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Christmas Blessings!

The promise of enjoying Jesus' glorious kingdom is made possible by His gracious provision.


In Ephesians 2:12b-13, Paul tells us that we were formerly "strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world..." but then adds the good news: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."


Christ came to us, to bring us in to the family, at great sacrifice and cost. Now we enjoy the unspeakable privileges of the King's hospitality – and are called to share that with others!.


Jesus is Our Spiritual and Social Example: The question that we must ask ourselves is whether or not we're practicing Jesus-like ministry. Many Christians see Jesus as a personal moral example (and rightly so), but not as a social example. But why not? When you become a Christian, your social life, how you interact with others, should change also.


While Jesus was separated from sin, He was never isolated from people. And He definitely wasn't the incarnate killjoy. Sinners loved being with Jesus. The poor and vulnerable found hope in Him. It was the religious pious that got upset with Him.


"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." -  Hebrews 13:2


Following Jesus includes following His practice of Christian Hospitality — joyous, authentic, generous, countercultural and hope-filled hospitality. What we do today is “entertaining” with friends and family – not hospitality…


When Jesus says, "Come follow me," He isn't calling us to offer a class or start a program, but to follow His way of life. And that way includes opening up our homes and lives to others. But before we can do this, we must open our hearts… Open our hearts to true Christian Hospitality!


  

4 Practical Ways to Show Christian Hospitality:


1. Welcome everyone you meet. I mean this literally and figuratively. Extend a kind word to everyone you meet, but also, share your time, energy and life with others — especially those who may need you more than you need them. Jesus welcomed strangers and outcasts (see Luke 19:1-10). In the same way that Zacchaeus was a "son of Abraham" and worthy of Jesus' time, the outcasts and marginalized in our society (that you are called to interact with) are loved by God and worthy of your time too.


2. Engage people. Engage others with the mindset of being like Jesus, not just inviting them to a function at your church (see Romans 12:13-20). This kind of engagement involves a personal connection, not just a "connection" via text or social media — I'm talking about face-to-face interaction.


3. Make meals a priority. Many of Jesus' striking moments occurred around meals (and Lutherans do food really well!). Invite a person to a meal and serve him or her. Pay for the meal if possible, pray for your guest specifically and serve him or her. Use mealtimes to build relationships and talk about things that really matter.


4. Pay attention. We all interact with people at work, at church, at school and in our communities. But how many of these people hide their problems or are ones that often go unnoticed? Take some time out of your day to stop, look around and show kindness to others – ask if you can pray with them. Your uplifting word or kind action may change someone's life forever.



We are, as a Christian congregation and individually, Blessed to Be a Blessing to Others.


Share some Christmas Blessings, in Christ,

Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church / Open Arms Christian Child Development Center


Excerpted from Tony Merida’s book, Ordinary (B&H Publishing) – modified by Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

Son of David, Son of God

Concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh. Romans 1:3


With Advent, we begin a New Church Year.  This is a time to consider how we are to participate in what comes next... For this year’s Advent season, we are using the theme “This Is My Son,” and so I offer the following Daily Devotion for December 16, based on Romans 1:1-7, written by Ruth McDonnell. (Watch for excerpts from these daily devotions throughout Advent).


The apostle Paul introduces his letter to the Christians in Rome with a brief explanation of the Gospel. In it, he explains the Sonship of Jesus, but you may have missed that Paul also explains our sonship. Jesus is a descendant of David. According to the flesh, He is a fully human son like us.


According to the Holy Spirit, though, and declared by His resurrection from the dead, He is the Son of God. Unlike us, Jesus is fully and truly God. Fully God and fully man at the same time. It is this God-man who gave grace to Paul and the apostles to share the Gospel with the nations. By means of their preaching and the preaching of those who came after the apostles, we are "called to belong to Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:6). So while the human genealogy of Jesus, His divine Sonship, and His resurrection are indeed Gospel, that same Gospel is applied to us through the preaching of His servants.


We hear the Good News, and through it, we belong to Jesus. We become His sons and daughters! Because He is the Son of David and the Son of God, because He is affirmed by the Holy Spirit, because of the power of His resurrection, we belong to Him and receive the inheritance of everlasting life.


