Bet you didn’t know that, did you. While we are the three “official” Board members, every one of us in this congregation is serving on that Board as well. You probably just didn’t realize it.
Whenever we come in contact with another human being – whether it is in person, by phone, email or text – we are living testimonials to our faith and to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, even if we never speak a single word!
It is our Board’s goal this year to encourage you to take the charge to heart as Jesus commanded His disciples to be fishers of men. Now before you get all shook up, we don’t intend for you to preach on a street corner or go knocking on strangers’ doors if you’re not comfortable doing that. We are promoting Lifestyle Evangelism and it is our goal that by year’s end, we will have empowered you with an arsenal of very simple and non-scary tools to help you do God’s work joyfully and painlessly. Remember….you may be the only Bible someone may ever read.
Our plan is to introduce one “tool” each month that will help you. It will be published in both the newsletter and Sunday bulletins under the heading “Lifestyle Evangelism Tool of the Month.” What an exciting year awaits as we all work to expand God's Kingdom!!
...Sharon Kessler, Sharon Makela
Our first tool for January is to use religious bank checks. Every check-printing company offers designs with Scripture verses or religious symbols and scenes. Whenever we pay a bill, that check is seen by numerous people before it gets returned to you. What a message you are sending with each check you write!
If you are comfortable with ordering checks online, by mail, or phone, we have prepared a list of some resources for you. Look for the Lifestyle Evangelism basket in the Fellowship Hall to pick up a copy. Of course, they are also available to you through your own banking institution.
February often gets a bad rap. It's the shortest month, often really cold and generally pretty yucky. Add to that the fact that many of us are getting sick and tired of winter, we tend to slog our way through it while looking forward to March with its warmer temps and thoughts of spring.
But February is actually a very special month. Maybe Hallmark Cards gets the credit (or blame depending on your perspective) but Valentine's Day sits smack in its middle making it the "love" month...which actually just means that everyone (especially those who might otherwise be shy) has automatic permission to unabashedly express affection for those special people in our lives.
Love, of course, did not originate with man. We as Christians all know it originated with God - and because He loves us so much, He created in us the ability to love others. As the Apostle John said: "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19). We are especially blessed because we know God's love for us is an ongoing, never-ending, constant 24/7/365-day eternal love. How fortunate we are to be able to share that Good News with someone who does not know it! What comfort we give when someone learns that for the first time, and learns they are never alone regardless of their circumstances.
So keeping with a February theme, our tool this month is a special little valentine proudly sporting that Bible verse from 1 John. The valentines are small enough to easily carry in a purse or pocket and easy to slip in an envelope when you send a letter or pay a bill. Hand one to a store clerk; the bank teller; your accountant; delivery people; tuck your tip into one for the waiter/waitress at the restaurant; leave one for your mailman; give one to a shut-in. Be creative - the possibilities are limitless! They are almost like a hug from God - and who can't use one of those!!
We have some ready to use in our Evangelism Tool Basket in the Fellowship Hall. (Thank you, BLAZE kids, for making a lot of them for us!) Help yourself to a few to get you started, and then please make more yourself at home of any kind you would like and spread them around throughout the month. Help yourself to extra Bible verse stickers in the basket to attach to the valentines you make. What a joy it is to share God's love! You'll feel so warm and fuzzy inside you won't even notice the cold outside!...well, at least hardly notice it...
Happy Valentine's Day, fellow Faith Christians! God is Love - Love is good!!
We are blessed! There is no better way to say it. We as Christians are especially blessed because we know the true secret of life - both here on earth and for eternity. This is not a secret we are to keep to ourselves, however. We must share it! Our God has commanded that we share it!
One way to do that is through our Lifestyle Evangelism tool for March. Think of God's many blessing to us at every mealtime and be bold in expressing them in word and song. Say prayers before you eat meals at home - and especially say them when you are out in public! Say them when you have guests in your home. Say them when you eat alone. Say them when your family eats together.
Nearly everyone knows what we call the Common Table Prayer before eating: "Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen". Did you know there is also a common Lutheran prayer for when the meal is finished?..."O, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever. Amen".
If table prayers said out loud at mealtime - and especially in public eating establishments - are not part of your daily walk with God, this would be a good time to renew (or begin) that habit. Your prayer does not have to be long or elaborate - just straight from the heart. A simple thank you is good along with a request to bless the food that it give nourishment to your mind and body to enable you to do the job God has designed for you. Don't feel creative? Check out the samples in our Evangelism Tool Basket in the Fellowship Hall for some ideas. God is good to us: let us proudly and loudly acknowledge that.
