Friday Followings with Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: Forever

Hello Gloria Dei

Forever! Forever and ever! Forever and ever and ever!” 

Handel’s Messiah sings those words triumphantly and continually: “and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

In Psalm 136, King David repeats one refrain: “The steadfast love of the Lord lives forever,” 26 times in one chapter.

In Psalm 23, King David writes his immortal words: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

Isaiah, the prophet, dared to dream the eternal dream: “His kingdom shall have no end, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever

Jesus stated clearly to Martha when her brother Lazarus died: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die but shall live forever.”  

And if you summarize the whole Bible into one small nutshell, you may quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him will not die but will live forever.” 

“Forever” is a big word, a victorious word, a triumphant word. Forever

This weekend we celebrate the Victory – the Gift God gives us of FOREVER. Through faith in Christ we know that the power of death itself is defeated, and we shall live forever. What Tremendous News! Let that sink in a bit. Forever in God’s presence: no tears, no hurt, no suffering; rather, joy, peace, love, – Forever.

As you celebrate Easter, whether you’re here at Gloria Dei or traveling and worshiping elsewhere, may the risen Christ meet you once again and enter your heart and your life. In Jesus we have and know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, now and forever.
 
Together with the entire staff, I wish you a very blessed Easter. Christ is Risen…. He is Risen indeed! Keep in mind that our Saturday service is a full Easter celebration service, so if that works best in your schedule, please be reminded of that option.
 
Worship times for the remainder of the week:
Good Friday – 7:00 p.m.
 
Easter Celebration Worship
Saturday – 5:00 p.m. (with Holy Communion)
Sunday – 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.

Together in Christ, Forever!

Pastor Tim

 



Friday Followings: Yes, it’s Quite a Story. And it’s True!

This weekend our telling of the greatest story ever told begins as we wave palm branches and shout Hosanna, welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem and into our lives. Yet, after Palm Sunday, the scene changes dramatically.
 
The passion story moves later in the week to betrayal, arrest, trial, execution, and burial.  It’s quite a story; High Drama at its best. It has all the ingredients for a made for TV, primetime series: there is an angry mob, there is violence, there is money exchanged, and there are lies told. And on Friday the story appears to end with the death of an innocent man.
 
Yes, it’s quite a story. And as we hear the story during Holy Week, we discover that, at least in part, the story is our story. We praise Jesus at one moment, only to put “others gods” ahead of him. We pray for Jesus to be integral in our lives, but when he gets too personal or starts asking the hard questions, we sometimes tell him, “Hey, don’t mess with my life”. We can see ourselves within the Passion Story.
 
Yet, thank God that the story is not primarily about us. The story, really, is about God. It’s about a God who loves us so much that he sends his only Son to die on a cross for us—a God who does not let sin and death have the last word, but who raises Jesus from the tomb and says a resounding “YES” to life. Life, for you and for me.
 
Upon Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene recognizes him only as he calls her by name. Come to worship, and participate in these life altering events. As together we move from Palm Sunday, to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and finally to the great truth of the resurrection, come looking for Jesus, as Mary did. You just may be surprised that the Living Christ calls you by name, and your life is changed forever.
 
Please see our entire Holy Week worship schedule on our website or in our recent newsletters. A reminder that our Easter Saturday worship is a full Easter celebration service, with brass, special music, and the great Easter hymns. We’ll be using John chapter 20 as a preaching theme for Easter. Please read chapters 18 through 20 of John in preparation for Holy Week.
 
I wish for you a blessed Holy Week and Easter celebration.
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Jesus and March Madness

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Yesterday the NCAA Basketball Tournament, often referred to as March Madness, began in earnest. I’m sorry the Jackrabbits men’s team lost to Ohio State, but we’ll be cheering on the women’s team when they take on Villanova tonight. March Madness is here.
 
As we continue reading and preaching through the gospel of John, we’ve arrived at chapter 18. Chapter 18 begins what, on the surface, appears to be “madness”. First of all, one of Jesus’ disciples, one of his closest friends, betrays him into the hands of those who wish Jesus dead. Madness! 
 
Then, an overwhelmingly large contingent of soldiers and officials, with torches, lanterns (to show they were in spiritual darkness) and weapons, confront Jesus and arrest the Light of the World. Madness!
 
