we're playin'. Show'em th' Heat." The heat came out. A black handgun. I chuckle a little. (I don't know why. Maybe because it looked like a black plastic gun. I hear glue guns get pretty hot.) Anyways,
I'm thinking, "Great, I'm going to miss the movie. So I say something cute and walk into the library.
Called the cops and left a description of the idiots with the library security guard. The security guard at the library saw the boys also. So I left the library after about 10 minutes and picked up the kids.
It was a good movie. Enjoyed sitting with Selah and explaining the Birth of our Savior. Glad I didn't miss it. Hopefully those boys will get some money so they can go and see it.
Always something it seems.
Monday, December 18, 2006
I've been reading this book by Kelly Kullberg called, "Finding God beyond Harvard". In it the author describes her search for God on campuses around the United States. Needless to say, you must search hard. College is opposite of my world in the city, and yet we are all searching for the same thing. Truth.
How often do you search for Veritas?
At Kansas State University I remember many guys searching for veritas. Searching for truth through many different means. But for many of us truth was relative. We'd ask like Pontius Pilate, "What is truth?" Or "Who cares?" The questions would run deeper, "What story is real? Evolution? Creation? To whom do I belong? If there is a God, where is He for me? If God is love, why do we suffer?" The questions would continue to fly in the echoing hallway. We were searching. I did a lot of searching myself. Some of us still search. We are post-modern skeptics. We search...trying to fill a void. We fill the void with irrationality and self pleasure. I believe we try to fill the void because our hearts do not know God's love. We cannot grasp onto the fact that the "Author loves us so much that He has entered the game to play. The game of life.
Here is a journal entry from Ms. Kullberg's book,
"In the Yard, posters and papers are often about the politics of diversity for rights with no mention of responsibilities. Posters advocate the use of embryos for research. Notices about hooking up with strangers (the only rule is no names are asked) next to date rape counseling, next to info on rallies for continued abortion rights, next to info on depression, AIDS, and drug and alcohol support groups.
But we can't say "the J word" Does anyone sense a loss of perspective here? That we're rejecting the very One we most desperately need?"
The Quest for Truth..."I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me." (The J word)
Blessings In Jesus
Monday, December 04, 2006
What is a Martyr? I asked this question to myself the other day after an intense meeting about spreading the great news of Christ to the "pre-Christian"” in our neighborhood. I read the definition and it basically says that a martyr is recognized as such because they preferred to die than to renounce their faith.
Jokingly I thought it would at times be much easier to be killed for the true faith than to put up with the baggage of living out that faith from day to day with people who call themselves Christians, yet want no part or worse yet get in the way of carrying out the call of a Christian. And yet it is the martyrs who get noticed for their strong faith.
Now that I have complained, I did some looking, and have concluded that the martyrs of the past and today have gone through much more than I ever will...…And They Die! At least at this point I am getting to reflect.
Here are some famous martyrs of the past.
Stephen…looked at by the church as the 1st martyr. You can find his story in Acts 7.
Peter…as the picture above shows and as tradition proclaims died on a cross by crucifixion upsidedown.
Ignatius of Antioch... died as a martyr in the an Olympic like arena by the mouths of lions. The Roman authorities hoped to make an example of him and thus discourage Christianity from spreading. It didn't work.
There are many many more. A good magazine of modern day martyrs is called "The Voice of the Martyrs".
Sometimes we'’d much rather die. And yet we who are living must agree with St. Paul in Philippians 1:21-26.
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again."
Blessings in Christ!
Saturday, November 25, 2006
HAPPY NEW YEAR...Not many people know, but the new year for the church usually starts around the beginning of December. This Sunday is the Last Sunday of the Church Year. The following Sunday is the 1st Sunday of Advent. We begin the "New Year" of the church by remembering the story of the promised Messiah. Many call it the story of Christmas. The church callS it the season of Advent. It is the advent of the coming of our Lord.
Either way, it is something new, something exciting. Exciting, for it is this time of advent, this celebration of Jesus' birth that tells my story. The story of my salvation through the babe lying in a manger. Maybe this week I will start my New Year Resolution a little early as a response to the Story of the Messiah who came for me! What a New Year celebration!
Have a blessed Advent Season!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
45-42 Enough Said...well almost.
The Cats came out on top against the much despised Texas Longhorns. It was the 1st game of the Wildcats that I was able to watch in Ohio. We do not have cable and boy am I glad that ABC aired the game over here in Ohio State land.
I sounded like a little school girl every time the Cats scored and I covered my eyes every time Texas threatened. It was a good game and a good time. If you missed it...too bad. This was almost as good as a win against Nebraska.
The other amazing thing about the game was that I had the chance to see my cousin Richard Hageman escort coach Ron Prince off the field. Rich is a highway patrolman who must of had this assignment. I can't imagine how Rich felt when he had to make sure Ron Prince was protected by the stampeding crowd. Wow!