April is the month that traditionally heralds the advent of spring, the celebration of Easter is the kickoff. Spring is always associated with new life - new birth - and appropriately so. Our countryside becomes decorated with baby chicks, bunnies, lambs, and calves to name a few. Trees begin to leaf out and of course green plants of all kinds sprout up from beneath the ground.
Sadly, many people think of Easter only as a day for a new outfit and the time to start wearing white shoes. We as Christians know, of course, that Easter is the most joyous day of the year because of Christ's resurrection from the grave and His victory over death and the devil. Christ has given us new life too - new birth - in Him for all eternity. How incredible is that!!
So what could be more appropriate to symbolize Christ's death on the cross, His resurrection and our new life in Him than growing plants. As the flowers grow, they are a constant reminder of God's great love for all His creation and Jesus' great sacrifice and victory that enables us to live with him forever.
On Easter Sunday, each family will receive two plantable crosses. Plant one for yourselves to enjoy all summer and fall as you remember God's great gift to us. Give the other one away to someone who does not yet know this great joy, and tell that person about God's love and the simple path to salvation.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!!
Remember that old adage April showers bring May flowers? After a long cold winter like we have had this year, it's a sure bet that we all are looking forward to seeing colorful flowers growing in our yards this summer.
We all know a flower begins with a small seed planted in soil where, if nurtured with water and sunlight, it will grow over time until it eventually forms a beautiful bloom. God designed His creation so ingeniously we can't help but marvel at it! Besides enjoying all the new growth we see in May, it is also when we traditionally honor mothers. So it seems very fitting that our Lifestyle Evangelism Tool for May is a flower.
Have you ever thought how our faith life is a lot like that of a flower? At some time in our life a little faith seed (probably with a nudge from the Holy Spirit!) takes root in our heart and slowly grows as it is nurtured by our reading, hearing and studying God's Word until it develops into a full-fledged bloom that envelops our whole life.
On Mother's Day, young people from our congregation will give every lady two flowers the children have made. One we hope will serve as a gentle reminder of the need to nurture our faith daily. The other is for you to give away to help someone else grow in their faith. Invite someone for coffee or a visit over the backyard fence or tuck it in a card and give away that second flower - such a simple gesture that combined with a few encouraging words may help that person begin or grow in her (or his) own faith journey. If you would like more flowers to share, they will be available in the Lifestyle Evangelism basket in the Fellowship Hall after Mother's Day.
Many of us had that first faith seed planted by our mothers, often when we were very young. Let us honor each and every one of those mothers by planting or nuturing that seed within someone else.
A favorite spring and summer pastime in our Northland is often a relaxing day of fishing on one of our many area lakes so that is our theme for this month.
Following His baptism and forty days in the desert, Jesus began His ministry by selecting disciples. The very first men Jesus called were two sets of brothers who were ordinary fisherman working hard to eke out a living from the Sea of Galilee - Simon (Peter) and Andrew, James and John. "And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' And immediately they left their nets and followed him." (Mark 1:16-18 ESV).
As His disciples now here on earth, we too are expected and commanded to bring others into God's Kingdom by sharing the Good News of Jesus' saving grace and eternal salvation. There can be no better symbol for doing just that than our Lifestyle Evangelism tool for June - a fishhook - which will be given out to all the men on Father's Day. But remember...Jesus expects all of us to be zealous "fishers of men" - not just the guys.
It is our hope that from this day forward whenever you see a fishhook, it will remind you to 'hook one for Jesus'. When you do, that will be the biggest and best catch you will ever make.
Every night as we watch the evening news reports on the terrible unrest, fighting and complete disregard for human life and religious freedom in so many countries around the world, we are clearly reminded how blessed we are to live in the United States. Is it perfect here? No. Is it better than anywhere else? Absolutely!
Our founding fathers established this nation on a strong faith in God. They incorporated Christian principles into the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our legal system is based on the Ten Commandments. Even our currency has "In God We Trust" imprinted on both bills and coins. One of the first things George Washington did after being inauguated as our country's first president was lead his cabinet one block to St Paul's Chapel (in New York) where they knelt in prayer asking for Divine guidance to lead the new nation.
As the decades and centuries have passed, our country has drifted farther and farther away from the basis upon which it was founded. America is still the greatest country on earth but we are slipping from God's grace as our governments (local up to federal) pass laws that are contrary to God's laws while we Christians stay too silent. It's past time that we Christians stand up for our beliefs and remind our fellow countrymen - elected officials and ordinary citizens alike - what it is that made this nation great.
One simple way to showcase both our love of country and of God is with our Lifestyle Evangelism tool for July - patriotic labels for envelopes. The flag-dressed cross symbolizes both our patriotism and our faith as does the accompanying printed message. We urge you to use these labels whenever you send any mail thru the postal service. Whoever handles that letter will see your label and be reminded of the real Power that has made America great.
Be sure to take a strip of these labels and use them with pride. If you would like to print sheets of these small labels at home for your continued use, we can send you the template. Also...the next time you purchase return address labels, plese consider adding a Christian symbol/message. What a simple way to let both our faith and our patriotism shine!
In God We Trust!! God Bless America!!
Have you ever stopped to think - really think - about the power in our words? We all say and write things many times a day without giving any real consideration to exactly what words we are using or what their impact may be on another person.
Our words can transmit joy, comfort, support and love. They can also transmit anger, scolding and jealously. We can use them to build up and to tear down. We can use them to make someone's day special or send them into depression.
Our words are also one of the tools God has given us to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, so that is our Lifestyle Evangelism tool for August - simple words used in a life-changing way. Think about how good you feel at the end of worship when Pastor says, "God's blessings on your day." How about you share that with someone else!
We have so many opportunities that we regularly waste, so next time you sign off an email or send a card or letter, add a "God bless" or "Blessings" or "God loves you" or some other similar comment. Do the same at the end of a phone call. Say it to the store clerk when you finish your transaction. You will be surprised how often their faces will light up in a smile of appreciation. What a spectacular way to brighten their day! ...And it brightens yours at the same time!!
Call it a fashion accessory, trinket, adornment, bling, or any one of numerous other terms, but simply put - we're talking jewelry here. Yes, we usually consider this to be a female domain, but you men wear a lot of jewelry too - lapel pins, tie tacks, necklaces, bracelets. Even watches are considered jewelry.
So take a good look in your drawer or jewelry box because we want you to wear Christiam jewelry for our September Lifestyle Evangelism tool. What a simple yet beautiful way to demonstrate our faith.
Of course, we encourage you to "wear your faith" every day everywhere, but especially do so Sunday, September 14th. We have arbitrarily declared that day as "Wear Christian Jewelry Day" so we ask everyone - men, women and children alike - to participate. Let's fill Faith with symbols of faith!
And then keep on wearing that jewelry wherever you go every day as a message to the world that Jesus gave His Life for every one of us. What a gift!
October finds us smack in the middle of our fall season with its gorgeous tree color, comfortable temperatures, and no mosquitos (usually!). While we adults look forward to church dinners and fall festivals, children generally have something different in mind - Halloween with its opportunity to collect a lot of free candy and a license to play tricks.
Halloween is short for All Hallows Eve, that is, the evening before All Saints Day, a Christian holy day on which Christians honored the saints (the "hallowed" ones), the heroes and martyrs of the faith. For us Lutherans, All Hallows Eve is also Reformation Day, the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses for debate on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. Now that is something to celebrate!
In the Middle Ages, people had a profound sense of the demonic. Just think of Luther's Reformation hymn, "A Mighty Fortress": "Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us". People believed that the demons were especially active on the eve of All Hallows. They carved gourds with ugly faces and set them out to guard their homes. This was similar to the practice of carving grotesque gargoyles on the drain spouts of cathedrals to ward off devils. People paraded in the streets dressed up in costumes and masks to confuse the demons and confound their schemes. Anything about this sound familiar today????
The holy day of All Saints has all but died out, especially in Protestant Christianity in many parts in the world. In its place, popular culture has latched on to All Hallows Eve and turned it into another money-making gimmick. Much of the fun is innocent, albeit bad for the teeth. Children dress up in a wide variety of costumes and gorge themselves with candy begged from the neighbors under special dispensation from parents and dentists.
There is, however, a darker and more sinister side to Halloween as satanic and pagan groups have made Halloween their own special "high holy day". A night that was once a confrontation with the devil has become a celebration of all things devilish.
Of course, we as Christians know that's not what All Hallows Eve is about - and the children aren't thinking in that vein either. But a reminder of God's power over the devil is always a good thing and so our Lifestyle Evangelism tool for this month is a little pumpkin card with "God Loves You" written under it charming grin.
We encourage you to give these along with your candy to the children who come to your door All Hallows Eve. While they may not appreciate them that night, their parents will see them as they sort thru the candy and hopefully they will serve as a great reminder to that family for a long time to come that God does indeed love every one of us - so much in fact that He sent His Son who conquered the devil by His death on the cross.
A supply of these cards are available in the Tools basket in the Fellowship Hall. If you need more, contact the church and Sharon or Ann will make them for you. Or even better...make up something yourself to include with your candy. Sweet candy is a temporary treat but life everlasting with our Lord and Savior is the sweetest treat beyond measure.
We wrote this in our July column but it is worth repeating: we are truly blessed to live in the United States where our many freedoms are guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights - including freedom to worship our God openly and in any manner and place we choose. Christians in many other countries are dying every day because they do not have that privilege.
Our freedoms do not come easily, however, and they carry a high price. Since our nation's first battle for its independence in 1775, many thousands of our citizens have fought and died in order that these freedoms remain free. Without our soldiers, we today might also be among those killed because we do not subscribe to a religious tenet that goes against our consciences and beliefs. Thank God for our military men and women and their families who have sacrificed so much!!
We as a national celebrate two special days in November: a national day of Thanksgiving and Veterans Day which was originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the official end of World War I on November 11, 1919. In 1954, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor American veterans of all wars.
It seems expecially appropriate that we all make a special effort to thank our active and retired service men and women for our Lifestyle Evangelism tool this month. We urge you to take the time to write a note, send a card or make a phone call to those you know to thank them for their service. Include a faith message for encouragement.
To kick off the month, Rev. Wayne Schwanke, Chaplain at the Veterans Home in King, WI, will lead our church services and adult Bible study on November 2nd. Among the many services King provides is a veterans homeless shelter. Like most such facilities, the needs are greater than the budget to provide them, so we want to help by sponsoring an ingathering all month of items they need. Place your items in the "King" basket in the Fellowship Hall: small medium and large boxers or briefs; medium and large tee-shirts; socks; flip flops/shower shoes all sizes; shower gel/body wash; Q-tips; finger nail clippers; lotion; shampoo; washcloths and towels; gloves/mittens; winter hats and scarves; twin comforters; twin sheets; drink mixes - Kool-Aid/Crystal-Light; sugar packets; snacks.
As you gather items from this list, please includes your personal cards and thank you notes for these veterans. Remember the value and power of a "thank you!" - expecially to someone who may have lost his way or his feeling of self worth. The Sunday School and Wednesday after-school children are also making cards for these veterans to send to King.
And last but certainly not least, keep our military men and women in your daily prayers. May the Good Lord watch over them and keep them from harm's way as the continue to keep the rest of us and our feedoms safe and secure.
Dear Lord, Protect our sailors while at sea, Watch over them wherever they be. Protect our soldiers while at war, We pray for peace for evermore. Let us remember the wars that passed Where lives were lost for peace to last. Let us be thankful for sacrifices made And never let their memory fade. Amen
It's hard to believe this is the last month of 2014 and with it, the last Lifestyle Evangelism tool for your kit. It is, however, one of the easiest for us all to use.
This is the month we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrated our salvation and Jesus' resurrection from the dead at Easter, but there would be no Easter without His birth at Christmas.
It is disturbing for us as Christians to see how our society has taken Christ out of Christmas and commercialized it as the make-it-or-break-it shopping event for retailers. Stores start marketing their "Christmas" merchandise right after the back-to-school push in September, and Thanksgiving has become the big kick-off to shopping when everyone should be focused on thanking our Good Lord for all He has given us.
So what can we do about it? There are a multitude of little things that we Christians can and must do, and the following list of Lifestyle Evangelism tools is just a small sample to get you started: send religious Christmas cards; use religious Christmas stickers on envelopes; purchase and use the religious Christmas postage stamp for your snail mail; share a hearty "Merry Christmas" greeting at every opportunity instead of "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings"; display religious ornaments as part of your tree decorations; include nativity sets in your decorating and gift giving; give/use religious advent calendars to children; start an annual tradition of giving a religious ornament to family members; display a "cross" evergreen wreath on the outside of your house; invite people you know without a church home to attend our Sunday school program and beautiful Christmas Eve service.
As we said in our introductory January column, whenever we come in contact with another human being - whether it is in person, snail or e-mail or text - we are living testimonials to our faith and to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, even if we never speak a single word! We also said then our goal for this project was that by year's end to have empowered each of us with an arsenal of very simple and non-scary tools to help you do God's work joyfully and painlessly. Remember...you may be the only Bible some may ever read.
It is also our hope that the ideas we have shared with you this year will start your own creative juices flowing to come up with additional ideas for how you can spread God's wonderful message of salvation to those who have not yet accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, and also for those who may be wavering on the brink between belief and unbelief.
It is the sincere hope and prayer of all of us on your Evangelism Board that we have accomplished that goal and that we all will continue every day to be "fishers of men" and grow God's Kingdom here on earth and in Heaven.
Merry Christmas! May God bless us, everyone.
Over the course of the past year, we have given you a quiver full of Lifestyle Evangelism tools to help each of you follow God's command to grow His Kingdom of believers. It was our intent and is our hope that you will continue to use these tools and come up with many more of your own in the months and years ahead. Telling others about God's love and our salvation is an ongoing mission for all of us.