Prayer: Son of David and Son of God, thank You for making me Your child and for giving me the inheritance of life eternal. Amen.

 

May you know peace in your belonging.

In Christ,

Pastor Jim
Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

THANKS LIVING

3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. - Colossians 1:3-5


We give thanks and praise to God that, as of October 7, 2022, we learned that the Northern Illinois District of the LCMS has approved our amended constitution with our new MISSION STATEMENT.  So, it is now official! We now begin the task of living out that mission statement as we have already laid out the Vision Statements and begun to define the corresponding Strategies for the next 3-5 years.


AND… we can begin using the newly designed LOGO on all of our media properties. Just as a reminder, that new MISSION STATEMENT has 3 components:

ENCOURAGING one another in Faith,
          by GROWING in God’s Eternal Word,
                     and SHARING the Love and Grace of Christ.


As we approach this year’s Thanksgiving, let us do so with this mission statement in mind and pray that God continues to bless us that we might be a blessing to others.  Rather than giving thanks on a single day, may we continue to LIVE in a way that shows our grateful hearts as we strive to care for our community in many and various ways.  In other words, may we this year begin THANKS LIVING!


Grace and Peace in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Jim
Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

Short Video Devotions


    Hard to Hear?

    But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. Deut. 30:17-18a


    In this Season after Pentecost, and especially in September this year, the words from Jesus are particularly hard to hear… they make us cringe as we are convicted of how wrongly we, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, are oriented – toward the ways of the world and not toward the ways of God.


    These are hard words, but necessary for us to hear, as we are called to follow Christ and change our ways.  Throughout the month of August, our sermons have dealt with the phrase “Get Used to Different.”

    Different? You say… in what ways?  The whole point is that, as Peter tells in his first epistle,


    “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
    - (1 Peter 1:5)


    Holy – meaning different – set apart – for God. As followers of Christ, we live a different life and have a different view of how the world SHOULD be.  But there are times when these words are hard to hear…  It is often so much easier to follow the world and go along with whatever others believe – don’t make waves, keep your head down, follow the crowd.


    Jesus, however, calls us to repentance and points us to His cross to see forgiveness and the true meaning of a love that lasts. When the Holy Spirit directs, that day will come… as the prophet Isaiah gives us words of hope,


    “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” Isaiah 29:18


    With the gift of Faith, let us have ears to hear and eyes to see… and LIVE as God leads us.

    Pastor Jim
    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    Exclusive Access? 

    But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  

    - Ephesians 2:13


    A relatively recent marketing tactic is to offer “Exclusive Access” to an event.  This often involves getting to see what goes on backstage and sometimes a “meet and greet” with featured celebrities or having first chance to purchase a new product offering.


    By paying a “premium” fee for “Exclusive Access,” you are treated to something special and you feel like a VIP.

    This was one of the challenges to the early Christian church – the Jews felt that, by their birthright, they were entitled to “Exclusive Access” to God.  And then Jesus Christ comes along and opens the door for EVERYONE who believes. And the Holy Spirit freely gives the gift of faith where and when he wills. The apostles go around preaching this “open door” policy and the Jews resist this teaching (sometimes violently), because it means they no longer have VIP status.


    Wait just a minute – is that fair?! For thousands of years, the Israelites had the birthright – as sons of Abraham – to claim heaven for themselves (or so they thought). Now these new teachings are coming around, claiming that FAITH is the only requirement for access to God’s Kingdom. Baptism now means adoption into the family of God. How can this be true?


    Think back about how we in the faith community have acted at times… Have we treated others in the same way that the first-century Jews treated the first century Christians – thinking we somehow have Exclusive Access to God?

    Our personal bloodline gives us absolutely NO rights, NO merit on our part. As a matter of fact, what we deserve is punishment and death. The only blood that matters is the Blood of Christ – God’s only begotten son – and that alone has redeemed us, restored us to a right relationship with God, and causes us to be rejoicing in Christ as our Savior.


    So, when we meet someone who is different, be aware that Christ died for them as well. Christ has redeemed them. Christ wants them as part of God’s family.


    Christ tells us today to: Get Used to Different!


    Blessed to be a blessing to others, especially those who are different.

    Pastor Jim
    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann


    Making Significant Decisions

    The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.  Acts 15:6


    St. Luke’s record “The Acts of the Apostles” is not intended to be a prescription for the Church of every age, but does describe how God was at work in the Church at that time and place.  One of the significant events that is recorded in chapter 15 is the Jerusalem Council.  What took place at that point so early in the Church’s history still sets for us a pattern for how we make decisions.


    Here are some of the things that are noted by St. Luke that occurred at the Council...  

    • Gather together to hear the Word of God.
    • Engage in constructive debate about matters where there is not clear agreement – in an effort to reach agreement.
    • Report on what God is doing through His Church.
    • Make decisions guided by the Word of God.

    Though we are far-removed from that convening of the Church, we continue to gather for those same type of functions.  Our Congregational Meetings, at their most basic understanding, are for the purpose of being united in the Word of God which frames all of the reports, debates, and decisions that we gather to discuss.


    The description we find in Acts 15 can also provide guidance to couples and families, church boards and even a congregation seeking to consider a Godly VISION of the future of ministry following a decision on a God-given MISSION statement.


    When we gather for reasons apart from having our work guided and framed by the Word of God, then we have resorted to the ways of the world.  However, our prayer is that all of our decisions as individuals, families, and the Church would be guided by the Word of God, for we know that the Word of the Lord endures forever.  May that emphasis always mark our decision-making processes!


    PrayerAlmighty and gracious God, we thank You that by Your Holy Spirit, You bless and guide those who assembled in Your name that all that that is done is according to Your good and gracious will and for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.  


    [The above is adapted from the “Encourage” devotion by Missouri District President,
    the Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan on June 15, 2022.]

    The Fellowship of the Believers

    When the Transition Team held a “Listening Session” on May 15, 2022, one of the key desires of the congregation was to have opportunities for regular Christian Fellowship. It was mentioned that dinner at people’s houses and other ways of furthering relationships was important in our faith community to be building one another up in Christ.


    We read about this in Acts 2:42-47, as being important to the first Christians…


    46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. - Acts 2:46-67


    This brought to my mind something I had heard about a few years back where a group of 4-6 people agree to come together once a month for 3 months (a different host each month) and simply share a meal and possibly invite others (it is recommended that groups be no larger than 8 people). Some call it “Dinner with Friends.”
    After 3 months, the members of the group rotate into other DWF groups.


    This falls right in line with what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica…


    11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:11


    If you might be interested in starting a “Dinner with Friends” group, please contact the Church Office and we will start setting things up.


    Encouraging? I pray you continue to do so…


    Grace and Peace in Christ,

    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    easter matters!

    After reading the title above for the MAY newsletter, some of you are probably thinking that Pastor is more than one egg short of a complete basket! After all, Easter was in April, right?!


    Then again, some of you (who were at the Easter Sunday service) are beginning to realize that Easter is continuing and is certainly MORE than just one day of the year.


    And that is really the point of this month’s newsletter – EASTER is, indeed, still part of our daily lives. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate is more than can be contained in a single morning – it is all year long, every year. We can see it if we look for it. And we can embody it if we truly believe it.


    Among the congregational activities this month, you will have many opportunities to fulfill your own expression of your resurrected life in Christ, and you are encouraged to share that with others.


    Are you allowing your life to interrupted by God? Remember that we heard Dietrich Bonhoeffer write, “God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together [San Francisco: Harper, 1954], 99).


    St. Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).


    So, are you giving everyone a reason to ask?


    Consider how you might go about doing that in your daily life, and then share the things that have worked for you with your fellow members, so we can all learn new ways to continue to show that Easter [still] Matters in our daily lives.


    Blessings in the Risen Christ,


    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    New Heavens and a New Earth

    Springtime in this area can be both beautiful and hazardous, but always brings that sense of “newness.” Nature seems to awaken quickly as the colors of spring abound – trees bud out and leaves appear, flowers pop up from what seemed to be a completely dormant state. Birds, animals and even insects show renewed activity.


    There is a certain excitement and energy that comes with all of this... Certainly, celebrating the Resurrection of our LORD in the middle of the month (April 17) seems to provide an “exclamation point”!


    In our readings, we will hear from the prophet Isaiah as he gives us God’s Word,


    “For behold, I create new heavens

    and a new earth,

    and the former things shall not be remembered

    or come into mind.”

    We are reminded during our Lenten journey to repent, and bring all our sins to the foot of the cross of Christ, where he bears them in his body as it is crucified, taking the punishment we deserve. As he took our sins to the grave, he left them there, rising to New Life on the third day. Our creation story now becomes New – an eighth day of Re-Creation – and our life in Christ is a New Life.


    As we rejoice in His Resurrection, we hear the promise of our own resurrection to come, on the Last Day. So, as we hear in Isaiah 65:18, “be glad an rejoice forever in that which [He]” Re-Creates… in Christ,


    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    Rend Your Heart…

    As we embark on this year’s Lenten Season, it is time, once again, to hear and obey the call that God places on our hearts... While February seems to be all about Love, Lent is a time to reflect on how we are acting in response to God’s love.


    On Ash Wednesday we will here God speak through the prophet Joel:

    "  and rend your hearts …

    Return to the Lord your God,

    for he is gracious and merciful,

    slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…” Joel 2:13 (ESV)


    So, what does it mean to “rend” our hearts? Those experiencing a heavy loss or extreme grief in the Old Testament would “rend” their garments – tear them apart, usually at the center of the chest – revealing their heart. To “rend” your heart, then, is to expose the inner most part of your being – to open up – and thus allow God to do His work in your life.


    This is how we are to RETURN to the LORD – with a heart open to receive his steadfast love.


    Psalm 51:7 (ESV) states it this way…

    “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
        a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”


    During this period of Lent in March, bring your broken and contrite heart. RETURN to the LORD, and receive the blessings of His grace and mercy, share in His abounding and steadfast love, those gifts given in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, to atone for your sins.


    Let the Cross of Christ “mend the rend” of your heart! And be blessed to share such blessings with others.


    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    Love Is… the Ten Commandments?!

    February, with Valentine’s Day, brings to mind the concept of “Love.” What do you love?


    I love teaching… and I love teaching Catechism Classes. So it is with great joy that I share with all of you what was recently shared with our latest class of confirmands, as we are going through our lessons on the
    Ten Commandments from Luther’s Small Catechism.


    We often see the “two stone tablets” depicted as huge towering blocks that appear quite heavy. The image of something very “weighty” is appropriate for rules with such gravitas. But… I’ve always found it somewhat humorous that those big blocks only have Roman Numerals (I, II, II on one block and IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X on the other). You see, Rome (founded in 753 B.C.) was not even in existence at the time of Moses! And the tablets themselves had NO numbering (Hebrew uses letters instead of numbers)… More likely, the tablets themselves were sized as you see in this picture – able to be easily held in one hand and fit in a pocket. That kind of makes you wonder – what else have we mistaken about the Ten Commandments?


    Most of the world probably thinks of them as “Thou Shalt Not” rules and restrictions.


    But they are really all about LOVE. Romans 5:8 puts it this way…


    but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


    It all boils down to this: God loves you AND your neighbor and your response is simply to reciprocate. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 22: 37 & 39… the first and greatest commandment is this:


    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
    (see also Deuternomy 6:5).


    And the second is like the first:


    “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (see also Leviticus 19:18).


    So, the next time you think of the Ten Commandments, think of God’s LOVE.


    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    GOd is Doing a New THing

    As we look toward the future, the theme for the year ahead involves transformation. The Bible, God’s WORD, speaks of this subject in many ways that help to guide us forward.


    We find encouragement in the passage from the first testament as we read the prophet Isaiah speaking God’s WORD to the beleagured Israel then and to us also today… from Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV):


    “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.

       See, I am doing a new thing!

    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

    I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”


    And how do we find that way? How do we navigate the wilderness and drink from the streams in the wasteland? Romans 12:2 provides one answer…


    Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


    By staying in the WORD and allowing the WORD to get into you, this ‘new thing’ this ‘transformation’ is taking place. My certainty is with Paul as he writes to the Philippians:


    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.


    God is doing a NEW THIng... and it involves YOU! (see the video "Glorious" below...)


    Look to God and perceive the NEW things in your life this year.


    Together we will follow the WAY, in Christ Jesus,

    Pastor Jim
    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    Give as good as you Get

    That phrase is often used in our secular world in a negative context; for example, in a third-person perspective of “[person] gives negative comments as effectively as those being dished out against [him/her/them]“… And so often the case is that we are proud of the fact that we can lambast another with a slur that tops whatever they said against us.


    But… what if?  What if this season we turn that around and flip it into a POSITIVE mindset?  What if we were to build others up (see Ephesians 4:29), rather than tearing them down? What if we were to focus on what could make things better, instead of focusing on what does (or could) make things worse?


    What if we were to GIVE hope, encouragement, trust, kindness, compassion, and care?  And what if we were to become an example of that type of giving – all year ‘round? Would that make a difference in our world?

    As we’ve been studying the Acts of the Apostles, we recently came across the following passage from Acts 20:35 (ESV):


    In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”


    As you (hopefully) still have the remnants of Giving Thanks on top of mind, meditate also now on what God has given you (John 3:16),


      For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.


    So, my encouragement for you this day, this month, this year (and the next) is to give an example, as the Apostle Paul did for us, and to remember that to ‘Give as good as you get’ also means you need to realize just how much you have been blessed – to the point of receiving eternal life… in paradise… with Christ Jesus!


    Give even as it has been given to you… in Christ,

    Pastor Jim
    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann


    Thanksgiving in Transitions

    Transition, according to dictionary.com is “the movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another”.


    The transition of seasons, the changes in the academic year, the seasons of life, the changes in our congregation… some transitions are more impactful than others. The Daylight Savings time change is minimal when compared with all the changes we keep seeing regarding restrictions due to COVID-19.



    So… how do we, as Christians, deal with transitions?


                      “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 
                       (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NKJV)


    That middle part - in everything – is what often trips up even the best intentioned among us, and yet heartfelt thanks is something we always have because of Christ Jesus.


    As we come to this time of harvest and the celebration day for giving thanks, let us keep in mind that we should pray without ceasing and rejoice always.


    And in the transitions, we humble ourselves, bow down before Him, and lift up our souls to God in prayer even as we give thanks. As for myself, I say along with St. Paul…


                                  15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 
                                  16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 
    (Ephesians 1:15-16)


    Have a Blessed Thanksgiving - today and Every Day!


    Yours in Christ,


    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    THE WARMTH OF ‘TOGETHER’

    Pumpkin Spice, s’mores around a campfire, a cozy blanket … all the things that come to my mind when the season turns to Autumn. 

    This is the time of year when we shift from cooling ourselves in the heat of summer to warming ourselves on brisk evenings.


    And therein lies the contrast…


    The difference between a Hot Seat (anxiety) and having heated seats (warmth) on a chilly morning.


    There is a contrast in spices; chili peppers can be hot, while pumpkin spice creates warmth.


    And so it is with those who believe in Christ.


    Saying you are a Christian stands in contrast to being together in the Body of Christ.


    Scripture tells us that WARMTH comes from gathering together:


    24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:24-25


    Gathering together for the purpose of stirring up one another

    – creating warmth that spreads to all those we meet. 


    I know I need that encouragement on a regular basis. How about you? 


    What can you do to help “share the warmth” of Christ in your life today?


    Stay Wrapped Up in Christ,


    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann



    September: In ALL Things…

    Star Trek fans will readily identify with the concept of Terran life as being carbon-based.  It seems that all life-forms on this earth are fundamentally based on the element carbon.  Star Trek posed a curious question about what would happen if there were life-forms based on other elements – silicon, for example – and then proceeded to give a look at how we “Terrans” might interact with other life-forms.  Often there is conflict, but the intent is to find harmony, peace.  We find harmony when we can establish some “common ground” and common cause that draws all life-forms together.


    As we embark on a new academic year, many are looking forward to the National Youth Gathering in 2022.  The theme chosen for this gathering is “In All Things” and is based on Colossians 1:15-20. You will see this on publications and wall hangings in the months ahead. The reason for this theme is that the Apostle Paul is writing about Jesus Christ. Paul writes,


    19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”


    That makes me curious… Rather than seeing ourselves as carbon-based life-forms, what if we really, honestly believed that Jesus Christ is the basis for ALL Life? Would that change our interaction with others? Would that make you want to share the hope that we have for a life in Christ?


    He is, after all, “In ALL Things”!


    Peace in Christ,

    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann


    August: Savings…

    Seems as though Summer just got started and suddenly we are seeing signs announcing “Back-to-School” and promoting “Savings!” As we think about education, rarely do we associate “savings,” but that, I propose, is the whole point.  The more we learn about God, the more we are drawn closer to Him.


    I was sitting the other day and waiting to visit with someone who has been saved, and the slideshow on the monitor flashed a couple of Bible Verses and then interspersed this quote, “You can’t save people, you can only love them.” The next thing that popped into my head was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Sounds to me as though, when God is involved, being loved and being saved go hand-in-hand.


    As Paul writes to his protégé Timothy, he encourages us, as well…


    3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:3-4


    Now I will concede that you cannot argue someone into faith.  Paul learned that as he was “debating with the Hellenistic Jews” in Acts 9.  But what you can do is love them where they are at, then share the Gospel as the Holy Spirit presents opportunity. And pray. Pray without ceasing… Pray for All People, as Paul explains in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.


    So, in order that all should be saved, we pray… then speak, as the words are given to us, and the heart is prepared to receive the good word. May we pray without ceasing and be bold in our witness that all may come to know the truth – and be saved – in Christ Jesus.


    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann


    JULY: Prize Inside!

    When I was a kid in the 1960’s, this time of year always brought with it anticipation… There was anticipation of outdoor BBQ’s, squirt guns, swimming pools, baseball, hot dogs, etc. Thinking back, the most indelible memory is that of the red & white striped box with caramel popcorn & peanuts with the promise on the outside of the box ”Prize Inside!” …  okay, so later it was changed to “surprise inside” as the incentives got to be less and less over the years.


    But maybe you remember those days of summer, sitting outside with lemonade, munching away on the contents of that box, eagerly anticipating the point at which you could get to that ‘treasure’ – usually it had been strategically planted in the BOTTOM of the box.  And possibly, like me, you sometimes raced through eating the stuff just so you could get to that “prize.” And then, opening the little packet, after much anticipation, you suddenly realized that in your haste you hadn’t really enjoyed the popcorn and peanuts in the process.  And that’s when it hits you that the “prize inside” wasn’t really worth all that you went through to get it!


    he Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, gives this bit of encouragement in chapter 3:


    “13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”


    No matter what you’re going through at the moment, no matter what obstacles you face or what challenges are presented, you can be absolutely certain that the “prize” that awaits you at the end of it all is far greater than anything you can possibly imagine – Eternal Life in Paradise with Christ!  The prize won for us, not by our own effort, but by the all-availing sacrifice of the Son of God and bought with His body and blood on the cross.


    Consider, as you go through this next month, that you have freedom from the wages of sin, death, and the devil, because of what Christ has already done for you. And continue to press on… making disciples of Jesus along the way.  The “Prize” waiting for you is definitely worth it!


    Grace, Mercy, and Peace in Christ,

    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    A Note Regarding Online Communion and LCMS Practice

    See the Blog post below with the CTCR publication - Online Communion is NOT accepted in the LCMS.

    Should a Pastor Wear a Powdered Donut?

    Before I became a pastor in the LCMS (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod), I did field service on computers and networks.  Some of my customers had home-based businesses or asked me to work on their computers at their home, a service I was happy to provide.


    One particular customer had a couple of cute little pug dogs.  At every visit, these little companions would greet me enthusiastically.  When I would go to sit down to perform maintenance on the computer, one (or sometimes both) of these pugs would hop into the seat in anticipation.  It seems they had developed a practice of pleasing their human companions by sitting in their laps during “computer time.”  Upon seeing my surprise, the customer chuckled and announced, “we wear our dogs often!” – a phrase that was truly apropos, since the dog hair attached to my clothing.  I learned to carry a lint brush in my tool bag…


    When I began wearing clerical shirts, I recalled the instance of “we wear our dogs often” and the caution it brings to someone who must go to several abodes… At one point, following church service, there was a fellowship gathering and, as usual, coffee and donuts. Hence the question for this blog post, “Should a pastor wear a powdered donut?” As delectable as those treats may be, the confectioners’ sugar just seems to attach to everything I touch (or wear) – even the little “mini donuts”!



    While wearing a clerical shirt (usually black), when I see powdered donuts, alarm bells begin to ring in my head… as tempting as they may be, the unintended result is simply not “Good, Right, and Salutary.”  So, the answer to the powdered donut question is easy – just say NO! and offer thanks.


    The same holds true for the practice of “online Communion” in the LCMS.  While it may seem, on the surface anyway, to be innocuous and a “solution” to the problem of COVID-19 restrictions, it is not a good practice.  For the theological reasons, I will refer you to the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) at the following web page: https://www.lcms.org/about/leadership/commission-on-theology-and-church-relations. There are a number of documents  that address the issue, but suffice it to say, the answer is simply no, this is not an acceptable practice in the LCMS.


    Communion via ZOOM or Facebook Live? Just like powdered donuts, your pastor is telling you, “Don’t do it!” because it is not “good, right, and salutary.”


    But Communion IS available to you… DO contact the church office to set a time for your pastor to visit and offer you individual communion in the location of your choosing and at your convenience.

    June: Planted in God

    We have made it through… through the April showers, taking a moment or two to smell the flowers of May. Now June is suddenly upon us. Things are heating up… Places are opening up (Hallelujah!)… Choices now abound… a constant parade of choices!


    Remember that God’s mercies are new every morning. As you consider the many decisions that are facing you, be mindful of where your trust lies – what is the Source of your trust?


    The prophet Jeremiah, speaking God’s word to the Israelites as they were coming out of exile, gave the following encouragement,

    7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,

        whose trust is the LORD.

    8 He is like a tree planted by water,

        that sends out its roots by the stream,

    and does not fear when heat comes,

        for its leaves remain green,

    and is not anxious in the year of drought,

        for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

    - Jeremiah 17:7–8 (ESV)


    Trust in the Lord and the outcomes are guaranteed.


    Trusting in your abilities and knowledge and insight? Sure. But do not rely solely on those. This does not mean you do not apply yourself or consider the learnings from the past – what worked and what did not…


    You do all of that. But you do it planted beside the stream of Living Water – planted in God as the Source.


    Trusting in the Creator who made you to make decisions. Whose Son redeems you. Whose Spirit enables you to make wise choices. Pray for that wisdom. Seek His will. Let Him guide you.


    Live – planted in the Source of all true prosperity. With that water, bear fruit year after year…


    Peace and Joy in Christ,

    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann


    With this month of May, so many things are coming along in the schedule and it may seem that we are always busy. Mother’s Day, Confirmations, Pentecost & Trinity Sundays, Graduations, and of course, the Memorial Day weekend are all on our lists of events we need to attend to (especially, your pastor hopes, those Sunday things).


    Let’s take a moment during our “busyness” to just stop, breathe, and thank God for the gifts we have received, as well as the opportunities for celebration.


    The Bible Says Busyness Causes Doubt and Disconnection from God


    Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” If you are not still, you will not know that God is God. And if you do not know God is truly the Sovereign God who reigns over all, then you will not be still. When these things happen, doubt and disconnection always appear.


    In Mark 4:18-19 Jesus explains, “And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” When life’s issues get so big in your head, there is no room left for God. The cares of this world literally “choke the word” in your life. Worldly busyness disconnects us from the one true God.


    Our relationship with God is living and breathing. It needs the space to take in oxygen, to receive, to give . . . it needs time and room to prosper and to grow.


    Therefore, may we put to practice what the Bible says about busyness: that being still before the Lord will cause us to know that God is God; and actively believing God is God will give us the ability to be still.


    Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6.


    May God bless you with Trust and Stillness,

    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    April: Jesus, Bring the Rain

    Somewhere in mid-October it comes out of my closet – that red hooded sweatshirt. Big, bulky, comfy, and warm. It is a fairly regular companion until it gets tucked neatly away in spring.  But even during the summer months, it brings an assurance – knowing it is there… Yes, it guards against the winter winds and wraps me, comforts me, during those cold, dark nights. But there’s something more – something it brings to mind, even during the months when I would not wear it.


    You see, screen-printed on this sweatshirt are the lyrics of a song by Mercy Me, “Bring the Rain” an excerpt follows …


            And I know there'll be days
            When this life brings me pain
            But if that's what it takes to praise You
            Jesus, bring the rain


    Maybe you have a favorite piece of apparel, a favorite lyric, or a verse of scripture that helps you get through those tough times, those storms in life.  Whatever it is for you, know that my prayer is that God would use it to wrap your heart with His abiding and steadfast love, like a big red hoodie.


    As storms blow by, know that Christ is greater than the pain, that by suffering His destiny, He has made a way for you. So, what’s a little rain, when you have eternity to praise Him?


    While you experience showers, in April or other times, perhaps Isaiah 45:8 (NIV) might be a comfort to you:


         8 “You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;
                let the clouds shower it down.
            Let the earth open wide,
                let salvation spring up,
            let righteousness flourish with it;
                I, the Lord, have created it.


    Have a happy and blessed Easter Season!


    In Christ,
    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    MArch: I heart ... Transfiguration?

    Not quite what you were expecting, eh?  As we begin the month of February, many will be thinking of Valentine’s Day.  Well, due to an interesting feature of our 3-year lectionary calendar, February 14, 2021 is also the celebration of The Transfiguration of our Lord. What better way to transition from the season of Epiphany and into the Season of Lent than to remember that God is Love.


    1 John 4:9-11 states it beautifully:

    9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 


    True love is that which flows from God and through us to those around us. As we reflect on the sacrifice made on our behalf, we enter the season of Lent, beginning with “Ash Wednesday” on February 17, 2021. Due to concerns about COVID-19, there will be no imposition of ashes this year, but we will remember that [we] are dust and to dust [we] shall return (see Genesis 3:19).


    As we proceed through the season of Lent, we will have devotions available for your daily meditations, as well as midweek devotions online on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm.  We will be focusing on the Gospel of Mark for our Sunday messages and recognizing that ‘seeing is not believing.’ May we continue to ‘see’ through the eyes of faith and share that gift of knowing God’s love.


    Peace and Joy in Christ Jesus,

    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann

    February: Epiphany!

    As I walk the halls of Open Arms Child Development Center, I see the “carpet tiles” laid out on the floor to assist in getting the children to “line up at the wall”… One tile for each letter of the alphabet. ‘A’ is followed by ‘B’ then ‘C’ and ‘D’ and so on… somewhere around where ‘G’ should be, things get a little jumbled. Turn the corner and it almost seems to get back in order, but then after ‘W’ followed by ‘X’ comes ‘Y’ and suddenly ‘L’ and ‘M’ break in before we get to ‘Z’ – and that is turned sideways!


    Interestingly enough, that seems to be a metaphor for the way 2020 has unfolded, doesn’t it?! Somewhere around where ‘G’ should be in our lives… it all seemed to go sideways. And we are all experiencing some degree of “pandemic fatigue” at this point, so trying to straighten things out just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. 

    Thanks be to God (notice the Big ‘G’) that we don’t have to make sense of all this mess.  He has come into our world and has begun the restoration of ALL creation. That is what we celebrated this Christmas. And that is what we can continue to celebrate as we go through Epiphany this season.

    In the natural progression of the English language, that word – “epiphany” – seems to have taken on a whole different connotation in the secular world than what is meant in our faith-based lives. In today’s society, having an “epiphany” means …”an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking.” For our faith lives it means the manifestation of Christ, the divine and long-awaited savior, having come into our midst. The reality is that Christ has come and saved us from our sin and the condemnation that results from sin. The striking event that we will see at Good Friday is that He has died in our place.  And the meaning that brings to us comes with His resurrection and the promise that we, too, inherit eternal life with and in Christ. What an Epiphany!

    May this season bring you continuing joy as we celebrate the Light of Life enlightening our world!

    With Christ,
    Pastor Jim Kirschenmann