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January 25, 2017, 2:39 PM

Using SWOT, SMART, and MILE -- But.... Remaining 'Easter People'



Recently, I stopped by a local sandwich shop for lunch and found copies of all three military bases' newspapers.     Here's what I discovered, upon perusing them:

1. Our military leaders love to use acronymns--that funny stereotype holds quite true! 

2. Military officers and enlisted make New Year's resolutions. They also struggle to keep them, like we do! 

These two tidbits explain the title of this Blog post, and I will get into what the acronymns mean. Then, I hope to write a few intelligent thoughts about our mission at church, and how we can move step by step to accomplish it. We already are. Perhaps it's best to start there, then: at the Great Commission / sending of Jesus' church, for his mission, into his world. 

I am frequently amazed that, when I reference "the Great Commission" among Lutherans, there are some who know exactly what I mean and probably an equal number of people in the group who have: No. Idea. What. I'm talking. About. 

Thus I feel it's important to stop and speak the words of our Lord's "commission" to the Eleven disciples at the end of Matthew: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And, lo, I will be with you to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:19-20)

Now, don't get lost in the many words! Here are two simple verbs: Baptize and Teach. These activities, then, are HOW we "make disciples." And, what's a disciple? One who follows Jesus without question, hears often from his words in Holy Scripture, prays to him, expects deliverance from him in this life and the next, and confesses/speaks of him before the world.

So, that is our mission.

And when there is a mission to accomplish, who does it better than the U.S. Military??

To get us into this topic, I will quote Lt. Col. Gregory Karahalis, deputy commander-50th Operations Group, from the Schriever Sentinel:

"Goal setting is traditional in January. Take the time now to think ahead about your year and what your team needs to do to take advantage of the the opportunities ahead. SWOT, SMART, and MILE provide you a structured set of tools to develop, define, and prioritize strategic goals."

"Huh?!" You might be saying to yourself. Let me explain the acronymns therein. 

SWOT = forecasting tool that looks at our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

SMART = goal-setting tool that requires all goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound

MILE = assessment tool that helps us remember to look at how we are: Managing resources, Improving the unit, Leading people, and Executing the mission. 

Forecasting, goal setting, and assessing. How often to we do these in the church?? It seems like we often do the goal setting. But our goals OFTEN (not always) suffer from being too general, abstract, and obtuse to serve us that well. And...the other two? I can remember assessing things occassionally, but not in a way that could be called detailed or thorough. 

Now, lest you think this is an article for the church council only, let's take a personal example. I like this inspiration from the Lt. Commander, don't you? 

Take this time to prayerfully try again with the toughest of personal goals AND your goals at church, if you are involved in a project here--and yet, through it all, remain an Easter person!

Huh? What do I mean by that?

If you think about it, the techniques that we can use for forecasting and planning and doing things are actually NOT the things of faith! Let's take one passage for example:

"Now to him who is able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21) This "power" is via his "Spirit, in our inner being" (verse 16) so that Christ may dwell in our hearts (verse 17). 

The power by which God raised Jesus from the dead is the SAME power by which he sustains us, feeds us, leads us, and uses our hands and feet for his mission. 

Thus, we should plan and work as hard as we can. But BELIEVE as though nothing at all depends on us, our planning or working. We should hear these words of the preacher St. Paul and smile at the old joke, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." 

Once I prayed that God would lead me, step by step, through the minefields of ministry. I think the Schriever Sentinel article is one way God has now answered that prayer, yet again. 

Focus. Learn. Study. Grow. 

Set goals, or close down. 

Close down, or live as Easter people! 

I much prefer the latter, and I hope you do as well. 

"All engines high gear"

Pastor Joel

"...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection..." Philippians 3:10

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

 

 

  




December 23, 2016, 8:38 AM

This Christmas: All Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go!



The commentary that I follow for preaching Luke translates what we usually know as "swaddling cloths" as "clothing bands." This was an unsual phrase to my mind! Curious why the author chose those words, I read deeper into the commentary. Essentially, he is trying to indicate that these "cloths" were a poor woman's swaddling cloths. These are bands of some fabric, not even close to a Babies'R'Us triple package for comfort and warmth. I jest. More chronologically, not even close (probably) to the dressing Moses received by Pharoah's daughter when he was pulled from the Nile River. Not even close (probably) to the dressing David and Solomon's babies received during the height of their God-granted power in Jerusalem.

The commentary goes on to note how humble clothing for Jesus bookends the Gospel of Luke--I cannot take credit for this insight--the second "dressing" of Jesus is in burial cloth, it notes; for a borrowed tomb, after He is crucified, after the seemingly worst thing possible ever has happened to Him. The Roman war machine had done the bidding of corrupt religious leaders (who should have known better) and two-bit puppet kings (who, by all accounts, never did know any better); they had done everything earthly possible to clothe Jesus in ridicule, lonlieness, and pain. 