Peter then defends Jesus with a sword and cuts off a man’s ear. Yet in Jesus’ view, bloodshed is a sign of the brokenness of our world. He considers it madness, and goes willingly with the arresting officials.
 
Jesus finally ends up before the most powerful man in the region, Pontius Pilate, who reports directly to the Roman Emperor. Yet even this powerful man, who comes to know only one thing for sure, that Jesus is innocent, cannot and does not use his power and influence to set Jesus free. Absolute madness!
 
Yet as we look beneath the surface, we discover that this “madness” is God’s plan to win victory over the madness of human sin and fallibility. Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, goes willingly to his death, in order that God’s way of love would win the day. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, life wins. God wins. You and I win, by grace through faith.
 
For this weekend’s worship, and in preparation for Holy Week which begins the following weekend, read John chapters 18 and 19.
 
Reminder: We are also now receiving sign-ups for the Easter Prayer Vigil which runs all night leading up to Easter morning. Sign up on the website or at church.
 
See you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: I Am the Vine; You are the Branches

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
The apostle Paul says that because of Christ, you and I are “New Creations.” Martin Luther used to love to say that because of Christ, you and I have become “Good Trees”. No longer are we defined by our sin and brokenness. Rather, we are forgiven by the work of Jesus on the cross. We are now free from sin and death – we have now been declared righteous in the eyes of God. Therefore, we are now “Good Trees”. And being good trees, we quite naturally produce “Good Fruit.” Just as a healthy apple tree produces healthy apples, so you and I, as good trees, produce good fruit for the Kingdom of God.
 
In this weekend’s gospel reading in the book of John, the focus is on vineyards, vines, branches, and fruit. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing. Yet, abiding in me, you produce good fruit.” During this season of Lent, and in preparation for worship, read John 15:1-17. Ask yourself these questions: “How am I connected to Jesus, the vine? What has Christ done for me to assure me that I am a good vine?” “How am I growing in Christ, and what will God need to prune in my life to allow for maximum growth?” “Where and how is the fruit of my life being played out in love of God and of neighbor?”
 
I look forward to seeing you in worship.
 
A few reminders:  Gloria Dei is serving at St. Francis House on Tuesday, March 13 and at The Banquet on Thursday, March 15. Please consider these opportunities to serve and sign up online at or at church this weekend.
 
We are also now receiving sign-ups for the Easter Prayer Vigil which runs all night leading up to Easter morning. Sign up on the website or at church. This is a meaningful and important discipline as we prepare for the Easter celebration.
 
And don’t forget to move your clocks forward this Saturday night, as Daylight Savings time begins this weekend.
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Life Plus Love

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I have a devotional book near my desk authored by Billy Graham. It has 365 short daily devotions, one for each day of the year. I’ve read these devotions on and off for years now, but upon hearing of his death this past week, I’ve jumped in daily to these short, thoughtful writings of the great evangelist.
 
One of the devotions within his book for this first week of March is entitled “Life Plus Love”. For copyright violation requirements, I won’t reprint his devotion verbatim, but let me summarize it briefly.
 
Billy says that we would no doubt be impressed with someone who gave and gave and gave generously to charity. We would look at her or him and say, “Wow, what a strong Christian person.” Yet, and here Billy quotes the apostle Paul, “Unless a person acts out of love, they are nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
 
He says, in effect, that “Life minus love equals nothing”.
 
This weekend in worship we continue our beautiful journey through the gospel of John. Our focus will be in John 13:1-17, as Jesus stoops down in love to wash the disciples’ feet. Within these verses Jesus models for us an incredible servanthood type of love; a love he goes on to say is to be part and parcel to the Christian community moving forward.
 
As the gospel moves forward, Jesus will tell his disciples in the next few chapters that he will be sending them a helper, an advocate, who will empower them to live out this kind of servant love. Left to ourselves, it’s impossible to follow Jesus’ lead. Yet with the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds, changing us from the inside out, servant love can and is a way of life for the Christ-follower.
 
For whom can you represent Christ today? What words can you speak and what actions can you perform which will show a self-giving, servant type of love? Jesus gave himself for us on the cross. His love now empowers, enables, and equips us to love God and to serve one another.
 
Billy Graham was right: “Life minus love equals nothing.” Life with Christ equals everything.
 