Blessings in Christ
Friday, November 10, 2006
Today my family and I get to travel to the southern part of Ohio to attend a PALS meeting. PALS stands for Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support. I am required for 3 years to attend these meetings. The purpose of these meetings are to make sure pastors and their families get off to a right start in their ministries. The bottom line is so that the church does not lose new pastors due to problems in the pastor's new congregation. Many seminary guys are sent out to unhealthy congregations that devour a pastor and his family and the result is that the new pastor quits and the church at large suffers. So there has been an attempt to rectify this problem. The solution is to work with the new pastors. So, the family and I travel about 3 hours and talk about church stuff like how there are sinners in the church and how mean they are to the pastor and his family. We also talk a little about some of the good things about ministry. If it wasn't for a free night in a motel and a reason to get away, we would stay home. I'm sure everyone asks the question, "Why do I do this?" I have no answer at this time. "A waste of time?" I'll let you answer.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Change...A scary word for many. For others, it is the only word that brings comfort. I am somewhere in between.
A book would never be finished if the page didn't get turned, a sentence never written...so on and so forth. Change is necessary to move forward and change is going to happen even if you sit around and do nothing. I'd be an engineer (or still in college) if I didn't change my mind about which profession to pursue. I'd still be praying to God for a girlfriend if I didn't walk across the room and act like a fool in front of my wife. We all change; look in the mirror.
This day I thank God for change. The change from being single to being married. The change from being childless to having children. The change from being a lost and condemned person to being a child of God.
The Holy Bible says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever...Wow, and I have this guy as my Savior who promised yesterday that He is with me always...who promised me today that I am forgiven...who says forever you are mine.
Thank God I've been changed and brought into the unchanging presence of Christ.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
All Saints' Day was celebrated recently. Saints are those who have gone before us and those among us "set apart" to be holy. By the mercy of God all who are Christ followers are saints. This day a celebration of triumphant resurrection glory is mingled with grief. Many forget this holiday which occurs the day after Halloween (Eve before All Saints' Day).
The only reason I remembered was because a certain church in our area was celebrating the day. As I was standing in the back of the church listening to the service a homeless man came up with a high screeeeeeching voice. He wanted some change. I had none. He begged and pleaded for about 3 minutes and I became more repulsed by his begging. I just wanted to stand in the back in peace and quiet and listen to the beautiful choir sing.
I didn't feel bad about the situation at the time, but I do now. It has nothing to do with giving money, but it has to do with my tone and attitude toward the man. Incompassionate and selfish; it seems to spill over in other aspects of life. Here I was with about 350 other people who were there for us, not for others...
I praise God that he has redeemed me a lost and condemned person. All though I do not deserve his redemption He gives it. I pray that the man I rejected will be lifted high by another "saint" who has his/her head on straight.
We praise God for He will lead all believers to the springs of living water and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17).
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Zion, our church just recently celebrated Reformation Sunday. Zion is known as the mother church of the Cleveland area. Therefore, we invited Lutherans from around the city to come and celebrate this important day in our history. It was a nice celebration where the Lutheran West Alumni Band played historic songs like A Mighty Fortress and Beautiful Savior. We also were blessed to hear the talented Lutheran West Chorale and Singers. These festivals are always nice to do.
The most amazing thing I experienced at this Reformation Service was meeting a guy named William. Will is about 6'2" 220lbs. He came over from the projects when his niece and nephews asked him to come to the special church service. After I met and talked with him I found out he was recently shot in the stomach. He was still bleeding, although he was bandaged. I prayed for him that his wound would be healed fast and that God would work salvation in his life. An interesting Reformation Day in the City.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Hopefully Words I will never hear, but who knows?
My wife and kids picked me up after our morning service and we went to KFC across from our church for lunch. It was a real nice treat; greasy chicken and mashed potatoes. In the middle of my second piece of chicken my family and I had the pleasure of hearing some woman going ghetto. She was told, "You're Fired!"
Ouch. She did not react in a civil matter, and yet the way she was fired was not very civil either.
Many people in the world have had to go through "a firing squad" at one time or another in their life.
But I cannot help but be reminded of my Biblical ancestors who had to endure "the firing squad for the purpose of God's word to spread like wild fire. For example, after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7) the Gospel to all parts of the world. May our days under the firing squad bless us as the Gospel has.
Monday, October 16, 2006
At the end of tutoring A'Darius blew me over with this common phrase.
You have to understand, it is not common in a neighborhood where people expect everything for free.
The word is not used...especially from an 8 year old child.
We try to teach them. We go day to day teaching the children simple manners. "Say, thank-you, or you won't get this candy bar... Be sure to say please when asking for something."
Tonight I was teaching A'Darius some simple spelling words: Pet, Pick, Big, Touch, Nap. He received a high five every time he remember how to pronounce the word.
We also talked about the Easter Story. A'Darius and his friend, Muk, were intensely glued to the pictures and the Words of the Easter story. They thought Jesus had died and went to heaven. They didn't know He died and came back to life! They were amazed! They have begun to see why we call Him True Man and True God. They have begun to grasp why we get to live because He lives!
"Thank You" Lord Jesus.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I saw this picture on the web and thought of how I use to jump around like a ballerina. [I was by myself of course]. In public I would resist. Resist...a great word. It is used in the Scriptures a few times. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
Resisting is something we are good at...Never mind, I am horrible at resisting. When there is something I want, I go for it. Unless it is dancing like a ballerina.