Yet I will be adding a third "dressing" of Jesus for this blog and in the sermons, that of Revelation, Chapter 1, beginning at verse 12:

"Then I (John) turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.

The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow.

His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword,

and his face ws like the sun shining at full strength."

I will not go into detail like I will in the sermon(s) about what these images mean, if one carefully unpacks the Revelation to St. John. 

But I will ask you this: Don't we know in Colorado what it's like when the sun is "shining at full strength"? And when something is as white as snow? Don't we know those two things very well?

They are calling for snow this weekend--a white Christmas. As you go about getting ready for the holiday and see the bit of snow left over from last week's snow storm, and if that snow is added to by God's gracious and providential Hand, think of these verses in Revelation! Think of how the snow blankets the earth and how the clothing bands of a poor virgin were, at one moment in time, all that covered the Prince of Peace. On the day of His arrival. 

Not how a Prince usually enters a scene! But, indeed, how our Prince entered, with His mind set firmly on salvation (Luke 9:51).... Salvation for us. 

How are you dressed today? Are you all dressed up with nowhere to go? Then know this! God has put on a spiritual dressing over all mankind, called Christ the Lord if you will accept it, and now he welcomes you to the Feast with those garments on your person. They cover the old, the sinful, the dirty, the sullen... the prodigal: 

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

[T]he father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate!" (Luke 15:20, 22-23)

Grace. This Christmas--NOW--you and I are all dressed up with somewhere to go! 

In Him,

Pastor Dieterichs

 

 




December 1, 2016, 10:53 PM

The Mutual Consolation of the Brethren



It is December 1st. 

This day is very special to me for some personal reasons I will get to in a second, and for the purpose of this short blog entry. First, I know it's Advent and the topic of "mutual consolation of the brethren" is a little off beat, but please bear with me for a moment. It certainly has to do with edifying one another until we see the Day of our Lord's second Advent upon this earth! As it says in Romans 14:19: 

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." 

The day is special to me professionally because usually most things are done in preparation for the busy Advent and Christmas seasons. There is a time to pause and simply do the more routine tasks of ministry: see people, pray with them, enjoy the services and Bible studies. 

But it's also special to me for a personal reason. On this day in 2007, a friend of mine called me at my house in Illinois; he called just as I sat down at my kitchen table and put my head in my hands, and sighed. You know: one of those deep sighs that means, "I have no idea what to do next." I will try to just quickly summarize by saying that my life at that point--it was in transition. I was moving to Colorado. But I was still a little uncertain as to what I would do when I got here. I had talked with "district presidents" (what we call bishops) and family members, but there were still very few answers coming my direction. Then my friend calls from Indiana. 

It is a phone call that I remember quite well--suddenly everything made sense. He described a class that I could take, and a viable career path. Whatever the outcome, as a good pastor he kept assuring me that the Lord has me in his stead. Look, I have GIVEN that sermon before! But it's amazing what happens when the promises of God's Word become real and true for you, isn't it? As I write this, with my toddler playing on the floor and my wife (whom I met at a church in Denver) now going to work at her wonderful job here, I cannot help but think that on December 1st, 2007 the Holy Spirit moved my friend to call me. It was all totally unprompted by me, and helped all of this-- my new life become possible. I cannot help but think that God had in mind my new family. My wife, who is so understanding and patient with me. My son, who is a miraculous joy and gift to us each and every day.

That the Heavenly Father knew ALL of my doubts and fears.

And that He heard my prayers.

So, this Advent remember: you could be that friend to someone. "Stay alert," the Scripture reminds us often. "Pray continually." "Strengthen the weak, remember the orphan and the widow." Etc. And for some very, very good reasons.

Go and do what you were called to do, people of God!

We don't need great credentials or intellect. We need to keep our minds and hearts on the Word of God, and on waiting for him.

Waiting with all humanity. 

Waiting for His second advent.

+PD 

 




October 18, 2016, 2:48 PM

Reformation for Beginners



Happy 499th Birthday, Lutheran Church! 

You may not have even realized that we're entering the 499th year of our existence, counted from the day that Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses (adademic statements) on the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That day was Hallow's Eve, as he wanted it to be read by most of the educated folks as they went in to church the next day, All Hallows/All Saints Day.

This opening paragraph has possibly raised a few questions for you. If so, I think that is okay. Instead of curiosity killing the cat, I'm sure you know, it's also said that "you don't know if you don't ask," and "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it"! 

And so, sinning boldly, allow me to explain several terms: 

1. Martin Luther - a friar of the Augustinian order who was teaching "Romans" at the University of Wittenberg, Germany, when he wrote his 95 statements. 