See You in Worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: The Seventh Sign

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
In our reading and preaching through the gospel of John we’ve arrived at a very important chapter. We’ve talked about Jesus’ seven miracles, or signs, in this gospel. Chapter 11 is all about the seventh sign, which is the raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead. Just as the beginning of John’s gospel tells us that “in Jesus was life”, so we see the seventh sign as a tremendous witness to Jesus, who can and does bring us from death to life.
 
It’s interesting that John 11:3 says that Lazarus is a friend whom Jesus loves. These three siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, were like family to Jesus. He loved them as such. Yet, even one whom Jesus loves gets sick. Jesus is telling us here that even people whom God loves get sick and die. Just because we, or our loved ones, suffer from illness, that in no way means that God doesn’t love us. All of us get sick at times, and of course, all of us will die one day. Yet in the story of Lazarus, we meet a God who does not leave us all alone in our pain, but weeps with us, and then meets us with good news of new life.
 
John 11 also marks the end of Jesus’ public ministry. From here on out he acts and speaks in private, mostly with his disciples. The raising of Lazarus brings a response of faith to many, but to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, this miracle brings rage and jealousy. Upon Lazarus being raised, Jesus’ enemies immediately ramp up their efforts to get him arrested and put to death.
 
Within the gospel of John, Jesus not only performs seven miracles, he also makes seven “I AM” statements. Last week we looked at Jesus statement, “I Am the Good Shepherd”. Within this week’s reading, Jesus says to Martha, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Using the Old Testament name for God, “I AM”, Jesus is claiming in all seven of the “I AM” statements, that he is God. And by saying “I AM the Resurrection and the Life”, he’s claiming to have power even over death itself.
 
Please read John chapter 11. I’ll be preaching on this marvelous miracle this weekend. As we put our faith in Jesus, he brings us abundant life here and now, and he brings us victory over sin and death. Come to worship, where Jesus, the author and giver of life, promises to meet you.
 
See You in Worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Our Good Shepherd

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I have a friend from my previous congregation in Arizona who used to travel to the Middle East for business. He tells the story about a time he was in a rather rural, desolate area, near a gas station. There were two sheep roaming around, looking lost, when all of a sudden a farmer and his wife pull up in an old limousine. The farmer calls out, and when they hear the driver’s voice, the sheep jump into the backseat of the limo and off they go. That farmer was taking the sheep, who had wandered off track, back to the sheepfold. They knew his voice, and would even jump into a limo when they were called.
 
As we move through the gospel of John together as a congregation, this weekend we arrive at chapter ten. Take some time to read John 10. Listen to the voice of Jesus. Then move to Psalm 23. It won’t take you very long. But pay attention to the images used for Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. He is also the gate, or the door. In Jesus’ day the sheep would stay safe at night in a coral, or sheepfold. However, many of the corals had no gate or door. There was just an open space approximately five or six feet wide for the sheep to go in and out.
 
At night, to protect the sheep from any predators, a good shepherd would himself sleep right in the opening, or doorway, so as to keep any predators out. A good shepherd would protect the sheep, give them rest at night, so that they would be healthy and well-fed and rested for the next day.
 
Jesus has laid his life down for us. We know his voice. He is our protector, even from the powers of sin and death. The power of evil is real. We see it in the news, and close to home, way too often. It is the Good Shepherd, Jesus himself, who provides us the assurance that we belong to him. He gives us the nourishment of his word of love and forgiveness, so that we can be about our daily tasks within the freedom of his love, all the while combatting the powers of evil so rampant these days.
 
The way of the Good Shepherd is love. As his followers, we can take rest and comfort in his loving presence. But we are to then leave the sheepfold and within our daily relationships with family, friends, church family, co-workers, and even strangers, we are to follow the lead of the Good Shepherd and be a community that lives and acts out of love.
 
How can you follow the voice of the loving Shepherd who both gives you rest, and also calls you to love those around you? How can you make a difference for love within a world too often filled with violence and hate? As you read the Bible, hear the voice of the Shepherd who loves you and, in response to that love, empowers you to love in return.
 
Please remember in your prayers our Nicaragua Team from Gloria Dei: Carla Borchardt, Jason Santi, and Pastor Chris, along with others from Aberdeen, Milbank, and Minneapolis. They are ministering to and with the people of Managua and surrounding towns within Nicaragua.
 
