Marriage and Family

Posted on Oct 4, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow workers and fellow soldiers! (Philippians 2:25): For those of us who believe that marriage brings together one man and one woman to become husband and wife in order that any children that might be born will have a mommy and a daddy, the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is an egregious example of judicial activism and tyranny. As the founding fathers said repeatedly, Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God. In his recent book “Truth Overruled: the Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom” Ryan T. Anderson spells out how the church can begin to fulfill this sacred duty. These quotes are from chapter eight, “Building a Movement.”

  • “The church needs to present a case for biblical sexuality that is appealing and that engages the best of modern thought. The virtues of chastity and lifelong marriage are enriching, but after fifty years, the church has still not devised a compelling response to the sexual revolution. The legal redefinition of marriage could take place when and where it did only because the majority of Americans lacked a sound understanding of the nature of man and the nature of marriage.” We are studying the Family Project during the 9:00 a.m. Bible class this quarter to help us better respond to this reality.
  • “The church’s second task is to develop ministries for those who experience same-sex attraction and gender identity conflicts.” What can we do? We can become familiar with, promote and support ministries such as Harvest USA (www.harvestusa.org). We can regularly practice hospitality to the single and widowed members of our church family and neighborhood by including them in family meals and events. We can encourage, develop and practice deep friendships that will expose the lie told by Justice Kennedy that without Obergefell people are “condemned to live in loneliness.”
  • “The church’s third task is to defend religious liberty and to help conscientious Christians understand how to bear witness to the truth when a radical sexual agenda has become a nonnegotiable public policy.” Our state legislators need to protect the religious liberty of all occupations, especially those under attack, e.g. bakers, florists, photographers, foster care and adoption agencies etc.
  • “The fourth task of the church is the most important and the most challenging. We need to live out the truth about marriage and human sexuality…The beauty and splendor of a happy family is our best testimony.” No family is perfect, but all families can be redeemed.
    What action is God calling you to take? Don’t assume that someone else will do it. Every baptized Christian has a voice and the ability to love and serve our neighbors by speaking the truth in love and by living generously.
    Your unworthy under-shepherd in Christ,
    —Pr. Paul Becker

“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law.” Psalm 119::18

Fortnight for Freedom

Posted on Jul 6, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

As we pause to celebrate Independence Day once again, we find ourselves living in a strange time in which the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights are diminishing and in some cases disappearing completely. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have called for a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 – July 4, 2015. They envision an intentional time of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, and offer the following prayer for our use:

O God our Creator, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, o heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church, in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nations, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Katherine Lee Bates famous poem “America the Beautiful” (first written in 1893) has long been my favorite patriotic song. Here is a stanza that we would all benefit from taking to heart:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Pr. Paul F. Becker

Open my eyes to behold wondrous things in Your Law. Psalm 119:18

p.s. Have you ever wondered why we started saying: “We shall serve Him!” at the end of the Divine Service? Here’s why: “…and the people said to Joshua, ‘The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey.’” Joshua 24:24

The importance of Jesus’ resurrection

Posted on Jun 1, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours…..

The importance of Jesus’ resurrection

I’ve had the privilege (twice!) to hear Rev. Professor Jeffrey Gibbs teach on the importance of Jesus’ resurrection in Christian life and ministry. Dr. Gibbs wrote the Concordia Commentary on Matthew and teaches at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. His basic take away point is that we have placed undue emphasis on what is called the intermediate state, or the period of time between physical death and the resurrection of the body as confessed in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Our hope rests not on being disembodied spirits in heaven with Jesus, but on the glorification that we will share with Jesus when this mortal puts on immortality and this corruptible puts on incorruptibility. Dr. Gibbs suggested , somewhat tongue in cheek, that we inscribe on our tombstones: “just a temporary set-back”. He drew our attention to hymns that emphasize this truth such as “Jesus Lives! The Victory’s Won” in which we sing: Jesus lives! Death’s reign is done! From the grave will Christ recall me. Brighter scenes will then commence; This shall be my confidence. He also composed a new stanza for the familiar hymn “Abide with me”.

And when You come again at last to save,
Bring us to life, Lord, raise us from the grave.
So, then, with all creation, brave and free
I shall rejoice for you abide with me.

The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. The lie kills nations. The most powerful nations of the world have been laid waste because of their lies. History knows of no more unsettling sight than the judgment rendered upon the people of an advanced culture who have rejected the truth and are swallowed upon in a sea of lies. Where this happens, as in the case of declining pagan antiquity, religion and law, poetry and philosophy, life in marriage and family, in the state and society — in short, one sphere of life after another falls sacrifice to the power and curse of the lie. Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie. Where man denies that he and others are dying, the terrible dissolution of his culture is held up as a glorious ascent, and decline is viewed as an advance, the likes of which has never been experienced. (Hermann Sasse, Union and Confession, 1936)

Pastor Paul Becker
Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things in Your law. Psalm 119:18

Sow righteousness, reap love

Posted on Feb 27, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Rev. Franklin Graham has said that our nation is morally crumbling within and that we have turned our backs on God. Countless pundits, prognosticators, and talk show hosts fill our minds with numbing details of this pervasive decay. While it so happens that I agree with Graham’s assessment of our national disease, it nevertheless begs the question: what shall be done? I know one thing for sure: the media won’t tell us the truth, nor will our elected officials. Fortunately for us, through His servants, God sends His Word of Law and Gospel, for He desires that none should perish, but that everyone should turn to Him and live.

The LORD spoke his word to Jonah, son of Amittai. He said, “Leave at once for the important city, Nineveh. Announce to the people that I can no longer overlook the wicked things they have done.”

Like so many in our own day, Jonah didn’t much care for God’s plans, and tried to go his own way. After a three day experience of divine discipline and correction in the belly of a great fish, Jonah, with reluctant repentance, accepted his assignment.

The people of Nineveh believed God. They decided to fast, and everyone, from the most important to the least important, dressed in sackcloth.

Here we see the only answer to the question: what shall we do? Believe God. Change the way you think and act. Give some outward sign of the seriousness of your sorrow over sin. Every year God renews the cry of the prophets to his people in the 40 days of Lent: Return to the Lord your God! For He is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love!

God saw what they did. He saw that they turned from their wicked ways. So God reconsidered his threat to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.

How shall we respond to God’s call? Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin through the Word so that we may be among those who fear and love God.

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2b)

May it be said of us as it was said of old: The people of Nineveh believed God.

—Pastor Paul Becker

Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain. —Hosea 10:12

Epiphany to Lent

Posted on Jan 31, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Six short Sundays after the Epiphany quickly bring us to the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 18. But first, we will celebrate “Shrove/Fat Tuesday” (2/17) with a traditional pancake – sausage supper. This presents us not only with an opportunity to say farewell to our ordinary rich foods for simpler fare of the 40 day fast, but also to support with your financial gifts and encourage with your love and prayers those who plan on being part of a short-term mission team to the Native Americans in western South Dakota the week of June 8.

As I write this article, many of the baptized are observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, beginning with the Confession of St. Peter (1/18) and ending with the Conversion of St. Paul (1/25). In that spirit, and in light of the ongoing persecution and suffering of Christians in the Middle East, I bring to your attention a commemoration dear to our Orthodox brothers and sisters of Antioch (Syria, Lebanon and abroad):

The Centennial Jubilee of the Falling Asleep of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (1915-2015), “Good Shepherd of the Lost Sheep in America”. (from their website): Our Father among the Saints, Raphael (Hawaweeny), Bishop of Brooklyn, was the first Orthodox Christian bishop consecrated on American soil. Traveling throughout the continent in the first years of the 20th century, he founded thirty parishes in North America. His feast day is celebrated in the Antiochian Archdiocese on the first Saturday of November. St. Raphael, a man of angelic name and apostolic fervor, was influenced by many cultures. He was born and raised in the Middle East, educated by Greeks at Halki and by Russians at Kiev, and he spent the last nineteen years of his life as a missionary in North America.

Practical Suggestion #2 from “Live the Six: Learning to Live as an Everyday Missionary” from Lutheran Hour Ministries: Get in the habit of asking people around you if there’s anything you can pray about for them. As they talk to you, write the concern down. It will help you actually follow through and will show them you’re serious about their concerns.

With great joy I anticipate going with all of you into the desert/wilderness with Christ our Lord to grow stronger and closer to the One who “for us temptation sharp He knew, for us the tempter overthrew”.

Pastor Paul Becker “…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Pastor Shehab – “From Islam to Christ” Saturday, January 24 at 10:00am

Posted on Jan 10, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours:

On the weekend of January 23-25, we will be hosting Pastor Hesham Ali Shehab of Salam Christian Fellowship (sharing space with Peace Lutheran Church, Lombard, IL) whose purpose is to share Jesus Christ with Muslims and others from the Middle East and North Africa. Our local mission council, Central Appalachian Lutheran Ministries (CALM) will hear him speak here at on Concordia on Saturday (1/24) at 10:00 a.m. (lunch included).

Pastor Shehab, now an LCMS pastor/missionary serving the immigrant Arabic communities of greater Chicago, grew up as a devout Muslim in Lebanon. While studying at university, he met a LCMS Pastor serving with Lutheran Hour Ministries who was teaching class on the New Testament. Hesham was struck by the words of Jesus, “love your enemy.”

After meeting with the Pastor for several months, Hesham was brought to saving faith in his Savior Jesus Christ; converted by the power of God’s Word. There are many good articles to read on their website: http://salamchristianfellowship.org.

Pastor Shehab will also be present Sunday morning, January 25. He will participate in Bible class at 9:00 a.m. and will offer a message during worship service at 10:30 a.m.

Practical Suggestion #1 from “Live the Six: Learning to Live as an Everyday Missionary” from Lutheran Hour Ministries: Learn the names of service workers you encounter every day/week. The clerks at the stores you frequent, the custodial staff that cleans your work place, mail man, sanitation engineer (guy who collects your garbage). Express interest in their families and ask them how their lives are going.

May 2015 be a year full of grace and truth for each of us!
Pastor Paul Becker

What’s this about plastic donuts?

Posted on Oct 29, 2014 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours……

During our stewardship emphasis this month, we will not be focusing on the usual themes of time, talent and treasure, or proportionate, weekly giving to the local church – important as those things are. Instead, we will be focusing together on what makes a gift acceptable or pleasing to God. In the past couple months I came across a book called “Plastic Donuts” by Jeff Anderson. You can get a sneak preview of all this by going to www.AcceptableGift.org. This material has produced a significant paradigm shift in my thinking about giving as a follower of Jesus Christ. Here is a snippet of what we will dive into this month (from Jeff Anderson’s Facebook page):

Did you know there are two kinds of financial gifts?
(1) acceptable gifts – these are gifts that please God
(2) effective gifts – these are gifts that get the job done (get food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, the gospel to the lost, etc.)

Small_DonutSome effective gifts are acceptable gifts, too. But not all of them are. The property given by Ananias and Saphirra would have “effectively” met great needs. But the gift did not please God. The Pharisees gave effective tithes; but Jesus was not impressed. Of course, not all acceptable gifts are effective gifts either. Consider the perfume Mary used to worship the feet of Jesus. This was not effective use of assets; but the gift was very pleasing to Him. What about the money given to Judas? Scriptures say he stole from the purse. Still, couldn’t those resources provided have been pleasing gifts to God first?

Gift-giving began 6,000 years ago. Cain and Abel gave gifts and we suspect Adam and Eve did, too. Interestingly, there were no needs during this time. No poor, no orphans, no sick or diseased. No need for evangelism either. From the early beginnings, gifts to God were for a single purpose – to please Him. God desired gifts from His children. There was no need for “effective gifts.”

Hopefully this will whet your appetite for a remarkably refreshing look at giving from the perspective of what is pleasing to God. If you really want to dig into this, Jeff has written a major paper on what the Bible says about giving entitled: 2000 Gifts – What They Reveal about Tithing, Acceptable Giving, and Plastic Donuts. Download a pdf here.

With thanksgiving in my heart, Your unworthy under-shepherd in Christ,
Pr. Paul Becker

In the Cross of Christ we glory

Posted on Oct 5, 2014 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

O Christ our God, Moses prefigured the salutary effects of your precious Cross when he defeated the haughty Amalek in the desert of Sinai, for while he extended his arms crosswise, the people were victorious.  All these symbols have now attained their perfection before our eyes: today, as the Cross is lifted up, evil spirits are cast away; today the whole creation is delivered from corruption, for all blessings have been bestowed upon us by the Cross.  Wherefore we joyfully kneel to You and say, how great are your works, O Lord, glory to You!  Joy to you, most honorable Cross of the Lord!  Through you, mankind has been relieved of the curse.  You are a sign of joy indeed, and of terror to our spiritual enemies; you are the help of Christians, the glory of kings, the strength of the just, the splendor of priests, a staff of power to your people and a source of peace.  Around you the angels gather in awe; you are the glory of Christ who grans great mercy to the world.  Joy to you, precious cross of the Lord.  Guide to the blind, physician to the sick and resurrection to all the dead.  You lifted us out of corruption and removed the curse; through you we have been made godly, and the power of hell has been destroyed in full.  Wherefore, seeing you today lifted up by our priests, we exalt Christ who was suspended on you and we bow deeply before you, seeking forgiveness and great mercy.  Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;  both now and ever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

In the exaltation of the most precious, holy and life-giving Cross of Jesus, we see the glory and triumph of the Christian faith, created, sustained and spread by the preaching of Christ crucified.

  1. In the Cross, we see the glory of Christ
    1. A humble servant, obedient unto death.

The story is told of how the Byzantine emperor Heraclius defeated the king of Persia and returned the holy cross to Jerusalem in 628.  The head of the mighty Byzantine empire, arrayed with precious jewels and in formal imperial attire, carried the Cross to the door of the church where an invisible Hand stopped him.  Zachary, bishop of Jerusalem, said to him, ‘Beware, your Majesty!  These precious vestments and priceless jewels are the marks of human pride; this does not conform with the poverty of Jesus Christ nor with his humility in bearing the Cross.’  The Emperor immediately stripped himself of all his adornments, borrowed a simple cloak and walked barefoot to Goolgotha where he planted the Cross.      The faithful bowed their heads to the ground, saying, “We bow profoundly to Your Cross, O Christ, and we sing a hymn of glory to Your resurrection!”

  1. The power of God and the wisdom of God – the heart and secret of the Christian difference.
  1. In the Cross, we see the triumph of Christians
    1. Over sin and death, devil and hell
    2. True definition of love: make the sign of the holy cross!  “We’re going to take care of you!”

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours…

Posted on Dec 19, 2013 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Once again, we see the days growing shorter. The power of darkness as a physical and spiritual reality seems increasingly indisputable. Once again, the faithful in Christ Jesus enter the season of Advent – a sea-son of expectation, anticipation, preparation, and above all, hope. This crucial question confronts us: what power, if any, does this darkness have over us? We see all too clearly the darkness of unemployment, the darkness of lingering physical, mental and emotional distress, the darkness of disrupted relationships, the darkness of debt, the darkness of diminishing freedom, senseless violence and the list goes on.

While we might experience a sense of joy and wonder as we light candles in the safety of the sanctuary, how do we go about lighting candles and not cursing the darkness in our daily hustle and bustle?
We shall wrestle with that question in our mid-week Advent services!

12/4 Darkness in Paradise
12/11 Darkness in the Palace
12/18 Darkness in the Exile
12/24 Darkness in Bethlehem

As you will learn at our Voter’s meeting on December 8, we are not exactly experiencing an economic boom, a surplus of finances. In fact, our giving has not kept pace with our expenses. The Board of Directors has tried to tighten our belt and be as conservative as possible with the resources entrusted to us. Truth be told, irregular attendance means irregular offerings; and even worse, when members of the body lapse (fall away), their offerings usually fall away with them. As your Pastor, I pray and work daily for three things:

That all members would be regular and faithful in their worship and giving, and thus enjoy optimum spiritual health and blessings;
That the lapsed would be reconnected to our fellowship through the caring friendships of their brothers and sisters in Christ, or find a new church home, and
That we would attract and keep new members who were previously in the darkness or not connected to a healthy part of the body of Christ.

In the meantime, what can we do? I hope and pray that we will take advantage of these beautiful Advent services, culminating in the celebration of the birth of our Savior, by expressing through our generous giving how much we have been loved and forgiven. Finally, would you ask God who you could invite to an Advent service, to Christmas Eve? In that way, they might receive the best gift of all, one that money cannot buy.

Pastor Paul Becker
“I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’” (Psalm 122:1)

Labor Day reflections

Posted on Aug 23, 2013 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours . . .

The holiday we call “Labor Day” offers an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of work, the purpose of work in our lives. It also raises interesting questions about work such as should there be a time in life when we cease from work (a.k.a. “retirement”), or alternatively, will the nature and compensation of our work change over the course of life? I think that a biblical world view would take the latter answer over the former. God gives us energy, breath and love in order to accomplish something in this world that would not hap-pen were we not present in it.

This reflection brought to mind the saying of Mother Theresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Sometimes reading a passage from “The Message” brings a fresh perspective to a familiar passage of Scripture. See what you think of this rendition of I Corinthians 13:1-3.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Whatever kind of work God has called and equipped you to do in this season of your life, you can do it
grudgingly or thankfully,

  • with a sense of resentment or a sense of eagerness,
  • with a sense of entitlement or a sense of opportunity,
  • with a spirit of selfishness or a spirit of love.

What a contrast! Which will it be for you, the follower of Jesus? Because of the gifts freely given to us in Holy Baptism, we can let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven. We shall thus pray and work with the Spirit of Christ in and among us, and watch as the Lord adds to our number daily those who are being saved!
Pr. Paul F. Becker

“…that all the people of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty,
that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” —Joshua 4:24