I remember one day setting a jar of candy on the stage during our weekly "Kids of the Kingdom" bible class. I gave a small devotion to the children about temptation and how we need to "resist" the urge to do certain things. I was going to challenge them to "resist" the candy jar for the next two hours.
Ok, I know that is not fair. That is like telling a dog to resist the food scraps you set in his dog bowl. But I wanted to see...I wanted to see the struggle and the anguish. I really wanted to hear the begging, "Pastor Mike, can we just have one piece?"
Believe it or not these selfish, me centered kids from the hood resisted. They didn't touch the jar. They pretended to walk up and sneak a piece, but everyone around urged them not to. They had a support system. We call that support system the community of saints, the Holy Christian Church.
Resistance is hard to do on your own. Yet it is possible in the company of friends. It is possible in the company of the saints. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
The second part of that passage is, "Come near to God and he will come near to you."
My struggle with resistance to sin is always conquered in the nearness of God. This nearness comes through Christ who has given us himself so that we may have life. Christ who has given selfish, and me centered people the ability to resist. May the Lord who loves you keep you in his arms, the arms of the the saints.
Resist...and if you are not resisting...maybe coming nearer to God is what you need. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10). Lift you like a ballerina!
Friday, October 13, 2006
Two years ago we began with 5 kids and 5 volunteers. It was our goal to get children reading and excited about school through Christian Centered education materials. Today we have about 25-30 children walking to the church on their own and getting to spend about an hour every Monday and Tuesday with a volunteer. But more importantly getting connected to Christ.
Our ministry is really about giving people Jesus. It is not about creating a program that is looked at in the city as the best as some may think this ministry should be. It is not about getting so good at what we start replacing people in the hood with suburban children with money. No it is about the Lost kids and their parents in our community. Some extra benefits may be raised grades, and growing close to an adult who cares about that child. But in the beginning and the end it is about Christ. My prayer is that what happens in the future is God pleasing and will bring people to Jesus.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I know a Barney Fife. He protects our church building. He wears his issued uniform and a revolver. He keeps his "beloved" church safe for 2 hours every Sunday. Just like Barney kept Mayberry safe.
One way he protects it is by making sure the church's front gates are closed.
I'm not from the city, but in the country gates are meant to keep animals in or out of a particular location.
The gates have been an issue for me the past 2 years. Everyone at Zion knows this. In fact it bothered me the 1st time I saw the church. The closed gates told me I was not wanted in this place. It was screaming...
"We do not want you to sit on our porch! Go to the church a block away with open gates!"
Maybe I should have listened like the others. Is anyone wanted? Does the church want me? Does God want me?
No matter the looks of the inside or outside of this building. No matter if there is a Barney Fife with a revolver pacing the smallest parking lot known to man. No matter...Christ wants you. Christ will never close the gates for those who desire the love of their Savior, Jesus. "Knock and the door will be opened." "Repent and believe!" Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit is not like the Barney Fife that we all know. The Holy Spirit has torn down my reluctance to the Word and broke through the gates I put up. He tore down my cast iron gates and showed me His opened gates of beauty.
The Lutheran Hymnal has a beautiful hymn which speaks to this issue. It is the 1st hymn you find in the hymn book. The 1st verse reads...
Open now Thy gates of beauty,
Zion, let me enter there,
Where my soul in joyful duty
Waits for Him who answers prayer.
Oh, how blessed is this place,
Filled with solace, light, and grace!
May the Holy Spirit work in you to tear down your gates and show you His gates that have been opened through Christ, Jesus by way of the cross and the empty tomb!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I received this picture from my parents back in Abilene. This is my grandpa. He was the topic of discussion for many in Abilene on September 22nd when he ended up on the front page of the Abilene Reflector.
Gene was not a golfer. He is a farmer, a carpenter, a father and a husband. He is alive. He is close to 80 and has taken up golf; at least indoor putting. He is trying new things even though he has Parkinsons and now is living in a nursing home. He is alive.
Grandpa gives me an image of the area around our church. On the outside everyone is saying how horrible it must be to live in such an environment. The amount of suffering must mean that death is near. To support such a community of crime, drugs, and welfare mothers with our tax monies is insane. Sometimes you even hear from the inside, "Something is not right. How can I live down here. I have to get my babies out of this area. I want to die. I am dying." And yet here is a picture. A picture of struggle and success. A golf putt that goes in the hole. Alive!
Our Lord gives us the Victory. He has sunk the putt of eternal life. This is why we are in the city. We give the guarantee of eternal salvation. Not death...Now that is living.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
East Side is where I'm located. It is known to be the snobby side, the affluent side and the "Black" side. Our church is on East 30th. And that is primarily what this blog will be about. A Lutheran Church (LCMS) struggling - scratching and clawing - to bring the Light of Christ to the city of Cleveland - at least to this side of Cleveland. Also included will be a pastor and his thoughts of bringing Christ to the lost. God willing, you will be edified.
Sola Dei Gloria - To the Glory of God Alone!