See You in Worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Signs of God’s Love All Around Us

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I’ve always been intrigued by signs. Maybe this goes back to my Little League Baseball days when the coach would teach us signs. Signs were given by the coach to us players when we were either up to bat or on the base-paths. A touch of the cap, or the slide of a hand down the left arm, or the scratch of an elbow – any of these could indicate that the coach was calling for a bunt, or a steal, or a hit and run. I loved learning the signs. It made all of us feel kind of special, like we were in on something secret, but important and fun.
 
I love reading signs out in front of churches too. I remember one that said, “Pastor Olson will preach this week on the topic of Gossip. The choir will then sing ‘I Love to Tell the Story’”. Signs are intriguing, interesting, sometimes funny, and much of the time, very important.
 
The first half of the Gospel of John is often referred to as “The Book of Signs.” Within the first eleven chapters, John depicts for us seven signs, or miracles, of Jesus. If you’ve been following along and reading in the gospel, I’m sure you’ve noticed many of these signs.
 
The Seven Signs (Miracles) in John, performed by Jesus, are these:
 
Water into Wine (chapter 2)
Healing of the official’s son (end of chapter 4)
Healing of the paralytic (chapter 5)
Feeding of the 5000 (chapter 6)
Jesus walking on water (chapter 6)
Healing of the man born blind (chapter 9)
Raising of Lazarus from the dead (chapter 11)
 
This weekend in worship we will be honing in on the sixth sign: The Healing of the Man Born Blind. I encourage you to read John chapter 9. It might be good to read it a few times, as the story gets a bit confusing. Notice that the one who was blind at the beginning of the story can truly see, both physically and spiritually, at the end of the story. And notice that the ones who thought they could see spiritually at the beginning of the story, actually are shown to be quite blind by the end of the story. True sight has to do with believing and trusting in Jesus as the Son of God, and as Savior and Lord of our lives.
 
All of the signs, including the healing of the blind man, are meant to point us to this faith and trust in Jesus. How’s your trust these days? Is your faith affecting the way you live? And the decisions you make in life? Is your faith freeing you to live and love abundantly? All seven of these signs point us to Jesus, the author and provider of abundant life.
 
Pay attention to the signs of God’s presence and love all around you. Each day is filled with miracles and signs pointing us to faith in God, if only we’ll see with eyes open to God’s brilliant presence.
 
Yes, signs are important, intriguing, and often so much fun. Pay attention to God’s signs all around you. Notice them and have some fun pointing them out. Trusting and journeying through life with Jesus is important; it’s intriguing; and it leads to an abundantly blessed life, now and forever.
 
See you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Light, Vision, and Living Water

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Within the prologue of John’s gospel, in reference to Jesus, the writer says “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
 
As I write this morning the sun is shining brightly through my office window. I’m reminded of the God who way back at creation spoke light into being. “Let there be light”. I’m reminded too that in our journey through life with Jesus, the light of God’s love is always present for us and for this world.
 
One of the by-products of light is that it gives vision. When the light is shining, we see clearly. This Sunday is Gloria Dei’s Annual Meeting. We’ll gather at 11:45 in the fellowship area to hear reports, to approve a 2018 financial plan for ministry, and to sharpen our vision as a congregation.
 
Within worship, I’ll be preaching on John chapter 4, also giving a sense of the vision we have as a congregation. I encourage you to read and contemplate God’s word in John 4. It is a great story of a Holy Encounter between Jesus and the Woman at the Well. Like hers, our lives are changed by encountering Jesus. The One who provides living water is the same one who shines Light into the darkness. He gives us our vision and our purpose. Note what she does after receiving Christ’s living water.
 
I look forward to seeing you in worship. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: A Few Reminders

Hello Gloria Dei,

The Gospel of John – We’re off to a great start making our way through this account of Jesus’ life. For this weekend please read John 2:1-11. Jesus performs his very first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding in the town of Cana. It is an episode that has different levels of meaning. Come and discover the richness of this miracle, while having your faith renewed and strengthened, as we dig into the first of Jesus’ seven “signs” within this fascinating book of the Bible.

