In the Cross of Christ we glory

Posted by: 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!”

Marriage

Posted by: on Mar 20, 2014 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s Heart to Yours….

I recently contacted both Mayor Dennis Phillips and Governor Bill Haslam regarding a proclamation (from the Family Research Council) declaring February 7-14, 2014 as National Marriage Week, for the following reasons.

“Whereas, marriage in every known human society creates new families, binds men and women together in a network of affection, mutual aid and mutual obligation, commits fathers and mothers to their children and connects children to a wider network of welcoming kin; and

Whereas, a healthy, loving marriage deserves our special respect because it provides irreplaceable personal happiness and creates the safest place for children to flourish and to enjoy the full emotional, moral, educational and financial benefits of both parents; and

Whereas, research indicates that men and women who marry and stay married in mutually supportive relationships generally live longer, experience better health, and enjoy more satisfying lives; and

Whereas, marriage breakdown takes a toll on the emotional, physical and financial well-being of all family members and communities and also increases the cost to taxpayers of many public human services programs; and

Whereas, citizens of our community are committed to promoting enrichment opportunities and resources that strengthen marital relationships and enhance personal growth, mutual fulfillment and family well-being; and

Whereas, I wish to applaud and encourage efforts by community citizens, faith communities, businesses, organizations, and local government and community leaders to strengthen marriages in a variety of ways, including marriage education programs, conferences, enrichment seminars and public policies that support marriage;

Now, therefore, I _________ the [Mayor or Governor] of _________ do hereby recognize February 7-14, 20XX as

I urge each husband and wife in our community to reflect upon their relationship and to commit to building and maintaining a healthy, loving marriage and family.”

Pastor Paul Becker “But I will sing aloud of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning.” Psalm 59:16a.

Happy New Year

Posted by: on Jan 8, 2014 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours…

What do we really mean when we wish one another a “Happy” New Year? It certainly does NOT mean that we will get everything we WANT (which would likely be disastrous), or that we will always feel good, be relatively free of stress and conflict, and that all our plans, hopes and dreams will come true. Sounds like heaven! So what do we mean? Let’s boil it down to this (as Dave Ramsey says): “you can’t have financial peace unless you walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus!” Here are some of my hopes and dreams for this new year of grace:

 

  •  Strengthen Men’s Ministry by having a monthly birthday gathering in addition to the great studies from Lutheran Hour, attracting men who don’t regularly attend Bible Class or Divine Service, or who don’t have a church connection at all;
  • Make more use of our fellowship hall, e.g. offer a service to homeschoolers;
  •  Involve families with young children more often than just at Christmas and Easter;
  • See our average attendance increase to 70 or 80 plus;
  • Grow in our involvement with the men and women of Hay House;
  • Lead a short-term mission trip to an underserved area in North America;
  • Make a pre-Lenten spiritual retreat;
  • See at least five (5) families host neighborhood fellowship events;
  •  Grow in my involvement with the local community.

In addition, we will be having special attraction events throughout the year to introduce our neighbors to our community of faith. The first opportunity will be on Saturday January 18 @ 2:00 p.m. when we will host Mr. Russell Jordan, the area coordinator for Voice of the Martyrs. He will tell us about the realities of the persecuted church, our suffering brothers and sisters around the world, and how we can give them our love and support. Please mark your calendars for this special event, and invite folks who aren’t members of Concordia.

How can you help make these hopes and dreams a reality in 2014? Regardless of what turmoil and distress, pain and confusion the world around us tries to inflict, we have a sure and safe anchor for the soul, the means of grace and the hope of glory in Jesus, in whom we can always sing:

It is well, it is well with my soul!

Pastor Paul Becker

Welcome, Shaffer family

Posted by: on Dec 23, 2013 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

ShafferFamily_BaptismWe are pleased to welcome the Shaffer family to Concordia, including Nick Shaffer (left) Sarah (center, standing), Chloe (babe in arms) and Serenity (held by Pastor Paul Becker). Sarah, Serenity, and Chloe were all baptized as part of Concordia’s worship on December 22.

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the coming of Christ than by welcoming this lovely family to our family at Concordia . . and welcoming Sarah, Serenity, and Chloe into the Family of Christ through the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours…

Posted by: 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 by: 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

Gathering Times

Posted by: on Aug 2, 2013 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s Heart to Yours….
This past month [July 2013] saw major gatherings of Christians. Does the fact that 25,000 LCMS youth can be in San Antonio, TX for a gathering mean anything for the future of the Church? Does the fact that 3 million young people gathered for World Youth Day in Brazil to be with Pope Francis mean anything for the future of the Church? Does the fact that over one thousand LCMS delegates had a remarkably peaceful and harmonious convention in St. Louis mean anything for the future of the Church? Does the fact that thousands of young people made a pilgrimage to Taize, France mean anything for the future of the Church?

German Pastor and theologian Hermann Sasse preached an Advent sermon on December 15, 1940: “The Christian faith has never been a private, personal matter. Jesus Christ has never been a private, personal matter. He is no private, or personal Savior, but the Savior of the world. He will come again openly to judge the living and the dead, the members of his church, and all people…..You young people, eagerly looking toward the future – do you really think the church is a lost cause, believing in Jesus Christ, in a message and man from the past? No, if there is anything in the world which has a future, it is the church. Perhaps it will be a future hard for any of us to imagine. But it will have a future when everything that man can imagine or paint is gone. For the future of the church is the future of Christ. She wanders through the anxiety and distress of this world from his first advent to his last, from his incarnation to his return. Yes, the future of our Lord Jesus Christ – that is the blessed future of the church. Amen.”

Many things, mass gatherings and conventions included, may be well and good, but they tell us nothing about the future of the Church. Until the end of time, the Lord Jesus will continue to gather His children around the apostles’ doctrine, the fellowship, the breaking of the bread and the prayers. If you ever think that you have found anyone or anything more worthy of your complete devotion and attention, we can be sure that deception of the worst kind is at work. Would the Lord say to us as he said to Martha of old, “21st century Christians, you are anxious and worried about many things.” ? As we go back to work and school after summer vacation, remember that our future is the future of our Lord Jesus who loves us with an unimaginable love.

Pastor Paul Becker

Why 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World?

Posted by: on Aug 1, 2013 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Why 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World?
July 9 – August 7, 2013
“The wind blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

“A wind is blowing through the House of Islam…Today, in more than 60 separate locations in at least 17 of the 49 countries where Islam holds sway, new communities of Muslim-background followers of Christ are emerging. Each of these movements has seen at least 1,000 baptized believers and at least 100 new worshipping fellowships, all of which have come to Christ over the past decade alone. In some countries the communities have grown to number tens of thousands of new Muslim-background followers of Christ.

Though the total number of new Christ followers, perhaps 1-5 million, may be a statistically small drop in the vast sea of Islam, they are not insignificant. Not limited to a remote corner of the House of Islam, these new communities of believers are widespread, from West Africa’s Sahel to the teeming islands of Indonesia – and everywhere in between. …by the end of the 20th century, though, Christianity could count nine separate movements of entire communities of Muslims coming to faith in Christ. It is no accident that these movements coincided with a groundswell of prayer for the unreached peoples of the world, with particular attention given to the world of Islam.

The great harvest of the 1980’s and 1990’s is unprecedented in the history of missions efforts to Muslims. But it dwarfs in comparison to what has occurred in the first decade of the 21st century, as another 64 movements to Christ have appeared. Something is
happening; something historic. A wind is blowing through the House of Islam.”

According to the Muslim calendar, this will be the year 1434. For over 1400 years, Islam has been spreading like a spiritual cancer across the face of the earth, choking out faith, hope and love wherever it goes. As you ponder the wonders of God’s grace being poured out on these millions of lost souls, will you commit to praying every day of Ramadan for the Good News of Jesus to touch and change the hearts and lives of countless Muslims? Let Your kingdom come, Lord Jesus!

Pr. Paul Becker

Lions, crocodiles, cape buffalo. . . and worship schedule?

Posted by: on Jun 1, 2013 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s Heart to Yours…….
Why are we moving to one Divine Service in June and July? Many congregations adopt a summer schedule for a variety of practical reasons, such as families being away on vacation. In addition to our musicians taking a much needed and well-deserved break with their families, let me offer this idea as well — unity in the body of Christ. In his book, “The Great Evangelical Recession” John S. Dickerson tells this story:

“My favorite picture of unity is a YouTube video titled “Battle of Kruger.” It was filmed on a South African safari ….if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out now.

In the clip, four lions pounce on three Cape buffalo as the buffalo drink from a watering hole. The Cape buffalo – mother, father and calf – scatter when attacked. The four lions get hold of the tiny calf, and it doesn’t look good. Gnawing, biting, tearing, and dragging, the lions fight to bring the calf down to the ground. It’s buffalo versus lion. Then, some crocodiles also get in on what seems to be a food fight. The little buffalo has no way of retaliating. All he can do is hang in there. Somehow he stays up on all four hooves.

Cape Buffalo, © Sloth92 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Cape Buffalo, © Sloth92 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

That’s when the herd shows up. At least a hundred Cape buffalo. A solid wall of muscle and bone and horns encircles the four lions. The largest, strongest bulls stand side by side, forming a battering ram of horns at the front of the mass. One at a time, the largest bulls take turns charging the lions.

One bull gores a lion, throwing it ten feet in the air. The other lions keep gnawing at the calf, which is still alive, but now out of the water and away from the crocodiles. The lions don’t take the herd seriously—until another lion gets gored. And another gets stampeded.

Finally, the calf breaks free from the last lion, and the largest bulls chase the pride of lions away. What no single buffalo could do alone – attack, frighten, and chase away four lions – the community of buffalo could easily do together. In the end, the calf walked away without a limp.

One animal expert explained that Cape buffalo typically function in various individual groups and even fight with each other (sounds like one of our dear evangelical churches and ministries, right?). But, she added, ‘If a youngster is threatened, both the harem males and bachelor males which usually fight with one another – will get together to try to rescue it.’

We need the humility and perspective to see that (our movement) is under spiritual attack, and we need each other.”

If anyone has doubts that moving to one Divine Service is a good idea, I sincerely hope and pray that watching this video clip will persuade you otherwise. Surely God allowed this amazing incident to filmed and viewed now more than 71 million times for a good reason! It certainly humbles me to think that such enlightened, intelligent beings as we humans might need to learn a lesson from dumb beasts. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time (Numbers 22:27-31)

Pr. Paul F. Becker

Joshua 4:24 “…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.”

We Celebrate and Proclaim

Posted by: on Mar 31, 2013 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

This month we celebrate and proclaim:

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Death at last has met defeat!

Our local mission council, Central Appalachian Lutheran Ministries, or C.A.L.M. has purchased seven (7) billboards that will display this identical life-changing message in Abingdon, Elizabethton, Johnson City, Kingsport, Rogersville, Morristown and Harrogate.

For four (4) weeks, tens of thousands of people will see this message connected with the LCMS cross/logo and the name and contact information of the local Lutheran congregation.
In order for this outreach campaign to have maximum impact, we need to do three things:

  • Raise awareness of the campaign in each member congregation by posters, announcements, newsletter articles, skits etc.;
  • Pray that the tens of thousands of our neighbors who see the message will be moved by the Holy Spirit to follow up by contacting and/or visiting our local congregation(s); and
  • Talk about the billboard campaign with your friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

In the world’s mind-set, Christmas is over on December 25, but the Church celebrates Christmas for twelve days (December 25 – January 6). In the world, Easter is history as soon as the last Easter egg is found, but believers celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus for fifty (50) days, from Easter (March 31) to Pentecost (May 19). Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to talk about your faith in the living Savior as the billboards go up throughout the greater Tri-Cities area.

Pr. Paul F. Becker Joshua 4:24 “…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.”