2. By most of the educated folks - What do I mean by that? Well, Dr. Luther wrote his statements in Latin. Most of the people attending church the next day could not read Latin, except for the Latin in the church service--and even then, comprehension was touch and go. His intention was to start a scholarly debate on the topics of the forgiveness of sins and the sale of Indulgences (papers that the Pope in Rome was selling, said to release people from sin and a place of discipline after death (purgatory). Obviously, he disagreed with indulgences and when he was swiftly condemned by the Pope and his Cardinals instead of listened to and engaged academically, the stage was set for the Reformation of the Western Church.    

3. Hallow's Eve - in these words you can hear the modern English/American version, "Halloween." Maybe your kids' costumes could reflect great saints of the past, then? And speaking of "saints"....

4. Saints - ANY baptized believer. You are a saint when you confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The practice of "canonizing" various people as saints based on number of miracles performed and other factors is a Roman Catholic error and found no where in Scripture.

5. All Saints' Day - A day to celebrate all of the "holy ones"/hallowed who have gone before us into death. Our teaching, with the Apostles, is that they are asleep in Jesus now (I Corinthians 15:20-21) awaiting the Resurrection of all flesh from the dead (I Corinthians 15:51-55). We cannot pray to or venerate them because they cannot hear us. Only God receives prayers through Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and men (I Timothy 2:5-6).

6. Reformation - each year we celebrate this church festival that marks the week of Luther's bold action on October 31st, 1517. Much happened after that Halloween, much music was written, many papers were written, and many wars fought. This year Reformation Sunday is October 30th. The color on the Altar and up front in church is always red, for the work of the Holy Spirit who came as tongues of fire on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. 

I know this can be a lot of church jargon and history, but bear with us, please! This really is a fantastic heritage and a wonderful doorway to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love our national church body's theme for this: "Reformation 500: It's STILL all about Jesus!" 

And it is.

In Him, 

Pastor Dieterichs

Pastor_Joel@live.com

 

   




April 21, 2016, 10:25 AM

May I Suggest a "No thank you"?


Open Letter to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
 
Your Majesty:
 
Blessings and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
Firstly, I'd like to wish you a happy 90th birthday! You must be exhausted from all of the pomp and circumstance requisite for a most lovely and worthy celebration in London and the hosting of all of the delegates from your Commonwealth. May you rest well from the day's events and may God grant you a peaceful remainder to many healthy and vibrant years in your reign!
 
Secondly, what a glorious service in Westminster Abbey for the big day. I am not sure how you sat so long through the fawning declarations of "peace, peace when there is no peace" by the practioners of Islam especially, but also other representatives of the "elemental spirits of religion" (http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/...). There is no way to mask the founder of Islam's violence and warrior spirit, for one matter--no matter what modern practioners are trying to tell you. And that one matter is quite a large elephant in the room, wouldn't you say?
 
Dear Queen, pardon my directness and Americanisms, but may it please you to understand how beneficial it would be for your Church of England to say "no" to hosting similar "worship services" in the future. For more than my opinion, or some kind of wanton discrimination by me, this commentary reflects the Scriptural milieu quoted in the Oxford Biblical Studies resource above. I am not sure if your "service" was an attempt at an apology for centuries of bloodshed and colonialism at the hands of the British Empire, but if it is: this is swinging the pendulum much too far in the other direction, if you ask the Apostles. You cannot have the cross of Jesus Christ going on before an Assembly of those who are diametrically opposed to His Lordship.
 
It is true that we "rule" as Christians by love and submission to the other, and there is no exception to that directive by the Holy Spirit. Yet our Preaching and Teaching, authorized by the exclusivity of Jesus and His salvation, drives toward Jesus as the only Way to heaven. Therefore "unity" and "inclusion" can become--if we let it--the very path to destruction of which Jesus warned us, the path that is wide and easy and popular.
 
I sympathize with a Monarch's need to remain popular. Yet if the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth is a Christian nation, then it must love its neighbors with the radical love of Jesus Christ. This love also includes His Truth, which is that only He and the Father are one. There is no other way to the Father but by Him. There is only One Mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus our Lord.
While I would have liked to celebrate and worship with you all via the Web feed, I could not. I could only watch in confusion as the cross of Christ was made to parade itself before error and demonic rule of tolerance--the kind of tolerance that is most dangerous of all, electing to tolerate all things except the claims of Jesus Christ to be Master and Lord of all. One with Creator God, the Redeemer of all sinners, and the Magistrate of the heavenly kingdom.
 
Perhaps next year you will be able to say “no thank you” to those who propose interfaith worship services, unless you also wish to build a Parthenon and worship there next time?
 
Sincerely, a little Yankee servant,
 
Rev. Joel T. Dieterichs, M.Div. Representing himself, apart from the Elders at Resurrection Lutheran Church.

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