Gloria Dei Annual Meeting – Sunday January 28 at 11:45 a.m.  Please make every effort to be present, as the congregation hears reports from the Council President, the Treasurer, and Pastor Tim. This meeting is where the congregation approves the financial plan for ministry in 2018 and does the business of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. The Annual Report is available for you to read on the website: www.gloriadei-sd.org  A limited number of printed copies will also be available this weekend at the church. Thank you for your continued efforts in making Christ’s ministry in this place so vibrant and life-giving.

Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage – Marriage Enrichment Opportunity.  Join others from Gloria Dei on Sunday, February 11 from Noon to 1:30 p.m.  Couples, this will be worth your while. Sign up using the Dei Worker insert at church, or call the church office to get on the list. This is simply a way to enjoy time together while doing some good check-in with your spouse. Couples who are engaged will also benefit from this opportunity. No charge. Childcare provided (let us know how many children). Pizza lunch will be served.

 
See our website for many other opportunities to be involved in the areas of Bible Study, Education, Fellowship, Service & Outreach, Health Ministry, Children and Youth Ministry, and so much more.
 
To God be the Glory and I’ll See You in Worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Journeying with Jesus

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
This past week in worship we began a four month journey through the gospel of John. Of course we began in chapter one. Chapter one of John begins by telling us that God’s very own Son, Jesus, the Word made flesh, has left his station in heaven and has become one of us. The language throughout John is filled is filled with images of creation, including light and darkness, living water, and new life. Watch for these as you read over the next months.
 
One of the key questions of John, as I mentioned this past weekend, has to do with life with a capital “L”. What does abundant Life look like, and where is it to be found?
 
I encourage you to read all of chapter one for this weekend. After the prologue (John 1:1-18), we hear John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, we see Jesus calling his first disciples to come and “abide” with him, and we even see Andrew and Philip inviting others to “come and see” Jesus. Once we meet Jesus, as we’ll see many, many times in John’s gospel, the Life giving journey of faith begins.
 
I pray that each and every day you see God in creation, but also that you meet Jesus through prayer, worship, Bible reading, in your relationships, and countless other ways. Take five or ten minutes to sit still and quiet with the text in John chapter one. As you ponder the beginnings of this story of Jesus, watch and listen for Jesus in your life. You are invited to “come and see” Jesus; to “abide” with him; and to be in a Life-giving relationship with the very Son of God each and every day of your life, and on into eternity.
 
God is good…. All the time!
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Lord Use Us

Our Prayer for 2018: “Lord Use Us.”
 
Happy New Year Gloria Dei,
 
One of the great hymns of the faith begins with the lyrics, “O God Our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for Years to Come…”  As you begin 2018, take time to recall all the ways God has been with you in the past. What are the blessings you’ve received? With whom have you celebrated the good times of life? How has God brought comfort in the midst of grief or crisis? The certain promise we have as Christians is that the God who has been present for us in the past moves with us also into the future. God is our help in ages past, and is our hope for years to come.
 
I’ve shared this with you before, but one of the simple, yet profound, prayers that I often pray consists of only three words:  “Lord Use Me.” Maybe this can be a prayer theme for you too in 2018. To be used by God for God’s purposes is where you and I find true significance and meaning in our lives. When we pray “Lord Use Me”, we take our focus away from our own will, and offer ourselves to God’s will and purpose for us. It’s what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer when we say “Thy Will Be Done”.
 
Yet this simple prayer, “Lord Use Me” can be our prayer as a congregation as well. “Lord Use Us.” Opening ourselves up as a congregation to be used for God is why we exist. When we pray this prayer watch out. God will answer it in surprising ways. As we pray it we should buckle our seat belts and put on our hard hats and get ready for an exciting journey.
 
As I look back over 2017, and over the past ten years at Gloria Dei, I see God’s saving work being done through the Holy Spirit. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us as a congregation in 2018 and beyond. The good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus is meant for all people, and what a great journey it is to proclaim the good news in word and deed. “God Use Us.”
 
I’m extremely excited that this weekend in worship we’re beginning a journey through the gospel of John. For the next four months within Wednesday and Weekend worship services, we’ll be using this magnificent gospel as our basis for preaching. John is filled with people encountering Jesus and having their lives changed forever. Jesus does the same for us. In preparation for worship, please read John chapter one. Journeying with Jesus through the gospel of John is one of the ways in which the Lord will grab hold of us and use us for God’s Kingdom.
 
Happy 2018!  God is good….All the time!  See you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim